“I need you to make him more aggressive.” The dad then walked off the field to watch my training session with ‘him’ – his superbly talented, athletic son with a great personality and strong work ethic. I have had quite a few parents over the years ask me to work on aggression with their kids. They say that it’s because the kids are not physical in the games.
Can you become more physical?
Can you make a player more physical? Yes – but for some not by much, in my opinion. If a player never wants to get in on a tackle it’s probably more of their nature and playing style. And if it’s not in their nature, is it worth changing who they are as that player? Soccer is diverse in its determination of what makes a great player – and its definition is not limited to size, style of play, personality, or country of origin [unless you’re British – ha-ha, just kidding Paul].
Aggression by position in soccer
Some players have aggression in them naturally – they’re not afraid of the ball, the other players or the play. Others don’t have that aggression in them and that is what makes soccer such a beautiful thing. You can have players who are opposite, which makes for a good combination. Defenders are usually by far the most aggressive with less skill but the forwards usually have a little in them as well. However, forwards also seem to save their energy for when they have the ball – not when the other team has the ball [& no, I am not just saying that because I was a defender]. Midfielders are usually a mix, where you might have 1 forward who never goes in on tackles, but is has ball control. Then another mid who is very aggressive who can help make up for the others lack of aggression.
One final note – when you see or hear about aggression surrounding a game, you can quickly determine if the aggression source is more likely healthy or not. Aggression seen off the field is usually the parents; aggression on the field, in good sportsmanship behavior, is the kids’ natural drive. Recognize the difference and handle each appropriately.