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Mercy Rule Discussion


In the continuing discussion of ‘Mercy Rule’ incidents and coaches developing a ‘weekly’ game plan; this is an article from a coach ‘who has a plan’… enjoy!!!

How to Manage a Lopsided Game

By Sal Blanco, USSF C License, NSCAA National Diploma

The following is a suggested approach to deal with lopsided games (i.e., in terms of goals scored).

Perhaps the starting point to help coaches with this issue is to understand why we care about this issue. Put simply, there is no honor in beating an opponent by, for example a score of 12-0. It teaches nothing to the team scoring and any lesson to the team being scored on is marginal at best. I can assure that they are not having a good time. Moreover the team scoring is not developing and technical skills.

All participants in the game need to learn to manage, and it is not just coaches, but also players and parents.

As a parent, I never enjoyed a lopsided score. Some parents relish it almost to the point of being blood thirsty. Offering bounties or money for the most goals scored.

In any event, it is important to manage the game before the first goal is scored, it is much easier than when 4 goals have been scored in the first 5-10 minutes of a 35 minute game.  Tell you players that when you can score easily, you will add a challenge (which if things change, you can remove as needed). Any challenge should not be obvious. For example, don’t yell across the field to your players, “no more scoring.” Instead, have as part of your coaching tool belt, a plan in advance of a game whereby your players know what to do. You might call out Bronco 4 (in my case) which tells the players: select what you want to do to keep the game in check. The challenge might take several forms:

  • Move positions
  • Change Formation (e.g., if you normally play 3-4-3, use a 4-5-1)
  • Everyone must touch the ball and that includes building up from the back through the GK.
  • Players must identify a key player who is the only one allowed to score
  • All passes must be on the ground
  • All passes must be one touch
  • You can only score of a header or a crossed lofted ball
  • You must accomplish three wall passes before you can attack the goal
  • You must accomplish a series of overlaps, third-man runs etc.
  • Players must use their weaker foot
  • Play players down (make it subtle when substituting, you don’t have to yell, “I am taking 3 out and putting 1 in)
  • Let you GK play on the pitch or challenge herself by how she serves the ball

Notice that I haven’t said you can’t score, what you have done is added substantial challenges before scoring to really work your players and yet keep the opponent in the game. Everyone is learning and hopefully having fun.

This type of management doesn’t end there. You have to also educate your parents and explain what you are doing. Not at the game, but way in advance. Especially if you know the opponent is a weaker or a young and inexperienced team.  You must be prepared for all things that can come up in a game.

You will have the occasional coach who says he can’t reel his players in or control them.  Maybe the person should never consider a management or military job let alone be coaching if they cannot control a group of teenagers.

Mike Hodges

District Coaching Director

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