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Switching play ...............................................................................................................

3v3v3 defend from the front...........................................................................................3
4v4 dribble or pass ........................................................................................................4
Crossing and finishing ...................................................................................................5
The scoring box .............................................................................................................6
Defending 1v1................................................................................................................7
Defending in threes .......................................................................................................8
Technique and movement Warm up............................................................................13
Positive forward passing
Dribbling .....................................................................................................................18
4v4 games tournament ................................................................................................22
Win your 1v1 duels .....................................................................................................23
Throw-in Frenzy...........................................................................................................24
Quick, slow, quick .......................................................................................................25
Freeze soccer ...............................................................................................................26
If at first you don't succeed – shoot, shoot and shoot again!........................................27
Technical ability...........................................................................................................27
1. Pressure/delay...........................................................................................................31
2. Cover/support...........................................................................................................31
3. Balance.....................................................................................................................32
4. Compact (also known as concentration)..................................................................32
5. Counter attack..........................................................................................................33
The five attacking principles of play ...........................................................................34
How to practise principles of play................................................................................35

Switching play

By Tony Carr
Switching the point of attack is a clever way of creating
space on one side of the pitch. It can be difficult for
young players to recognise when play has become
congested on their side. But if you can teach them to
think about where the space on the pitch is, they can
take advantage of it.

This session helps you coach your team to recognise and

understand how and when to switch the point of attack.

You can use this exercise straight after the passing

pyramids session (above). The accuracy and weight of
pass is important when switching play. If the pass is poor
and the ball is intercepted, instead of switching play into
space, your players will be running back trying to stop
the counter attack.

What to get your players to think

A quick switch of play will often create space to attack
on the opposite side of the pitch. If performed quickly,

the player in space might be able to dribble forward to create a 1v1 situation. Or
better still, a 2v1 with a team mate.

In addition, switching play can pull the opposition defence apart and create
spaces for your team to attack through the middle.

How to play it
Two teams play a four-goal game with each team attacking and defending two
goals. The aim of this game is for players to recognise when play is blocked down
one side of the pitch, and then look to switch quickly to the opposite side.

How to progress it
Progress the previous practice by adding a central zone. Players in this zone are
only allowed to use two touches when in possession of the ball. This will improve
the speed of play and encourage quick switching from one side of the pitch to the

Play it in a game
The game is played with three goals. One team defends one goal and attacks two
goals. This team has the advantage of being able
to use a quick switch of play to create a chance to
score in the second goal.

However, if the switch is forced and not made with

care, the other team could win possession and
attack to score.

3v3v3 defend from the front

By Michael Beale
Closing down defenders in their own half is a job for
your forwards and midfielders to do.

If your attackers work together they are more likely

to win the ball back nearer to the opponents' goal
and have a greater chance to score.

How to set it up
Use an area 40 yards by 30 yards with two goals
and two goalkeepers.

Split into teams of three. The black team defends

one area, the white team defends the other, and
the grey team plays as attackers in both areas.

How to play it
The goalkeeper rolls the ball out to the defending white team who must make
three passes in a 3v3 situation against the grey attackers before passing to the
team in the opposite half of the pitch (black team).

If a successful pass is made to the opposite team then the grey attacking team
must advance into the other half of the pitch to pressure the black team who
must make the three passes.

If the grey team wins possession they should try and score in the goal they are

Change team roles every three defensive moves, so grey defends the black end,
black defends the white end, and white become the pressing team in the middle.

4v4 dribble or pass

By Michael Beale
Using games to teach players how to become used
to tactical moves is a great way to help them
understand attacking and defending as a unit.

When defending in groups, it is important the

players work together to stop the opponent.
Players must support each other and communicate
with each other to press the team with the ball.

This game is designed to develop a deep defence

that invites attacks in order to quickly counter

In an area 25 yards by 30 yards, you need six small

goals marked out by cones and a ball.

How to play it
1. Two teams of four players play a game and both teams have a different
way of scoring.

2. The white team drops back to defend their three yellow goals. The black
team is aiming to dribble through the gates in order to score.

3. If the white team wins possession, their objective is to make a pass

forward and through one of the black
team's goals. This represents winning
the ball in a game and then making a
good pass into a midfielder or forward's

Crossing and finishing

By Tony Carr
This session is about getting the ball into wide
areas, creating crossing opportunities and
getting players into the box to convert chances.
With so many goals scored from crosses, it is
vital that your players have the ability to create
and finish from them.

By playing the ball into wide areas, your team

stretches the opposition’s defence. This often
leads to space in central areas. It is important
that players – particularly midfielders – are
willing to make runs into the box and get on the
end of the cross.

How to play it
Using a 60 yards by 40 yards playing area, the coach passes to one of two
attackers who must combine with their strike partner and then pass out wide to
the full back.

The full back dribbles forward and passes down the line for the wide player to
cross into the box. The two attackers run into the penalty area and must try to

In the next stage, the attackers pass directly to the wide player who dribbles
inside, allowing the full back to overlap. The wide player makes a reverse pass for
the full back to cross into the box for the two attackers to try to score.

How to develop it
Add defenders to the practice.

The attackers have a choice of whether to pass to the full back or wide player.
The full back and wide player must react according to the pass made.
The attackers must time their runs to arrive with the cross and get in front of the
defenders to get to the ball.

The scoring box

By Tony Carr
Finding a pass to unlock an oppositions' defence is particularly useful in crowded
central areas.

The scoring box gives you the opportunity to practice quick passing in order to
create a 1v1 opportunity against the goalkeeper.

