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Managing Game Dominance

It usually happens at least once a season. Sometimes more. You find yourself playing against a team who's competitive level is surprisingly disproportionate to that of your own team. One of you is much, much stronger than the other. The game can easily finish with a final score 25-0.

Today, let's assume that you are the stronger team. You're the team that can easily go home with a 25-0 victory on the books.

We all know that allowing a scoresheet to be so lopsided is wholly unacceptable. We are in the business of winning games. Not demoralizing and upsetting an entire team of kids.

But how exactly do you manage a game in which you are so dominant? How do you tell your forwards not to score any more goals after you've been practicing those powerful left-footed shots all week?

How do you avoid that blowout?

It can be a challenge for sure. But there many ways you can achieve just that without making it obvious to your opponent. And without making the game uninteresting for your own players.

Here are some ideas you can implement to avoid such a huge blowout victory and such a humiliating defeat for your opponent. 
  • Recognize from the get-go if you are dominant. This is easy to determine even when the score is still 0-0. Never max out your goal differential before taking action. Doing so robs your early subs of scoring opportunities.
  • Know your opponent. Know their record before you even plan your lineup the day before. If you are playing a team that you know is substantially weaker than yours then take corrective action before the starting whistle. Just like the professionals do.
  • Understand that your team is not developing in any positive way whatsoever by dominating to such extremes. Adapt to make this season a worthwhile experience for them that will improve their game. Play the game in a way that will challenge your players.
  • Put your players in their weakest positions - where they can learn and develop.
  • Restrict the number of touches on the ball - max 3 touches before a pass.
  • Force players to only use their non-dominant foot in your opponent's half of the field. Forcing nine kids to only use their left foot is going to slow the game down, it is going to improve skills and next year's coaches are going to be very grateful to you for creating a bunch of left footers that they can benefit from.
  • Don't fight to keep the ball in play when it is headed for the sideline and you guys touched it last. Give the other team the throw.
  • Maximize this rare opportunity to really work on areas of development in a real competitive environment. Demand 10 fakes per player per game - ones they've not mastered yet. Put your forwards in goal for multiple quarters. Put your defenders up front to work on their off-side management. Switch your wingers.
  • Play with four defenders. Or five. Have them work on their long balls into to the other half of the field. Strengthen their hips. Their legs. Sure... you'll lose possession. So what? It's a great opportunity to work on your negative transitions and win the ball back.
  • If most of your goals come from shots outside the 18, force your players to dribble inside the 6 without passing before trying to score. If most of your goals come from inside the 6, mandate all shots are made from 18 yards or further. Or, even better, from wide angles and never from in front of the goal. At the same time, get to work having your players learn to bend it like Beckham.
  • Never embarrass your opponent by announcing to your team that you are not to score anymore goals. That's as demoralizing as hammering them 14-0. Be sensitive. Have a code word. Have a special 'enough is enough' hat to wear when it's time to hold back. Be discreet.
  • Always have a plan before kickoff for handling these situations. The strategy you deploy will be much more effective if you don't have to invent it half way through the third quarter. Jot a few notes down on your clipboard in permanent ink so they are readily accessible when you need to reference them.
Remember, with a strong defense you only need one goal to win a game. Or maybe three would be good in a tournament game where you are looking to maximize your points.

Regardless of the disparity in skill level between the two teams there are always approaches you should take that will benefit both sides. In doing so, you'll stop your opponents going home humiliated and in tears. You'll also get to enjoy watching your own team leave as marginally improved soccer players.

The ideas above are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other creative ways to ensure 'damage limitation'. In fact, the list is endless. If you have any good methods you've used in the past, send them to [email protected] and we'll get them included on this page.

Three of the six AYSO philosophies are Positive Coaching, Good Sportsmanship and Player Development. If you can apply those to your game then you will do just fine!

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