Choosing the size of your playing area

So you thought that size didn’t matter….

Well, in soccer coaching anyway, it definitely does.

The size of the playing area you use when coaching can have a dramatic impact on the outcome of your soccer coaching drill session.

Basically, the larger the area the easier it is for your players to experience success. So when coaching young or inexperienced players you should always set up a relatively large grid when, for example, you’re playing games like keepaway.

A good starting point is 10 yards or meters of length for every player in the team or group. For example, a 4v4 soccer coaching drill designed for young players should be 40 yards or meters long.

The width is determined by the type of game you’re playing. ‘Soccer like’ games such as keepaway should normally be played on a rectangular pitch so that they are realistic. So your 4v4 game of keepaway with young players would be played in a 40×30 grid.

But sometimes you will have an objective in mind that requires a different shape.

For example, a really good game for encouraging players to get their heads up and pass quickly is the Four Goal Game (see below).

This game is most usefully played on a pitch that is wider than it is long in order to increase the number of decisions your players have to make.

When your players begin to experience success during a soccer coaching drill, it’s time to make the playing area smaller. This puts them under more pressure and helps them develop their soccer skills further. you can also impose restrictions such as making therm play two-touch at the same time.

So now you know what size grid you need and you’re ready to set out your cones.

But before you do that, check the field for hazards especially holes, broken glass and dog excreta.

Then place the first cone down in line with another object behind it such as a tree.

Then walk backwards, keeping the first cone and the reference object in view. Drop a cone every 5 to 10 yards until you get to the end.

When you get to the end of the first line, turn 90 degrees and drop cones as you’re walking backwards again and you’ll end up with nice straight lines and a properly sized grid!

Four Goal Game

Objective: To develop passing and encourage players to play with their heads up and switch play quickly. It’s also good for teaching pressure, cover, balance in defence.

Age group: U8s upwards.

Equipment: cones, bibs and a football.

Number of players: Whole team.

Set up: use a square grid suitable for the number of players and their skill level. For a 5v5 game with eight year olds, I would use a 40×40 grid. Place four small goals in each corner. No goalkeepers.

How to play: Each team defends two goals at one end and attacks the two at the far end. The players attempt to ‘pull’ the bulk of the defenders over to defend one goal before switching the ball suddenly towards the less well-guarded goal and trying to score there.

Progression: (a) Play one- or two-touch soccer. (b) award extra points for goals which come directly from the team switching play.