These quick passing combinations will develop movement between your players
and improve their interaction when in possession of the

Watch out for over-playing, 3-5 passes is ideal and

represents the quick passages of play that develop
towards the end of an attacking build up.

Begin with the players passing around the square in the

sequence A-B-C-D before attempting one of the following

1. A passes to C, C sets B and B plays a through ball

for D. D spins outside and shoots from the diagonal

2. B passes to D who lays it back for A. A plays a
straight ball for C who angles his run behind D to
get on to the through ball and shoot.

3. A plays to C who lays the ball off to D. D plays in

B for a third man run to shoot at goal. Make sure
each player gets an opportunity to play in all of
the positions.

Finally, give the players the freedom to make any

combination of passes before one player is released to
shoot. A defender can be added inside the box to put
pressure on the passing.

Defending 1v1

By Michael Beale
When you want to start coaching your players to have a competitive edge, I find it
best to work them in 1v1s where they are concentrating only on their opponent
and the ball.

1v1s force players to use all their skills to try and win the ball. In this session,
players need fast reactions as they are forced to engage in a physical
confrontation to win possession. This is where the competitive edge comes in.

I use this simple drill from Michael Beale's Perfect Defending manual.

You need a goal, a goalkeeper and players divided in pairs. Start off around 20
yards from goal.

1. The players stand either side of you and face away from the goal.

2. The players must react to your throw and race to the ball.

3. The first player to reach the ball becomes the attacker. The second player
is the defender and must use their strength to compete physically to win
the ball.

Light on your feet

Defenders should always be ready to anticipate an

attacker's change of direction and block their route by
jockeying - holding the player up through movement
without any physical contact or tackling.

It can be said that these defenders are "light on their

feet" because they are always on their toes, ready to
react and move to cut out an attack.

How to play it
• Set up a 20 yards by 10 yards playing area and
use two cones, two balls and two small goals.
• Playing across the width of the pitch, the
defender passes to the attacker and races to defend.
• The attacker must use disguises and feints
before trying to dribble and score a goal.
• The defender must try to anticipate the
attacker's movement and challenge to win the ball.

Defending in threes

By Michael Beale
When teams are defending with three at the back,
players need to know how to use pressure, support
and depth to maximise their effectiveness.

What you are looking for is your defenders to get into

the right 'shape' depending on the location of the ball
when the opposition attacks.

Set up an area 20x20 yards with a 10x20 yards end

zone. You need three cones and three mannequins or

How to play it
• The defending team completes the defending technique task. The coach
calls to the players the defensive shape they should take up:
1. Left – the left defender pressures and shows inside, the central defender
supports to stop a forward pass and the furthest defender gives support to
the central player and provides depth.

2. Centre – the central defender pressures the ball while the two wide
defenders take up supporting positions behind and to either side to stop
the forward pass.

3. Right – the right defender pressures and shows inside, the central
defender supports to stop a forward pass and the furthest defender gives
support to the central player and provides depth.
• The coach passes a ball to the attacking team at the opposite end.

• Immediately, the defenders must run on to the pitch and use the group
defending technique to stop the opponents from scoring in their
target goal.

After each game the roles are reversed.

Defending together, defending alone

One of my U10s teams has enjoyed a great run lately in
which they have had three clean sheets on the bounce.
Last season the same players didn't keep a single clean
sheet so the improvement has been vast.
One of the things they have improved is how they react
when they have lost the ball. Instead of just standing
there, they now communicate with their team mates to
take up good positions to stop the opposition attacking.

In a way they have got more passion into their defensive

work. They react to situations to stop the opposition
advancing on the goal.

I use this session from West Ham Academy Director

Tony Carr which looks at defending and reacting to a
number of situations. Training in a random practice like
this reflects, with more realism, the changing situations
that will occur in a real game.

How to play it
Two defenders work together to defend 2v1 against an attacker who can score in
either of the target goals.

In this situation one defender must apply pressure to the attacker with the other
defender taking up a supporting position.

How to develop it
The defenders must react to the next attack and go back to their own channel to
defend a 1v1 situation where they will have to work independent of their team
mate to win the ball.

How to advance it
Now the defenders must react to a third situation in which two attackers enter the
pitch to attack in a 2v2 situation.

This is the hardest test because both defenders pressure the attacker with the
ball but have to be ready the cover the second attacker. A run off the ball from
the attacker not in possession can cause confusion between the two defenders.
Communication is vital.

When competent at this practice, your players are ready to play a normal game
and defend a range of match situations effectively.

Delay the attacker

By Michael Beale
Delaying an attack is vital when defenders are on their own
at the back waiting for reinforcements to arrive. As long as
players know they will have back up and you give them the
techniques to hold play up they will be happy to keep their
opponents at bay.

This session covers how an individual defender can delay

attackers by pressuring quickly and keeping them away
from goal.

Set up an area 30 yards x 30 yards and you need 2 goals, 4

cones with a ball between two.

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How to play it
1. The defender passes the ball to the attacker and races out to defend.

2. The attacker must show a disguise and try to score in one of the two goals
within 5 seconds of receiving the ball.

3. The defender must be light on his feet and stand up. Without committing
himself he should try to force the attacker into a mistake and delay play.

For the next attack, the players rotate positions.

King of the ring

By Michael Beale

This is a very simple game to set up, but it forces the players to display clever
movement as they have to protect their own ball at the same time as trying to
remove their opponents' balls from the game.

How to play it
1. Set up a 25 yards by 25 yards playing area
and give all the players a ball.

2. Each player dribbles their ball around the


3. Players attempt to kick an opponent's ball out

of the area while at the same time protecting
their own ball from being stolen and kicked

4. If a player's ball is kicked out, they are out of

the game. The last player left inside the area is
declared the winner.

