POSSESSION IS NINE TENTHS OF THE LAW


TALKING TACTICS

It goes without saying that the team with the ball is more likely to score than the team without it. The more possession, the greater the chances of netting the ball. Even in this predominant era of counter-attacking success seen each weekend in the high profile regular game.

This is probably no more truer than in the slower version of Walking Football. Two competent sides of Walking Footballers could be reminiscent of a basketball match, where a score is usually attained on each venture into the opponents half. A pendulum swing from end to end, with the occasional miss or mess resulting in loss of possession, loss of scoring opportunity, and perhaps a loss of goal ratio as the other team capitalise by scoring on their sojourn into the other half.

Of course, Walking Football games generally tend not to pan out exactly that way, but losing possession is criminal. Tantamount to handing the opposition another scoring chance. Careless short passes, opportunistic long diagonal balls thread through half the opposition, errant shots from long range. All of these unnecessary aspects give the ball up. Possession and opportunity are lost. The success rate of the speculative shot is minimal. Every yard closer to the opponents goal increases the odds and likelihood of success. Never so much obvious as just outside the penalty area. Here the optimum chance of scoring is at it's greatest. Why should this not be the goal before the goal, so to speak?

Good, accurate, risk-free passing and clever, intuitive movement by a trio of players thrusting and probing into the opponent's half must reap the fruits of harvest? Showboating, thread-needle passing and hopeful twenty-five yarders is a sure-fire recipe for serving up a second place helping. Losing the ball to a keeper's save, or a last ditch stretch from a desperate defender is bad enough, but acceptable, when no goal is yielded, but when the ball is unnecessarily poorly passed, or the twenty yarder screams fifteen feet wide, the loss of possession irritates.

Possession is key to unlocking stubbornly resistant defences, retaining the ball and the upper hand, emphasising dominance, and improving the conversion to goal success rate. The art to the game is in holding onto the ball. Short, easy passes. Receive, hold, look up, release. Simple.

Without the running aspect of the regular game, Walking Football doesn't mean stand around and wait for the ball. Slower paced doesn't necessitate a saunter around sedately approach to soccer. It's surprising how rapidly walking pace at high tempo can in fact generate forward propulsion. Check the speed of the Olympic walkers - should you be able to adopt that defined, awkward style!

With no off-side rule, a forward player can move about freely and quickly behind the last defender(s). They can also drop short in front of the defence before the tactic is reacted to, to assist in midfield. A proficient forward player should constantly be on the move. Finding space, losing markers, opening up defences. This must also be the case for the midfield as well. Good movement off the ball, again finding space in which to receive, dropping short, offering options, filling the pockets. This will happen in any good, relatively proficient team, in any team ball-orientated sport. It may be stating the obvious, but it is surprising how much more this is borne out than when a game is slowed down. Key deficiencies in tactics, choices and decisions are emphasised when a relatively fast sport is decreased down to base speed. Played back recording would highlight rudimental flaws in a team's approach to the game, individual and collective inefficiencies, a tool by which to increase perspectives and potential learning about space, movement, assisting in play, option availabilities, retaining possession, defensive set up and neutralising offensive threat.

Playing football at walking pace affords all of these key aspects in the game, and in fact is often used as a teaching tool for juniors when imparting the values of movement and passing.

Successful teams will show this, as they literally walk the ball into the net.

Most Walking Footballers are well beyond their junior years, and perhaps should already know as much as what has been written anyway. Maybe they appreciate that, and as best they can, carry out the doctrine in principle. There is though, still time to improve and learn. Still time to enthuse, enjoy and reflect.

As with the ball - the best is what we hold on to.