Last week we were observing Joana’s final football practice of the year. Since most players were already out for the holidays, the session consisted mostly of 3v3 play with players from other teams participating. The girls seemingly had a blast and it brought back so many memories. It then became tempting to write about 3v3 as a football development tool like we did with futsal.
Just like other tools which include indoor soccer, private training (i.e. Coerver), Olympic Development Program (ODP), “the wall”, street football, beach football, football tennis, etc. they all have their unique usefulness. In the future, we may also write about those. Today, we will be writing about 3v3 and its advantages and disadvantages as used extensively by our boys.
For those unfamiliar with 3v3. It’s a small-sided variation of football where 3 players take on the opponent’s 3 with no goalkeeper. For a better definition including its rules, check 3v3 Wikipedia’s page. It’s the fastest growing form of the sport in the United States. Our boys played small-sided A LOT (concurrently with “outdoor” football, futsal, etc.) for several years; it not only aided in their football development in a fun environment, but also provided a platform to compete at a high level at an early age. For parents with young kids interested in football, you may find this post useful. BTW, thank you Quickfoot, Kick it 3v3, Live 3v3, and many other organizations. We had a blast and the memories are countless.
The year was 2010 and we knew that one (sometimes two) practices a week at Solar for Johan were not enough to quench his football thirst. His desire to knock the ball around was just too frequent. We had played, coached and officiated the game all our lives; ironically, we had never coached 3v3 competitively (only rec.). It seemed fun so we said, “what’s the worst that could happen?”. And on we went to participate in Quickfoot’s 3v3 at Keller High School. We coached both Johan’s 4v4 and Jogo’s 3v3 with very little preparation and picking players from their current club teams. The outcome? Johan’s team won while Jogo’s earned second…the seed was planted from then on.
The tournaments in Texas became frequent and the competition was excellent. It gave us an adequate amount of preparation, and confidence to want to take our teams to higher level competitions. We participated at the national level in Orlando three times. Jogo’s team (MOB) went on to win the 3v3 national championship in 2013, our team (La Banda) won third place in 2014 and (MOB) reached the quarter finals in 2015 playing up. Johan’s team only participated once and took 3rd place in 2014. We had the pleasure of meeting many future YNT players at these 3v3 competitions.
Oftentimes, positive results build confidence and perpetuate a love for the game and that’s what we achieved with that group of boys. As of now, every single one of them will be playing college soccer or playing football professionally. We will always be very proud of this group of players and grateful to their parents for allowing us to coach them. We built something special together which has transcended the football field. That said, here are few things we learned along the way…
More touches on the ball
Smaller rosters naturally translate into more touches on the ball. We typically carried 5 or the maximum-allowed of 6 players to maximize time on the ball. All players had about the same technical and tactical level and played an equal amount of time.
Technical aptitude and tactical awareness
Technical aptitude is enhanced by the amount of repetitions generated by smaller rosters. Specifically, muscle memory in a competitive environment is gradually developed to the point of normalcy; it ultimately leads to higher confidence and creativity on the ball. For example, if you have a player who likes to dribble, 3v3 has a ton of space for them to hone that technical skill, become proficient at it, and try out new skills.
Even though it’s a small sided competition, players are tasked to cover a lot of ground which teaches them accountability: play offense and defense simultaneously. The game requires constant decision making by the use of imaginary geometric triangles on the field to figure out ways to outnumber the opponent in order to create scoring opportunities. Players not only learn tactical (positional) awareness but also movement off the ball which can be extrapolated naturally to a normal size football field.
Of all the football development tools, 3v3 is probably the least expensive and the one that requires the least time commitment. It’s typically half of a day worth of short-duration games (normally in the offseason and a Saturday) which is also very fun-packed for players and parents. Sometimes the out of town tournaments could last two to three days but those would normally take place over a holiday weekend and the cost is not significantly higher.
In Texas, there is plenty of strong competition; thus traveling is not necessary and costs can be kept to a minimum. However, if there is a strong desire to compete elsewhere or the “harshness” of the winter prevents outdoor play, there’s always 3v3 indoors.
The game is versatile and can be played indoors too. Most of our competitions were outdoors but we certainly enjoyed playing indoors as well. The indoor 3v3 tournaments were sometimes played in basketball gyms, indoor soccer fields, or futsal courts (3v3s led us to discover futsal at City Futsal). The tournament experience with family and friends was unparalleled; those football bonds are still strong to this day.
We loved having the opportunity to play with players from other clubs. We now reminisce about those times via pictures and clips.
Not only were the tournaments good opportunities to socialize with other families but great bonding times where we created a lot of our own family memories.
More than the football aspect of the entire experience, the boys will always cherish memories with friends, family, teammates, opponents and most of all, the fact that we got to coach them. Those 3v3 memories will live in our hearts forever.
Style and drip
Just like the players wanted to express themselves on the field via their football, they loved selecting their “drip” (and team name) regularly. We mostly stuck to two uniforms per tournament. All were replicas of the original jerseys and purchased via a Chinese supplier for less than 25 dollars for the entire kit. They were very affordable and allowed us to wear different kits like the professionals. That was another cool reason for playing 3v3. The kids could emulate their idols and personalize their jerseys. Jogo became well known as Jogo via his jerseys but let’s not forget that the original Jogo was Johan.
Johan’s first coach at Solar was completely against 3v3s. We always assumed he felt threatened by the possibility of losing players at these events as 3v3 teammates normally belonged to different clubs and inevitably parents socialize. It became difficult to request permission to participate in 3v3s even during off weekends as Johan’s Solar coach frowned upon it. He was an older coach too but we felt this truncated his 3v3 development to a degree.
Similarly, there are parents who think that football development tools such as 3v3s and futsal are NOT adequate for goalkeepers. That couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Jogo played futsal with what would have been one of the U17 MNT goalkeepers (U17 MNT WC was recently cancelled): Jeff Dewnsup whose footwork was phenomenal for his age. This was probably one of the characteristics that gave him national team visibility. Both Johan and Jogo played 3v3 with numerous goalkeepers whose footwork improved as a result of the competitions. Truth be told 3v3 can become addictive.
3v3s are very addictive. They are high scoring ordeals which could be decided in the last second of the game. They cannot get any more American than that.
There are parents who want to compete in them all the time and there’s nothing wrong with that level of involvement. However, at some point it could create a conflict with club football and other life activities. As long as your family knows how to manage the experience and you have a club coach who supports it, go for it. The 3v3 coach may want to define a style of play and shuffling players due to their unavailability makes it challenging to gel as a team. We were fortunate to have 6 very committed families for several years who were as crazy as we were about it.
There are many tools to build and improve a player’s football development. Each one serves a unique purpose. There’s no silver bullet to develop a footballer; there are however, many ways to nurture the love of the game by “making it fun”. As you reflect on your achievements for 2020 and plan for your kids activities for next year, consider incorporating 3v3s into their pool of available activities. You won’t regret it.
On a personal note, we will conclude this post wishing everyone a better year than 2020. For the Gómez’s, it’s was a challenging year in many regards but a blessing in others. We’ll be re-capping the year in a future post. For now, let’s be hopeful, patient, positive and most of all, safe. As always, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for comments, questions, etc. Thanks for reading us and happy 2021. #theGomezway.