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Front and back

This is a great simple drill from Michael Beale which forces players to react to
the two most frequent defending and attacking situations. The beauty of drills like
this is the ease with which you can set it up and get it going on a training night
straight away.

1. The goalkeeper passes to player 1 who attacks 1v1

against player 3.

2. Immediately after this attack, the coach passes to

player 3.

3. Player 2 must now run out and stop player 3 from

turning to shoot.

For the next attack, player 1 becomes player 2 and player

2 becomes player 3.

Encourage your players by calling out:

• "Pressure"

• "Force away from goal"

• "Stop the turn"

Turn and shoot

This session from Tony Carr coaches players to

create space and take a shot after they receive
the ball with their backs to goal. It is an art for
attackers to turn defenders when facing away
from the goal, otherwise they will lose the ball.

What players should think

• Communication – verbal, signal or

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• Create space by moving the defender before receiving the ball. Can the
attacker make an angle?

• Good first touch – do they control or turn first time?

• Quick turn – disguise? Hook turn?

• Shooting – laces or side foot? Aim low for the corners and look for accuracy
before power.

Set up a 15 yards by 5 yards area, split into two (5 yards by 5 yards and 10 yards
by 5 yards). Place it centrally at the edge of a penalty area (closer depending on
the players' age and ability). This works best with four players.

How to play it
One player, the forward, who must stay inside the 5 yards by 5 yards area, faces
three servers spaced equally apart at one end of the playing area. Each server
has a supply of balls.

The forward calls for a pass from one of the servers, who passes the ball to them.
The forward then must control the pass, turn and shoot into the empty goal. As
soon as the forward shoots, they turn back and call for another pass from a
different server. Repeat 10 times.

Encourage forwards to turn both to the left and right and to shoot with either foot.
Rotate players so everyone has a go at being the forward.

There are several possible developments to this drill, including:

Limiting the number of touches the forward can have, Adding a goalkeeper,
Adding a passive defender, Making the defender active

How to play it
Play a 4x4 (plus 2 goalkeepers) but award extra points for forwards who receive
the ball with their backs to goal before turning to shoot.

Technique and movement Warm up

By David Clarke
This warm-up is all about control, movement and
using the skills of two players. Players react to the
pass and then move to receive the ball again.

How to play it

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• Get one player to act as a server. The other player works.

• The working player must move forward to receive a serve and return it.
They then back pedal up and around the cones in order to receive another
serve on the opposite side.

• The players work for one minute each on the following drills:
1 First time pass
2 Bouncing serve and a half volley
3 Aerial serve and a volley
4 Aerial serve and a header

Stop and go for a skills workout

By David Clarke
This is a great work out for players of all ages. Get your
players moving and stopping the ball across the cones
and listen to them laughing as they do it.

Players must use skill, technique and agility. It also

needs a soccer brain because your players not only
have to control the ball then stop it, they are also
under pressure to see where they are going.

Set up eight cones with a ball on each row as shown in

the diagram. Tell your players to run to the first cone,
control the ball while running across to the opposite
cone and stop it with their foot next to the cone. Then
move up a cone, collect the next ball and carry on.

If you get two sets going like in the diagram you can have them running against
each other. First team to get back to the finish wins.

When the first player moves up to the second row of cones player two goes from
the opposite side. So all they are doing is running to the cones and controlling the
ball as they move across the cones and move up.

Don't worry if the ball goes all over the place at first because it takes a lot of
concentrating to get the ball to go where the players want.

The one-two square

By David Clarke

When you have been using the skills zone in the first exercise in this issue you

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can help to warm your players down with this drill which teaches them a simple

The one-two or wall pass is a great way to get past defenders without too much
trouble. Done well, a series of one-twos can put your players into the penalty area
with a good chance of a shot on goal and it is a good way to encourage more

How to play it
• Put two players inside the square and arrange
the others around the four corners.

• The players on the outside must make one-

two wall passes along the width of the square and
dribble along the length of the square.

• Players should sidefoot pass to the wall

passers who must make sure they control and
pass back in to the running players so they don’t
have to break their stride.

• Change the two wall passers regularly.

• The players must work for a set time period.

Pass and get the second ball

By Michael Beale

The warm up for the article above is very simple which in my opinion is often the
best type of warm up so you can set up and get your players moving quickly.

This warm up encourages passing and receiving and is again simple to set up and

I use this on match days when my players have just arrived to get their brains and
bodies into gear for the match – and you can wake
them up by calling left or right so they are not just
going in the opposite direction to the player who went
before them.

How to play it
• Set up two gates to the right and left of a queue
of players with a ball each.

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• You should stand about 10 yards in front of the queue.

• Tell your players to pass the ball to you.

• Pass back to the right or left in front of one of the gates.

• Player must react and sprint to the ball and then turn to dribble through
the gate as quickly as possible.

Pass and one-two react

By Michael Beale
Warm ups should mimic what you expect to see your players doing on the pitch. If
you want your players to pass the ball around, work on passing warm ups like this

It helps players get into the groove for passing and moving and they will take that
on to the pitch and do it from the first blow of the whistle.

• Arrange your players into groups of three.

• The central player works in the middle for one


• This player dribbles the ball to the player opposite and they make
continuous one-touch passes.

• When ready, the outside player makes a pass into the space behind the
central player.

• The central player must react and turn to run after the ball.

• Repeat the practice with the next player.

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Positive forward passing

When players make a forward pass into an attacker, they

must be prepared to support and ensure players in
advanced positions do not get isolated. This session is all
about making the most of possession and movement to
support the pass.

The aim of keeping possession is to make your opponents

run in order to open up spaces to attack.

