Curing Bunch Ball
A Cure for Bunch Ball?
Bunch Ball (Bunchitis Chronicis) commonly afflicts new, young soccer players. Symptoms include:
- Bunching around the ball as it moves toward one goal and then the other
- Excessive dribbling
- Aimless booting
- Competing with teammates for the ball
- Playing without teamwork or thought
If untreated, Bunch Ball will remain with patients as they become more experienced. In the advanced, less obvious form of Bunch Ball, every touch of the ball is in a forward direction. One team attacks quickly and then the other. And all the play occurs along the path to goal, leading to frequent collisions. This form of the disease afflicts travel, high school, and even college teams.
What Causes Bunch Ball?
It was once believed that egocentrism, a common feature of early childhood, was the root cause of Bunch Ball. However, this explanation did not account for the disease’s persistence among more experienced soccer populations.
The true cause of Bunch Ball is a misperception about the purpose of soccer. If players believe the purpose is to move the ball forward quickly and shoot, Bunch Ball is inevitable. All the action will occur along the direct path to goal. More and more players will gather along that path hoping to touch the ball. And players not along that path, having no chance to participate, will stare at clouds and pick daisies.
How Does Thoughtful Soccer Cure Bunch Ball?
It was once believed that shouting “Spread out!” and “Don’t bunch up!” could cure Bunch Ball. Most players, though, are unwilling or unable to respond to such commands.
Thoughtful Soccer cures Bunch Ball by forcing players to experience something different. While competing at Thoughtscrims (scrimmages with special rules), players move the ball in different directions before scoring. Players behind and to the side of the ball therefore have a greater chance of receiving the ball and participating. The action begins spreading out naturally, without pleas from the coach.
As players move the ball in different directions, they experience positive results. There are fewer collisions, the possessions are longer, and the sport is more fun. The coach also tends to yell, “That’s amazing how you’re spreading out and working together!” The players therefore prefer this new way of playing, and continue it on their own.
For brand new players in their first scrimmages, several Quick Start Rules are also helpful: No Aimless Booting (NAB), One Player on the Ball (OPOB), and Touch It Back (TIB). Violations of these rules lead to a free kick for the other team. The Quick Start Rules quickly prepare patients for the introduction of Thoughtscrims.
The Thoughtscrims should then be applied generously in every practice. After one practice, the patients will begin thinking together and spreading out. After 3-5 practices, the patients will prefer this new way of playing and Bunch Ball will be in complete remission.
For a complete explanation of the Bunch Ball cure, see Carrington, Russ, Thoughtful Soccer: the Think-First Approach to Playing and Coaching. Find it at Reedswain.com!