How to Teach Soccer Players To Not Bunch Up

The best way to teach players not to bunch up is by playing the Bunching Up, Spread Out To Attack, Create Space Game™ on SoccerHelp Premium at

Below are other ideas:

A Simple Way to Stop Soccer Players from Bunching Up
The Most Innovative Idea I Have Heard
"When your teammate has the ball what do you do?"
"Stay Away, Stay Away, Stay Away"

Another idea about How to Stop Soccer Players from Bunching Up

(At the bottom of this page are 10 Ways to Stop Bunching Up, and to Get Players to Spread Out When on Offense, and to Train Players to Stay in Position)

Hi SoccerHelp:

Two weeks ago we won 4-0. The team we beat was not that good and my players got pretty sloppy. Once they figured that it was easy to score on that team, my girls started stealing the ball from one another because they all wanted to score goals. I started benching players every time they stole ball from their teammates.

I had a long talk with them before the next game.

We Chanted the Team Mantra where I ask "When your teammate has the ball what do you do?"

And they reply: "Stay Away, Stay Away, Stay" Away" - again and again.

I also told the worst offenders that I would only warn them about stealing the ball from their teammates once the during next game and if they did it a second time, they would be benched for the entire game.

Well it worked. We beat a pretty good team 2-0. We played a 1-1-1-3 plus a goalie. The field is not that wide and the girls can cover quickly on Defense. The Ball hardly ever got onto our side of the field. When the other team got the ball, they had to get past three girls to get to my Goalie and each girls was tougher than the next.

We had one true assist and another goal. It was the best my team ever played. We are now 3-0-2 with only one goal scored against us in five games.

Coach Troy, U8 Rec coach, Premium Member


Below are two of the many letters I have received asking how to teach soccer players to not bunch up. My response is in blue. Bunching up is a common problem for U6, U8, U10 and U12 soccer coaches. There is more about this on Premium and a soccer practice game that will teach soccer player to not bunch up. Our responses are in blue. Bunching up is a common problem for U-8, U-10 and even U-12 coaches)

Dear SoccerHelp,

Your pearls of wisdom have been invaluable. Our team has now scored 8 goals in the last two games while our opponents have yet to score. We have been doing the Premium practice games and, you know, they really work. Our defense which was questionable a few weeks ago is now rock solid. We will continue to stick with the discipline. We still bunch up too much on the offense. I keep telling them to stay a pass away but it is just too exciting to chase the ball. Do you have any other drills to specifically address the crowding issues.

Again thanks for all your help.

Will, U-9 boys rec coach

Hi Will,

Congratulations. Try the "2 Team Keep Away" and "Small Sided Scrimmage Without A Goalie" Practice Games. These don't specifically teach it, but they give you chances to teach it and to work on it. In the "Small Sided Scrimmage Without A Goalie Game", your players will quickly learn that if they all go to the ball, the opponent will easily score. Just keep stressing it, praise them when they do it correctly, and keep reminding them when they do it wrong. Use your whistle to stop the Practice Games to remind them. Also, I suggest reminding them when they are on the field during their real "match" games by calling them by name and using a phrase they will understand, like "Billy, spread out". Or "Billy, move away". (Pick one & tell your players that this is what you will say when they are too close and always use the same words). After 3 or 4 games you will see progress. If you are able to teach this in one season, you will have done great. Be persistent, but patient; this is hard to teach.

Dear SoccerHelp,

I'm coaching 8 & 9 year olds. Some are new at the game. How do we teach them to not bunch up around the ball?


Dear Daryl,

This is difficult. We suggest trying to teach "First Defender/Second Defender" and some simple rules, such as that "right side players" and left side players do not cross the center of the field, and that you "Defend Deep" and tell your Fullbacks to not go past the edge of the Penalty Box until they are more experienced. Also, teach the "2 Simple Types Of Movement Off The Ball" referenced below.

  1. On SoccerHelp, in the Dictionary read: Support, Movement Off the ball and Coaching Rules.
  2. If you subscribe to Premium, read # 7 at "10 Defense Tips" (How To Teach First Defender/Second Defender and a simple Zone Defense), # 3 & # 4 at "Quick Team Improvement" (How To Teach First Defender/Second Defender and How To Teach Shift & Sag), Coaching Rules 3, 5, 8, 16 and 19, "23 Of The Best SoccerHelp Tips & Tactics" # 19 (How To Teach Your Players To Pass To Space) and # 20 (How To Teach Your Players To Create Space By Teaching 2 Simple Types Of Movement Off The Ball), "Formations" and "Attacking Plan".
  3. Read "How To Teach Soccer Dribbling" and play the "Dribble Across A Square Game" (Premium version) at every practice. By the end of the season, you will see a huge difference and all of your players will have more confidence when they have the ball. (Read the "Testimonials" for what coaches say about this).
  4. Use the "Passing Pairs Game" to teach the correct form for an inside-of-foot pass so your players will be able to pass the ball (see Skills if you aren't sure). Play games such as "2 Team Keep Away" and ""Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race".
  5. Also, see "How To Teach Defensive Recovery".

Regarding your formation, I suggest a 2-2-1 (2 FB's, 2 MF's and 1 "Target Forward"). Put your most aggressive player at forward and tell him or her to try to stay in front of the goal as much as possible to watch for rebounds. Read "Formations and Tips For 7v7" and "Letters From Coaches ..." on SoccerHelp Premium for more ideas.

Best wishes,


10 Ways to Stop Bunching Up, and to Get Players to Spread Out When on Offense, and to Train Players to Stay in Position

10 ideas are below that have been tried by lots of coaches and work -

  1. "Stop Holding Hands" - A great tip from Coach Mark posted on our Facebook page at - When his players bunch up, he tells them to "Stop holding hands". Coaches say this works for boys and girls.
  2. "Stay Away, Stay Away, Stay Away" idea from Coach Troy - a Team Chant… The Coach says "When your teammate has the ball what do you do?" And the team replies: "Stay Away, Stay Away, Stay Away" - again and again. See more at
  3. “Bunching Penalty” idea to get players to Spread Out on Offense - "I show the kids what 5 big steps looks like (or how many steps you choose). Then I tell them if they are on attack and get any closer than 5 steps to the player with the ball they are hurting and not helping their team, and I will call the Bunching Penalty, and the other team gets the ball. Generally, I only have to call it once. (from Ken who is a great coach). More about this is at
  4. “Bunching Up, Spread Out To Attack, Create Space Practice Game”. Coach Bob said "We ran it in practice on Thursday and we saw immediate results. It is a winner!" - This is too long to post but if you are a Premium subscriber, check it out at
  5. On Offense - Teach your players to stay a short pass away from the player with the ball.
  6. On Offense - Teach your players that when a teammate with the ball is dribbling toward them, they MUST move away from the ball in order to create space for the ballhandler and to create a passing option. See
  7. "Stay at Home" Idea to Teach Young Players to Stay in Position – “I told them where their 'Home' was, and showed them the big circle they could play in while in that position. They played SOOOO much better! The only thing I focused on during the game was to remind them where their 'Home' was, and to stay in their 'circle.' It was great - I'd call out 'go Home, Alexandra!' and she'd immediately drop back to where she was supposed to be.” Thanks to Coach Kim. See for more about how to teach positions.
  8. For Players U10 & Up - Use the Premium “Handball Soccer” Drill to teach spacing & movement off the ball. It is at - it is faster than normal scrimmaging and will let you focus on spacing and movement.
  9. To Stop Bunching Up on Defense teach “First Defender/Second Defender”
  10. “Support” means different things on Offense and Defense. See

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