Some teams do this very well. However, they do not reap

the benefits of their good possession as they play too many
square or backward passes.

It is vitally important that players focus on making good,

forward attacking passes and then make supporting runs in
order to get beyond defenders and into goalscoring

Use this session in a 30 yards by 40 yards area. In pairs, players make short
passes using two touches over 10 yards.

Next they move backwards to a distance of 30 yards apart and play low, driven
passes over the longer distance.

How to develop it
Put the players into groups of three with two players starting at one end of the
playing area, and one opposite. The development combines both of the passing
ranges as the two players combine with a short one-two before a low driven pass
is made to the player opposite.

The player making the long pass follows the ball to play a one-two at the opposite
side and the sequence repeats in the opposite direction.

Put it into a game situation

In a small-sided game, each team must nominate two target players to play on
the goal line – one either side of the goal. To score a goal, a pass must first be
made into one of the two target players, who then set the ball back to a
supporting runner.

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The supporting runner does not have to be the player who made the initial pass.
Rotate the players so everyone has a turn working as a target player.

The skills zone

By Tony Carr
This session is designed to improve the dribbling ability
and skill level of your players through a series of technical
exercises and small-sided games.

1. Improving dribbling techniques to accelerate and

change direction.

2. Improving skills to beat defenders.

3. Enhancing a winning mentality.

When dribbling with the ball, your players may have space
and they must be able to pick up speed quickly to use this
area. However, when there is little space, the players must
be able to demonstrate quick feet, skills and turns to get
past their opponent.

How to play it
Use an area 25 yards by 25 yards.

The circuit includes four different techniques that should

be worked on for two minutes each.

1. Complete two turns inside the square to reach the

opposite side.

2. Players must complete a skill to beat the mannequin.

3. Players must use quick feet to go diagonally through the crazy cones.

4. Players must accelerate and change direction across the area. Four balls
work at all times.

How to develop it
Four goals and four players play a game. Each player has three lives, if a goal is
scored into a player's goal then he loses a life. The last player standing is
declared the winner.

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You can progress this game so that each player has a goalkeeper (diagram 3) this
improves the ability to create space and shooting skills when under pressure. The
game is continuous and requires lots of footballs.

By David Clarke
20 seconds to score
When you are watching highlights of goals, take a note of
the time it a takes the team from winning possession to
putting the ball in the net. I bet you rarely get beyond 20
seconds - unless of course it's Arsenal or Barcelona.

So I invented this game which I use with my players where

the team in possession has 20 seconds to score or the ball
is given back to the opposition team, which also has 20
seconds to score. This creates a fast game with players
shooting at every opportunity.

I start with a shooting warm up and move into the game

following that.

The idea is to encourage movement, passing and shooting.

Play this simple warm up

Players should run with the ball then play a simple pass to
you or an assistant who returns the ball for the player to hit
a first-time shot at the goal. This is simple build up play
with passing and receiving skills ending in a shot at goal.

Then turn it into a game

Now you can progress your session with a 3v3 small-sided
game in an area 40 yards by 30 yards. Each team has to make three passes
before they shoot at goal but they only have 20 seconds to do so.

If the opposition team wins the ball then its 20 seconds start straight away and
they have to make at least three passes before they can take a shot.

The time you give your players will vary depending on age and ability. An U16s
team for example should be given a 10-second or less time limit and U14s a 15-
second time limit.

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Keep the ball under pressure

By David Clarke
Encouraging your players to keep the ball for your team is a vital part of your
training sessions. Different age groups need different levels to practice at – and I
know some of you will have teams that are more advanced than others, so here
are three different levels of exercise to practice possession soccer.

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Make use of a simple 2v1 game
In diagram 1 the two white players pass and move around the square while the
grey player has to try and win the ball. If he wins the ball he replaces one of the
white players and the game goes on. To advance this game tell the white players
they can only have 2 touches on the ball before they must pass. Once they have
got the basics of the game add more players to make it a 3 v 2 or a 4 v 2.

Expand the play so you are using 10 players

Moving to more advanced exercises you can expand the play further like diagram
2. For this one use 10 players and an area 30 yards x 20 yards. Set it up so you
have five attackers inside the area. Two more attackers - one on each of the
longest sides of the area - can move up and down to support the play. Three
defenders inside the area try to win the ball back.

They must win it back twice, then one of the three swaps places with an attacker -
and the play continues.

Move it to a 6v6 game

You can then take it a stage further like diagram 3 where we have a 6v6. Go back
to a square pitch either 30 yards x 30 yards or 20 yards x 20 yards depending on
the age and ability of your players. You need to have a player from each team on
each side of the square, with 2 from each side inside the square. The team that
starts with the ball must keep it for as long as possible using team mates on the
edge of the square.

The player who receives the ball on the edge of the square can either pass or run
into the square with the ball and the player who passed the ball out has to take
his place on the side of the square.

The team trying to win the ball can only use the two players in the centre until
they win it – players on the edge of the square cannot tackle.

Key coaching points

• A good first touch on the ball when receiving.

• Play the ball first time whenever possible.

• Count the number of passes to make it competitive.

• Players should use the inside and outside of each foot.

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4v4 games tournament

By Tony Carr
This session is about reacting to different situations in a mini tournament-style
exercise. It helps players to force the shape and direction of play.

Each direction in each game gives the teams

different problems to solve in attack and defence.
The winning team will be the one that can adapt
the quickest.

• Make sure you have a supply of balls ready

to feed in when one leaves play (always
remember to roll balls in rather than throw them
to avoid head clashes).

