By Rob Smith
The argument can be made that halfbacks are defensive positions rather than offensive positions. For the sake of argument they’re included as offensive positions as they can be as likely to score as the forwards. Nevertheless, halfbacks and midfielders should have an understanding of defense and consider defense a primary responsibility.
The center halfback is commonly referred to as the “king pin” of the team because of the player’s commanding influence and physical attributes. The center halfback is mainly a central defender, responsible for stopping attacks through the center of the field and the penalty-area by making timely tackles and interceptions. The center halfback is always within range of the opposing team’s lead striker. The player assigned to this position must possess outstanding physical qualities, such as height, speed, strength, and stamina. The center halfback’s psychological arsenal should include tenacity, assertiveness, decisiveness, confidence, and self-discipline.
Midfielders are the “play makers” of the team. Their prime function is to set the pace of play. They’ll ignite the team to a frenzy or slow it down to run smoothly. In tune with each other, they slow down or speed up the pace in accordance with game conditions. Midfielders out of tune with each other and supporting players can make the team sluggish, disorganized, and ineffective. Required to work very hard both on the attack and defense, the midfielder must display outstanding game shape and a desire for possession of the ball. When assigning young players to these positions, the coach must select players who display a high work rate. Stamina, strength, speed, competitive fighting spirit, determination, and confidence on and off the ball are qualities to look for.
The winger is primarily an offensive player who either attacks or stays wide along the flanks to keep the opposing defense stretched. The winger is also expected to support the defense. Usually the winger is the smallest, leanest, and least physical member of the team, relying on exceptional dribbling skills and guile to avoid and beat an opponent. When assigning a young novice player to this position, the coach should consider one who lacks height and strength, but possesses speed coupled with some natural dribbling skills. Psychological qualities demanded of this position are confidence on the ball, courage to take on players who are sometimes bigger and more aggressive, and a basic understanding of the principal of width in attack.
Strikers are the main thrust of the attack, accumulating a larege number of goals scored doing the course of a season. Working closely together and sharing the responsibilities of feeder and lead striker, these players are continually adjusting their positions to seek passes deep in their opponent’s defense. When assigning these positions to young players, the coach must select those who demonstrate a flair for scoring goals and not much desire for defensive responsibilities. The physical characterizes needed for these positions are speed and strength. Since these players often receive the ball with their back toward their opponent’s goal, they become targets for challenges from behind. Therefore, striker must be totally aware of their position in relationship to the opponent’s positions, courageous, determined to pursue the ball, and able to take considerable punishment.