Positional Rotation

“He’s / She’s a forward” Insisted a parent.

As young athletes chase fun, they are increasingly restricted by others. Evolving from fear of failing by whole-hearty observing their own. As a consequence, young athletes are at times restricted to a singular position by others as they chase their dream. Nonetheless, young athletes will continue to participate in a bubble of happiness and longing for a future in the game.

Are we as a society modestly becoming too afraid of exposing our own to an unfamiliar territory as they may be seen as failures? If we define young players as failures by allowing self-discovery, making mistakes and attempting something new. Fair? Isn’t this how we learn and improve? Nick Levett (Talent Identification Manager, English FA) states that will create an environment that values mistakes.

Somewhere along the line, our need for success increased by the speed at which we believe we need it. So that we can only overtake our peers in the race. (Jay Shetty)

As a sporting society, we should focus on changing our mindsets from “Mistakes” into “learning opportunities”.


The resulting questions do parents know enough about the benefits of rotating positions within the game? What are the benefits? If parents have no acknowledgement of the benefits of their own, participating in various positions, compared to simply ONE? Isn’t that our role to inform and educate?

Hopefully, by reading the following, mindsets will change.



Such concepts of positional rotation originate back in 1974 from “totaalvoetbal” or “Total football” emphasised by Johan Cruyff and within the Holland sporting culture. When asked what total football is about, Johan Cruyff, simply said: “attackers could play as defenders and defenders as attackers. Everyone could play everywhere.”

Total football no longer exists in its most real sense due to its enormous demands on player versatility and stamina. However, such key beliefs are continually evident in the present game, for example, striker(s) are expected to be the first defender when losing the ball, defenders are expected to have the passing vision and midfielders are expected 1v1 skills to get out of tight situations.

“For young players, the benefits of playing in different positions are massive.”

Nick Levett, Talent Identification Manager, English FA

Too often, we see coaches and/or parents labelling young athletes to a singular position limiting their opportunities for learning. Why would they do this? Fear of Failure? Pressure from parents? Winning culture?

A vital part of the journey, invaluable; priceless. An experience that will only benefit young athletes that are given the opportunities. By implementing such concepts, we allow young athletes to develop a whole round game understanding. As sporting influencers, we play an imperative role in facilitating such concepts. Emphasizing the “Athletic Triangle”, (Parents, Coaches, Players) need to communicate appropriately and effectively to understand such concepts (Short and Long Term) and their benefits individually and collectively. Otherwise, the youngsters may find themselves listening to two different versions of the same story (Ajax FC Academy)

Simplicity would mean placing the best goalkeeper at the keeper position, the best attacker as an attacker etc. However, the restriction placed upon each individual actually hinders their development, as they progress into under ’11s, ‘12s and so on. Are we only satisfied by short-term success?

“Let the players experience different positions and the different challenges that these positions create.”

Bobby Howe, former US Soccer Federation Director of Coaching Soccer

Providing quality opportunities to play within an array of positions will continue an “open door” advancement of development and allow players to learn and change over time. The concept in its simplest form allows any young player the prospect of being anything at any time. No restriction.  As coaches, we should communicate continuously with parents to validate the rationality behind such an approach. Allowing the concept to become identifiable for the long-term interest of each young soccer athlete(s).

Still, as we impose such beneficial concepts of development upon our next generation, we must “STOP” and consider the following: Simply placing young athletes within an unfamiliar territory, roles and responsibilities and expecting swift returns isn’t going to happen. Why? Such concepts purely take time and patience to develop and prosper.

Confidence issues, unhappiness, confusion, thinking too much, and not being positioned well enough, are some of the emotions and issues experienced by young soccer athletes and their respective parents on the sideline. What do parents and coaches do when players make mistakes? Simply say “Good job” (Please see “50 different ways to say a Good Job” )

Current example:

A recent article was published about the England and Tottenham forward Harry Kane, that highlights his desire to participate as a goalkeeper as a young soccer athlete. Did that experience benefit him when he became a forward? Imagine if his parents insisted he continued to participate as a Goalkeeper?

 “They don’t need to specialize at a young age. They need to go through all the situations.”

Jose Mourinho

Educational example:

For a moment imagine a child within his strongest subject in school i.e. Mathematics. Now imagine if a child could only be taught his strongest subject and neglect all other invaluable subjects. Would this approach develop or hinder potential? Or are we trying to develop all-around students?

The most crucial aspect is actually deactivating our own ego from the youth sports environment and looking at the “bigger picture” and the overall needs of each player.  We need to redefine what success means for us, for you and most importantly for the young athletes participating in sports.

We should think more about what we want your child to accomplish from the sport? Do you want your own to have an incredible win record or
develop a whole game understanding and a future in the game as a better person and player?

We shouldn’t forget that this may be something entirely new to both parents and players; Educate, Inform and be Patience.

So I challenge you, coaches and parent’s NOT to pigeonhole young athletes from a young age.

Allow them to see and experience every part of the game.

Feel free to comment below.

Thank you

The Sporting Influencer


3 thoughts on “Positional Rotation

  1. Thanks for your article. This thinking is very much relevant to a variety of sports. As an athletics coach, I advocate that all young track & field athletes should be multi-event athletes and not single event specialists. I inwardly wince when a parent tells me that their youngster is a “thrower” or a “sprinter”. The child has already been pigeon-holed and their options closed down. Let’s keep their options open for as long as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

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