• Ask a parent or assistant coach to help

monitor the two games. If you are running the
session on your own, you may wish to stand
between the two pitches so you can easily feed
the new balls in to either pitch.

How to set it up
Create a 60 x 40 yard area split into two 30 x 20
yard pitches. One pitch has a full-size goal at one
end and an end zone at the other. The other pitch
has one mini goal positioned centrally at one end
and two mini goals at the opposite end.

How to play it
Split your players into four teams plus one
goalkeeper. The teams rotate in order to attack and
defend each scoring target, so each team will play
the following games:

1. Defend the two mini goals and attack the

single mini goal.

2. Defend the single mini goal and attack the

two mini goals.

3. Defend the end zone and attack the big goal with the goalkeeper.

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4. Defend the big goal with the goalkeeper and attack the end zone. When
attacking the end zone a team scores a point when the ball is brought
under control by an attacking player inside the zone.
You can change the size of goals and number of players to make the games
harder or easier.

Making it competitive
Now turn the game into a competition between all four teams at once. The teams
must keep a tally of their goals for and against as they move from game to game.
The team with the best total result is the winner.

Win your 1v1 duels

By Tony Carr
In the game my U10s B team played on Saturday
they were involved in a lot of 1v1 duels both in
defence and in attack, which had a big effect on
the game. By winning the majority of these
battles, my team held a huge advantage by
having possession of the ball much more than
their opponents.

Fortunately in the session before the game I'd

been using an exercise from Smart Sessions
which is designed to improve 1v1s in the
midfield. Players are forced to continually attack
and defend 1v1 in order to forge a chance to
score a goal.

These are the kind of duels they would face in a

real game. Remember to also alert your players
to the fact that beating an opponent in a 1v1 will
remove them from the game, allowing more
space to attack.

How to set it up
Use an area 50 yards by 30 yards with a 10 yards
by 10 yards area in the centre of the larger area.

How to play it
Pass a ball into the smaller area where two
players must compete for it. The player
successful at taking the ball outside of the area
has the chance to run and take a shot at goal.

How to develop it

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The player that wins teh initial batlle in the centre area has take on the defender
in 1v1.

However, if the defender wins the ball from the attacker then they can pass the
ball back to their team mate in the centre square.

The team mate can now go 1v1 at the opposite end.

Now when winning the 1v1 duel, your player attacks as he would in a game with
the attackers outnumbering the defenders (the picture showing 3v2 can be
changed to suit the players available in your session).

Play it in a game
The objective is to show the players in your team the benefits of competing and
winning the duel against their immediate opponent in the game.

Throw-in Frenzy

By Keith Boanas
Use this game to encourage and improve the use of quick throw-ins to gain an

Set Up
Area: Use a 50 yards by 40 yards pitch with a goal at each end. Two eight-yard
square boxes on each side, 10 yards from the goal line.

Players: 12.

Equipment: Cones, balls, two goals.

The rules
• Two players from each team are put into the
boxes at the end they are attacking. The remaining
players play in the main area.

• To score, a team must pass to one of the boxed

players, who catches the ball or picks it up and quickly
looks to take a legal throw-in.

• The attacking team is looking to create a goal-

scoring opportunity from the throw-in before the
defending team can get organised.

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• Rotate the players in the boxes at regular intervals.

Allow the receiver to play the ball back to the thrower who can then cross or shoot

The thrower can now join in by exiting the box with or without the ball. How do
players react to this?

Before playing this game, you might want to make sure your players are all aware
how to take a legal throw-in and give them a chance to show you their technique.

Quick, slow, quick

By David Clarke
You can use this exercise to warm up your players before they take part in the Tony Carr defending
drills in the main article in this issue. Or use it to warm your players down after they have done the

How to play it
• Set up the drill by placing four cones in a line five yards apart then two cones 15 yards from
each other.
• Players should zig-zag through the cones as quickly as
possible then jog to the next cone and finally sprint home.
• Players run at different speeds so make sure they go at their own top speed not the one you
wish everyone ran at.
• You may vary this drill by increasing the distance between cones (depending on the age of
your players) or restrict your players to sprinting without allowing them to jog.
• Do three runs, with 30 second breaks.

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Freeze soccer
By Tony Carr
This session concentrates on using a good first touch to control the ball so players can quickly make
passes. It shows players how a good first touch makes it easier to move into space and gives them time
to see where their team mates are.

What their team mates must do is move into space – passing without movement isn't going to get your
team very far. This session will also encourage players to move between lines of opposition players to
run on to the ball.

What to think about

• Can your players receive the ball on the run?
• Can they control with their first touch?
• Are they using the correct technique to control the ball?
• Can the team keep the ball moving?

How to set it up
In a 40 yards by 30 yards area you need two teams of four players. During the session you will need to
add a goal and a goalkeeper.

How to play it
• You pass a ball in to one team to keep possession.
• On your call of "freeze" the team not in possession must stand still.

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• The team with the ball must make 10 passes in between the opposition players as quickly as
possible. This means they must move quickly into space, call for the ball, and control it first
time before finding the next pass.
• Switch roles each time so that the teams take it in turn to have possession.

If at first you don't succeed – shoot, shoot and shoot

Q: Why don't my team score enough goals?

Q: Why do they make chances but fail to convert them?

The answer to both of these coaching conundrums is the same: you need to reinforce your
players' technical ability and make sure they have the right goalscoring "attitude".

Technical ability
Except for very young players, who can get the ball into the back of the net by the sheer force
of their collective will, goalscorers need to be able to kick the ball accurately with all parts of
their feet. They also need a good touch/feel for the ball when dribbling and have the ability to
move and change direction quickly.

