Playing Multiple Positions in Soccer

Manchester United Academy's Coach Dean Whitehouse shared his thoughts about player development.  He said that it was more important to develop the players individually than the team.

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Playing Multiple Positions In Soccer

Danny Jones, a well-respected British writer and futball scout recently shared the following video addressing the benefits of playing multiple positions.  It is an interview with Manchester United Academy’s Coach Dean Whitehouse.


This resonated with me and inspired me to share my thoughts regarding playing multiple positions with regards to player development here in the United States.

When my son first started to play soccer, his club had the children rotate their positions on a frequent basis during both practices and games.  This concept of constantly moving players to different positions instead of allowing them to excel at one seemed strange to my husband and me.

I have a clear recollection of my husband asking our Director of Coaching, Antonio Saviano why the children had to be moved around instead of focusing on and mastering one position.  

Antonio felt there were several reasons why it is beneficial for players to experience multiple positions on the field.

  • Gives players a better perspective of how the field appears from different areas.
  • Gives players the ability to have a better sense of what is expected from the different roles. 
  • Results in a more marketable player, should they choose to pursue a career in college or professionally.

Antonio even had the boys rotate in the goalie position.  I remember one game where my son had 3 goals scored on him in fairly rapid succession.  It was funny to see this child who usually danced with the ball look so uncomfortable and unable to defend anything being shot at him.

It also gave him a much greater appreciation for goalkeepers. 

As the years have gone by, we have come to recognize the wisdom of Antonio’s philosophy and to feel fortunate that our son was under his tutelage.

I recently took an informal survey of a small set of local soccer parents (local to North Carolina, USA).  I asked them where their child has played.  

The vast majority of them stated that their child has only played one position for any length of time, and that this was usually a position they had been determined on early in their playing career.

Why Do We Limit Our Kids?  Why NOT play Multiple Positions?

I then reached out to some of our children’s past soccer coaches.  I wanted to know why US Soccer coaches do not do more to let the players experience different roles.

The general consensus was that parents largely drive this phenomenon.  Each of the coaches, had horror stories of parents who had called them and their Director of Coaching demanding that little Johnny only play striker, or left wing, or right back…

This seems to loop back to the Pay to Play system we have here in the US.  There are too many parents who expect the coaches and clubs to concede to their whims and desires.

A club is a business.  At the end of the day, most clubs need for their customers (parents) to continue investing into their product (child’s training).  Inherent in this paradigm is the power that parents have over the operations of the club.

But this raises the question “How can we expect our players to improve if they do not have the opportunity to try multiple positions on the pitch?”

I  would propose that if Dean Whitehouse of Manchester United Academy considers this a valuable methodology, then perhaps we should be reconsidering  our training techniques and doing more to follow this paradigm.