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Tophat Soccer Club


Tophat Fundamental Principles of Play 

First and foremost, development of the player (not winning the game) is the primary objective.  We always approach a problem from that perspective.  For example, we have had some questions about our throw in policy for red and gold shorts.  We allow the “first to the ball throw in” to keep the game moving.  Stopping play for any reason at this age is undesirable, so the quicker we get the ball back on the field, the more the players get time on the ball.  We want the coaches to teach their players to maintain possession of the ball by keeping it in bounds.  Our rule is the player that kicks the ball out loses possession, and cannot pick it up and throw it back in.  Coaches are expected to reinforce this Tophat RULE.  There is plenty of time in the future for them to experience proper throw in procedures.  Right now, we work on the basics and keep the game going.  If you see a coach allowing their players to blatantly ignore this policy, please inform us, and we will speak to them.

Item two, do not allow a player to stay back in front of the goal while play moves to the other end of the field.  This is very bad for player development.  All players should be engaged in the game as much as possible.

Item three, goal kicks should be taken to the side, and opponents must move behind the build out line.  Again, it is up to the coach to insure that the players follow these guidelines.

Last item, we use young referees to allow them to develop self-confidence and a sense of responsibility.  It has been very rewarding for most of the girls, but it is not always perfect.  Please remember that these girls cannot enforce any rule if the coaches are being resistant.  Just think about the age difference.  Also, a few incorrect calls in one of these games has no significance since we are not concerned about who wins the game (very important).  Again, any problems in this area, just inform our staff. 

One more note – Tryouts for all LH-11’s who want to move to the Academy level will take place in late May.  We will be sending out more information about tryouts in the future.  You can also look at the tryout section on our website (  Below, you will find some further discussion on these topics.


Deep Defenders

There is a natural coaching instinct to have players stay back for defensive protection during a game.  This tactic emanates from the desire to prevent the opponent from scoring which could mean the unthinkable possibility of losing the game.   To avoid this tragedy at Tophat, we do not keep score, and that allows us to concentrate on the more important issue of player development.  Our training policies are focused on what will produce a better player, and how to help it happen.   Several factors are involved.

1.    Players who stay back on defense are not involved in the game, and are not being challenged to maintain their focus (a key ingredient to excellence).  Team shape is a term that applies here and it refers to the need to keep players properly positioned relative to each other and the ball.

2.    A deep defender is mainly working on one skill, clearing the ball out of the defensive end.  At young ages, this is fairly effective because young players normally dribble the ball too far in front giving the deep defender an opportunity to win the ball.  As dribbling skills increase with age, the advantage will change, and the static defender will be easily beaten.  Add in a few passing skills and supporting runs, and the stay back defenders are toast.  Bottom line – clearing the ball out of the defensive end is an ability that is nice to have, but it is not a position to be played.  Too much time staying back will produce bad habits that are hard to change.

3.    Pushing defenders up field has several advantages.  It gives you more players around the ball allowing a better opportunity to keep the ball in the opponents end, it keeps the players thinking (focused) because they are consistently in a position to be involved, it puts extra pressure on your opponents because it takes away any advantage of numbers and it will help prepare them for the offside rule when they move to 7v7.  However, pushing up increases the opportunity for the counterattack or breakaway by the opponent, and this is what coaches must begin to realize is the best part.  Learning to win the ball from an opponent on the run is a vital skill in soccer, far outweighing the big kick from the back.  Pushing the defenders up forces them to work on this skill which is called charging.  Charging (shoulder to shoulder) is legal in soccer; use of the arms is not.  All players need to be ready to transition from offense to defense at any time to regain possession of the ball.  On a breakaway, players need to either outrun the dribbler to get the ball, or run shoulder to shoulder with the dribbler to win the ball or at least force her away from the front of the goal.

Dribbling and Tactics

Dribbling – This one is easy.  The players need to be encouraged to dribble as much as possible with both feet.  Keep the ball close to the feet and under control, and then you must learn to dribble while looking up so you can see where to pass.

1.     Number one tactical principle – do not pass (kick) the ball across the front of your own goal.  This tactic needs to be second nature in all soccer players.  Our opportunity to teach this tactic at the younger level is with the goal kick.  Players should be instructed to always kick to the side of the field and never into the center (across the goal).  The best way to encourage this is to teach the receiving players to go to the side so that the player taking the goal kick will have proper targets.  With the ball placed on the corner of the goalie box, receiving players should be between the sideline and a parallel line that goes right through the kicker.  There will always be exceptions, but a player must have the awareness that breaking this rule is likely to be trouble.  Coaches must remember that this is not a skill that you can explain to a young player.  It must be emphasized in every game with encouragement and positive reinforcement.  In time, the receiving players will know where they need to be on goal kicks and the kicker will not be tempted to pass across the goal.  Good luck.

2.     Number two tactical principle - quick restarts, specifically with the throw in.  There is a huge tactical advantage when you restart quickly before your opponent is ready.  Coaches should emphasize the race to get the ball and get it quickly back into play.  If there is any doubt, always assume that it is your throw.  The optimum throw-in is down the line over everyone’s head.  Again, there will be exceptions, but the player should realize that there may be a loss of momentum if the ball is not thrown down the line.  The players must learn that most throw-ins are not made to another player, but to an open space where a teammate can run onto the ball.  In time, the coordination between the runner and thrower will become a secret weapon.  Ask your players this question, “How long must you wait to restart after a referee blows the whistle?”  Answer – zero time!  The quicker the better.  Try to restart while your opponent is still wondering what happened.

PS:  All coaches need to remember that these girls were not born with a soccer vocabulary.  If you want to use soccer terms like mark up, get wide or goal side, you must insure that they fully understand the meaning of the terms.  Best results come when you instruct a player that is not actively on the ball.  Encouraging individual creativity is much preferred to teaching them to only do what the coach says.