So it makes sense to ensure these basic building blocks are in place before you set out to
improve your players' goalscoring ability.

There is a lot of guidance on footy4kids (see the links at the end of this article) that will help
you teach your players how to kick the ball properly, develop a good first touch as well as be
fast and light on their feet but if I was going to single out the three most important topics to
work on they would be:

1. Ball control

Lots of practice controlling the ball, passing and shooting with all six surfaces of the foot:
laces, sole, inside, outside, heel and toe.

2. First touch

Develop a soft first touch so that they can receive firmly struck passes without the ball
bouncing off them and to allow them that most precious commodity: time to get their head up
and see what is going on around them.

3. Agility

Improve your players' movement and co-ordination by means of agility exercises (with and
without the ball) such as slaloming through poles.

Games that work on goalscoring technique

Mini Blackjack

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Set up: place a normal-sized (about 8ft wide) goal made from poles or cones in the centre of
a playing area 30 yards long by 20 yards wide. Place an additional pole or cone three feet
outside each post to make two small side goals, each 3ft long.

P <<< 3' >>> P <<<<<<<<<<<< 8' >>>>>>>>>>> P <<< 3' >>> P

Divide your squad into two teams. Team A stands on one side of the goal at the end of the
playing area and team B stands on the other side.

There is no goalkeeper.

You stand outside the grid, level with the goal. Have several balls so the game flows

How to play: the coach serves a ball to the first player in team A who controls the ball with her
first touch and shoots with her second.

If she scores through the centre part of the goal it is worth one point. A goal scored through
one of the smaller side goals is worth three points.

Each team takes it in turn to shoot.

The first team to score exactly 11 is the winner. Going over 11 (i.e. if a team has 10 points
then gets another three points by scoring through a side goal) means they have bust and go
back to zero.


• Serve fast or high balls.

• Add a goalkeeper.
• Add a defender who pressures the player receiving the ball. The defender can come
from the other team and if they win the ball, they can shoot and score.
• Use one touch only.
Now it's time for a couple of SSGs.

Jargon Buster

SSGs (small-sided games) are games played in a relatively small playing area with just a
few players on each team. They are football "matches" with a condition added that
reinforces the skill or technique you are working on.

If you want your players to build up attacks from the back, for example, you could add the
condition that every time the ball goes out of play the game restarts from the goalkeeper
who has to roll the ball out.

If you have more than eight players, set up enough 3v3, 4v3 or 3v2 games to suit the
numbers but try not to have more than four on a team.

SSG: All Up is a SSG that encourages your players to compress the space in their
opponent's half when they attack on match days.

• Condition: goals only count if all the players on the attacking team are in the
opponent's half when the ball crosses the line.

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SSG: Follow Up encourages your players to follow up on their shots, an essential part of their
shooting technique.

• Condition: goals only count if the shooter touches the back of the net within five
seconds of the ball crossing the line.
Mental attitude

"If you don't shoot, you'll never score". It's true, of course, and we've all said it to our players.

But how many coaches go on to discourage a shooting mentality by overemphasising the

importance of keeping possession?

While we all want our team to take care of the ball and not give it away too easily, we also
need to make sure they know that possession has to have an end result – a shot at goal.

Playing too many keepaway-style games, where players are rewarded for playing safe, easy
passes can give them the false impression that the only thing that matters is keeping the ball.
That's why you should always try to have a soccer-like end result to your coaching games,
i.e., a goal or, at least, a attempt at scoring a goal.

If we want our players to have a goalscoring mentality we have to make sure they know that
it's OK to miss.

Games that encourage a goalscoring mentality

SSG: Take a Chance

Set up: Divide a seven-a-side pitch in two and place a wide goal on each of the four sides of
the square. Divide your players into two equal teams of four to six players. No goalkeepers.

How to play: Whichever team has possession can score in any of the four goals. This game
encourages your players to continually look for an opportunity to shoot rather than simply
keep the ball away from the other team.

SSG: Touch, Shoot!

Set up: use the same playing area as above but this time have just two goals, one on each

• Condition: players can only take two touches of the ball before passing or shooting. A
third touch results in a free kick for the opposition.
If a player scores with their first touch, they get two points for their team.

Note: If goals are hard to come by in either Take a Chance or Touch, Shoot!, make the goals
wider or the playing area smaller.

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In diagram 2, I have added a goal and a goalkeeper.

Now when you call "freeze" the team in possession must use three quick passes and movement to
create and complete a goal-scoring opportunity.

You can then move on to your training pitch and play a small-sided game, like diagram 3, with two
goals and goalkeepers. Every so often shout "BLUE freeze" or "RED freeze" and see if your teams can
complete a three-pass movement to create a goal-scoring chance.

Principles of play part 2: how to defend

These five principles of defensive play are the key to good team and individual defending at
all levels of the game.

They were first described by the FA's director of coaching in the 1960s, Allen Wade, and have
remained virtually unchanged ever since.

All youth football coaches – even coaches who have very young players – should be aware of
the principles and take every opportunity to reinforce them in a way that their players can

1. Pressure/delay
To prevent attackers from penetrating your defence, the first defender (the player nearest to
the ball) should apply immediate pressure to the ball carrier.

His objective is not to win the ball, it is to slow the attack, get the attacker's head down and to
try to force the attacker into a place where he cannot shoot.

However, if your first defender is outnumbered he should not put too much pressure on the
ball carrier. Instead, he should try to delay the attack by dropping back to a spot midway
between the ball and his goal. This should allow time for other defenders to regain their
positions. When support arrives, your first defender should increase the pressure on the ball

Practise pressure/delay by playing a 1v1 game where the ball carrier tries to get a shot at a
target or cone goal and the defender has to stop him for 20 or 30 seconds. Progress by
adding another attacker.

