Don't give up easy goals after you just got out of penalty trouble! Releasing penalties is confusing, and can be its own dangerous scoring opportunity that you might not know about. Learn more about this common game situation, and how you can prepare for it in practice!
Some of our teams struggled with penalties in games this weekend. Man-Down Defense and Man-on-Man Defense can both be very confusing. Recovering from one to the other during live play in a game definitely is! Getting organized during those few seconds (or ten!) after a penalty is over is a very common problem, from youth all the way to the Pros. That's why it's important to communicate exactly Where, When, and Who decides when your Defense is "EVEN!" after a penalty is released.
Releasing Penalties and other "Unsettled" Defensive Situations:
When your penalty is over, the Defender running back onto the field creates a disorganized, "unsettled" situation, just like a ground ball battle, or a broken Clear, or even when your Defense has to Slide, Rotate, and Recover. There are always a few seconds where it's not crystal clear who is covering each Attacking player on the other team. Recovering from unsettled situations is a crucial skill, and one that can build lots of confidence in your Defenders!
Man Down>Even is a great Scoring Opportunity!
Any good team spends lots of time practicing their Man-Down defensive sets, whether they use the basic "Box and One [in the Middle]" 4-Man Rotation, or the more complex but effective 5-Man Rotation, like you would see from most college teams. Even though they are Man Down, they are still organized, following a pre-determined plan and strategy. But when the penalty is over, while the Defense is recovering from five players to six, this is a great time to find an open man, or take advantage of a new Match-Up, or get a bad "Approach" to the ball. These are all situations any smart offensive player and team can use to score. And they will happen multiple times every game, guaranteed!
Practice Small-Sided Game Situations!
Releasing penalties in practice is an excellent chance for you, as a Coach, to use the newest, most advanced coaching techniques and philosophies. Give your players plenty of chances to just "play" in game situations instead of "run drills". Plus, you increase their "Competitive Opportunity", the amount of time they are directly involved with the ball, with small-sided games that will translate to 6-on-6 and 10-on-10 on game day. Great job, Coach! Check out the practice drill below.
HERE'S THE PLAY:
Figure 1.) Here's the problem: whether you're releasing the penalty from the Box or the Midfield Line, your players are still Man-Down. Five (5) Red Defenders against Six (6) Blue Attackers. Even though the penalty might be over, Red 6 is still not in a position to cover anyone.