Tactics is the movement of the players and the ball; it is the principles of play behind the game. Soccer is a game of continuous motion and unlike many other sports there are no timeouts or breaks to call plays every five seconds. Once on the field, the players must understand how to move and what to do. Teaching this movement is called the training of tactics.
Therefore the coach must train his players how and when to move when on and off the ball. He must teach his players to understand patterns of play and patterns of movement. Unlike football where a coach calls a play every ten seconds, or basketball where a signal indicates which play the team is going to run, soccer is a game of continuous flow, of patterns and organized movement. This movement is tactics.
The training of tactics has three basic phases that must be understood; attacking, defending and transition.
- Attacking: The time of play when your team is in clear possession of the ball.
- Defending: The time when your team is not in possession of the ball
- Transition: The time when neither team possesses and it is unclear of who is attacking or defending
Teams who are trained to be successful in these three tactical areas are the teams that will find success. So, train your teams to be successful in these areas and you will find success.
As a final note on tactics it must be understood that without technique there can be no tactics so skillfully training technique is an important requirement to successful tactics. First train players to be skilled technically then move on to the tactical sessions. This is not to say that tactics must wait until technique is perfect, however technique must be good enough such that tactical session does not break down.