Key coaching points for the first defender:

• Move in quickly but slow down when you get to within about one metre of your

• Approach at a slight angle, ideally so you are forcing the attacker towards the side
line and away from the centre of the goal.

• Watch the ball.

• Be patient.

2. Cover/support

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The defender who is second closest to the ball takes up a position between the first defender
and the goal and provides cover. His role is to take over the job of first defender if the attacker
gets past his team mate.

The distance from the first to second defender is not fixed but he should be close enough to
be able to put immediate pressure on the attacker if required. But he should not be so close
behind the first defender that the attacker can beat both of them by simply pushing the ball
past them.

Generally, the quicker the attacker is moving, the further away the second defender needs to
be. If the attacker is moving very slowly or is stationary, the second defender can close right
up and work closely with the first defender.

Practise the principle of cover and support by playing 2v1 (two defenders against one
attacker) in a small playing area with a goal at each end.

Progress by adding attackers until you are playing three attackers v two defenders.

Coaching points for the second defender:

• While the first defender watches the ball, the second defender watches the attacker.

• Make sure the first defender can feel and hear your support: tell him you are covering

3. Balance
While the first and second defenders are working on the attacker with the ball, the rest of the
defence provides balance.

Their job is to cut off passing options, watch for other attackers making runs and to take on
the role of either the first or second defender if the need arises.

The third line of defence has to work hard: they must be continually aware of where they are
on the field in relation to the ball carrier and other players. They should always be able to see
the ball.

Practise the principles of balance by playing a 4v4 game on a 30 yards wide by 40 yards long
pitch. Emphasise the need for the third line of defenders (there is a first, a second and two
defenders as a third line on each team) to work together to try to prevent the ball carrier
passing the ball.

If the ball is passed, one of the third line of defenders, the one nearest the ball, should
immediately take on the role of first defender.

Key coaching point: work together as a unit. Stay connected to each other. If one moves,
you all move.

4. Compact (also known as concentration)

To avoid leaving gaps in the defence that can be dribbled or passed through, defenders
should concentrate their numbers in the area of the pitch between the ball and the goal.

Practise (in a game situation) by coaching your players to play and move as a tight unit. They
should mirror the movement of the ball, moving up, down, left and right as required. This cuts

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out the spaces available to play through, and reduces the chances of the defence being
penetrated by a pass or dribble.

5. Counter attack
The final – and most important – principle of defence is to always take an opportunity to
launch a counter attack.

To this end, the defence needs to have depth. One or more players should stay in an
advanced position (between the ball and the opponent's goal) and if your defenders win the
ball they need to play the ball forward at speed.

Coach your players to move the ball as quickly and in as straight a line as possible: it should
not stop, go back or be passed out to the wings unless there is no other, more direct, option.

Practise counter attacking by playing a small-sided game on a pitch with a halfway line. Goals
only count if all the players in the attacking team are in the opposition's half when a shot
crosses the goal line.

The principles of play are the building blocks upon which all youth football teams should be

As soon as your players are old enough to be comfortable playing away from "the swarm" you
should try to practise one or two of the attacking or defending principles in every coaching

If you continually emphasise the "right way" to play, you will end up with a team that can play
well in any formation and against any opposition, no matter how skilled or experienced they

Principles of play part 1: how to attack

"You can be sure in succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places that are undefended"

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Youth football coaches spend a lot of time thinking about which formation they want their
team to play in.

Coaches of children as young as four or five write to me asking if it's better to play 1-2-1-2 or
2-2-2 and when it gets to eleven-a-side ("proper" football), the issue of formations seems to
become even more important.

Clearly, some coaches think that it's just not possible to play football if your team doesn't play
in the right formation.

But (as I pointed out in a recent Clinic) there is no "best" formation for a youth football team.
Coaches have to consider their team's strengths and weaknesses, how the opposition are
going to line up, the style of play they favour (slow build ups from the back? Soaking up
pressure, then a fast counter attack?) and even the weather conditions on the day of the

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Coaches also need to consider the ability of their players to understand their role in a team

In my experience, many players under the age of 12 or 13 find having to remember their role
in different formations a big distraction and their performance can suffer as a result.

If you are finding it hard to get your team to play in your chosen formation you might be better
to make sure they fully understand football's "principles of play" instead of the banging your
head against a brick wall trying to make them play 4-4-2 etc.

The principles of play were first formalised by Allen Wade, former director of coaching for
English FA, in the late '60s in the manual, "The FA Guide to Training and Coaching" and are
the foundations upon which all good football teams are built.

Principles of play are important because your players need to use them in every match,
irrespective of the formation you or the opposing team choose to play.

While principles of play may sound a bit theoretical (and you won't find principles of play even
mentioned in 99% of modern coaching manuals), all youth football coaches should teach
them in their training sessions.

Principles of play can be split into two main categories: attacking and defending. Each has
five elements.

The five attacking principles of play

1. Penetrate

Always try to score. As soon as one of your team gets the ball they should ask themselves:
"Can I score?" If the answer is "no", they should attempt to penetrate the defence by passing,
dribbling or running at them. Players should always be encouraged to look and move
forwards, not back.

2. Support

Help the player who has the ball. Players who don't have the ball should immediately move to
a position where they can either receive a pass or draw opposition players away from area
the ball carrier is running into (see below).

3. Create width

When attacking, use the full width of the pitch. Having your players in wide positions (with or
without the ball) draws defenders out of the middle, unbalances the defence and creates
spaces for other players on your team to move into.

The lack of defensive pressure in the centre of the pitch also allows your attacking players
time to shoot. Consequently, you should encourage players to run into wide areas of the pitch
even if they have no immediate intention of receiving the ball.

4. Create depth

When in possession, your team should attempt to stretch the opposition vertically as well as
horizontally. Leaving at least one player back and encouraging attackers to move as far
forward as possible will create options to pass the ball forwards and allow safe backwards

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5. Surprise/creativity

The ball should be moved towards the goal as quickly as possible and player movement
should be immediate and hard to predict. You should also tell your players to be creative in
the way they move the ball. Volleys, back heels, flicks, moves such as step overs and fakes
should all be taught and positively encouraged. Even if they fail, the prize – a goal – makes
them worth the risk.

How to practise principles of play


Practise and develop individual dribbling skills in 1v1 contests. Team penetration can be
practised by playing small-sided games on long, narrow playing areas to encourage direct


The basic principle of good supporting play (moving to a place where you can receive a pass)
can be quite easily demonstrated and developed in 2v2 games.

Creating width

Play 4v4 on a short, wide pitch with three goals at each end. The rewards of stretching a
defence horizontally should soon become apparent.


Practise stretching opponents vertically by playing 4v4 games where players are told there
must always be someone in the position of central defender. Move on to 7v7, split the field
into thirds and make it a condition that there must always be at least one player from each
team in each third.


In all the above games, encourage speed of play and congratulate players who demonstrate
individualism and flair. Teach moves, fakes and skills such as ball juggling and never criticise
a player for trying something that doesn't work.


You will have a team full of players who understand the principles of attacking play (even
though they may not know them by that name) can play in any formation, against any
opposition and adapt quickly and effectively to whatever happens on the field.

You should take every opportunity to teach and reinforce them, ideally by using small-sided
games and helping your players to discover the answers for themselves.

Diamonds are a coach's best friend!

Youth football coaches often write to me asking: "How can I make my team spread out?" and
"how can I get my team to have a proper shape?".

But what exactly is team shape?

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All teams have a shape. A very young team that clusters around the ball usually has a small,
roughly circular shape. As players get older, they naturally split away from the main group and
the team shape becomes larger and more elongated.

As players mature, their coaches want them to take up positions on the field. There are two
ways of doing this: a coach can either plant his players in fixed positions such as left back,
right back and central midfielder or he can coach them to understand and maintain the correct
team shape.

The first option is easy but wasteful of your key resources – your players. If you choose the
latter option, your team will always have players in the right position and you won't have
players that are out of the game, standing in places where they have no chance of receiving a
pass or influencing what is going on around them.

Team shape should not be confused with a team's formation. The shape of your team should
be basically the same regardless of whether you play 4-4-3, 2-2-1 etc. However, it does
expand when your team has the ball and it should contract when the other team has the ball.

Team shape is, therefore, dynamic and it depends on your players knowing where they are in
relation to the ball at all times and if your team is attacking or defending. More on that later.

What is the best team shape?

The basic team shape is a diamond, and, as we all know, a diamond has four points: one at
the top, one on each side (left and right), and one at the bottom.

Why a diamond? Why not a square or rectangle or a circle?

Team shape is very closely linked to the principles of the game discussed in newsletters 167
and 168.
When your team is in possession of the ball, the player at the top of the diamond provides the
penetration, the players on the side provide the width and the player at the base of the
diamond provides the depth.

Other shapes cannot provide all of these elements.

How to get your team in shape

First of all, its no good shouting at your players to "spread out". They will run in all directions...
then go back to chasing the ball as soon as they can.

A more considered approach is required.

When introducing the subject of team shape, begin by explaining why you want your players
to become "your little diamonds". Then put them into a diamond shape on the field and walk
around them, holding a ball in your hands.

Get them to hold the diamond shape, no matter where the ball is. They should move
forwards, backwards and sideways as a unit. As you move around, different players will form
the four points of the diamond but the shape must stay the same. That is the key point: your
players need to stay connected to each other (as though they are joined together with string)
and not break into separate groups.

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Then pass or throw the ball around the group to coaching colleagues, parents or other
players. Their movement in relation to the ball has to get faster but the shape, as ever, stays
the same.

Encourage your players to look around them to make sure all four points of the diamond are
in place. If one or more is missing, a player should immediately move to fill the gap.

Once the basics are understood, play 4v4 games so your players can begin to practise
keeping their shape in match situations.

Why 4v4?

4v4 provides the minimum numbers needed to make a diamond shape. It also allows all of
the principles of play to be covered: the player at the apex of the diamond is providing
penetration, the two side players are providing the width and the player at the base of the
diamond is supplying the depth.

Three players can't do this and if you have five players one of the positions will be duplicated
and players who are beginning to learn about team shape will probably become confused.

Key coaching point: the player on the ball must have two passing options at all times. He or
she must be able to pass either backwards/sideways or forwards/sideways or
backwards/forwards. Stop the play when these options are not present and ask your players
to regain their shape.

Attack shape v defence shape.

As noted above, your team's diamond shape expands when you are attacking and contracts
when the other team has the ball.

This is because you want to spread the opposition defence when you are attacking. If your
wide players can tempt them to move out of the danger area in front of their goal it creates
space for the front point of your diamond – your attackers.

Conversely, when you are defending you want to pack the area in front of your goal so your
diamond must shrink. But it is still a diamond!


Teaching your players why they need to have a good, consistent team shape is important and
should be done before you even think about giving players fixed positions.

It's not difficult but does require a lot of patience. You should expect to practice keeping a
diamond shape for many coaching sessions – maybe even a whole season – before your
players can do it on match days.

But persevere, it's worth the wait!

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