Half and half

This game can be used to practice supporting the player on the ball, spotting a through pass.

Age range: U9s to U15s.

Number of players: Eleven.

Tip: If you have more than 11 players, don’t make the teams bigger. Instead, use your spare players as “side supports” working up and down the touchline receiving and passing back to the team in possession.

Equipment required: Flat cones, one ball, training vests in three colours.

Set-up: A 30×20 playing area with a centre line and a goal at each end.

Divide your players into two teams of five: One defender, three attackers and one goalkeeper, plus a neutral player who plays for the team in possession.

How to play: Play with one condition: Players cannot move out of their own half – the attackers must stay in their opponent’s half and defenders must stay in the half of the pitch in front of their goal.

So you always have three attackers and one defender in each half.

Any player can score except the neutral player who can play in either half of the playing area.

Progression: The neutral player is restricted to two or three touches of the ball.

Coaching points: Encourage defenders to keep possession until they spot an opportunity for a through pass to one of their attackers.

The neutral player can carry the ball from one half to another and assist the attackers.

Guided discovery questions:

  • How can the defenders keep the ball away from the other team’s attackers while they are waiting to pass the ball to their attacker?
  • How can the attackers help their defender find them with a pass?
  • In which half should the neutral player be?

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.

Attack v defence

attack v defence

This game improves defending and attacking skills.

Age group: U6s to U10s.

Number of players: Maximum of eight, minimum of four plus a goalkeeper.

Set-up: Use half a pitch with a goal at one end and two cone goals at the other (see picture below).

Divide your players into two teams – defender and attackers.

attack v defence

How to play: A defender (X), standing beside the goal, kicks the ball out to two attacking players (O), who are standing at the far end of the playing area.

The defender follows the pass and tries to win the ball back and score in either of the two cone goals on the halfway line. The attackers try to score in the normal-sized goal.

The attackers get five attempts to score before team roles are swapped.

The team that scores the most goals with its five attacks wins the game.

If the ball goes out of play, the defender scores or a shot is saved, the attack is over.

Coaching points

The attacker not in possession should be in an open position ready to receive a pass. Tell him not to get in the defender’s shadow.

The defender should close the ball carrier down quickly and try to channel the attacker with the ball towards the sideline, away from the other attacker.


  • Restrict attackers to a set number of passes (or a time limit of, say, 30 seconds) before they must shoot.
  • Allow another defender to enter play once the first pass is made.
  • Require a one-touch shot from an attacker who receives the ball in front of the goal.

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.


Objective: to improve concentration and speed of transition.

Experience: any.

Set-up: for U10s, 40 yards long by 30 yards wide is a suitable-sized playing area. Place a goal at each end.

Split your players into four teams of three or four.

How to play: two teams play against each other while the third and fourth teams link arms and stand in opposite goalmouths. Their job is to try to stop goals being scored but they cannot use their hands.

Award one point for a goal and award one point to teams which stop a goal being scored.

When you shout “change”, the teams standing in the goalmouths come out and play each other on the pitch. The teams who were playing on the pitch link arms and go into the goalmouths.

Coaching points:

  • Encourage fast transition by deducting a point from any team who plays on after you call “change”.
  • To encourage your players to shoot, make the goals big and the pitch shorter.

The yo-yo game

Objectives: To encourage rapid counter attacking, to encourage your attackers/midfield players to get back and defend when the other team has the ball and to encourage your defenders to move up rapidly and support attacking moves.

This game can also be used with older players to practice setting and beating an offside trap.

Age group: U9s and upwards.

Number of players: Ideally 10 (five-a-side), but can be used with more or less players. If you have more than 14 players, set up two games.

Set-up: Create a playing 30×20 yards area with goals at each end and a halfway line.

Divide your players into two teams, including goalkeepers.

How to play: Goals only count if all the attacking team (except the goalkeeper) is in the opponent’s half when the ball crosses the goal line.

Also, goals count double if any of the defending team fail to get back into their half before a goal is scored.

Progression: Add neutral players who stay on the sidelines and receive passes and pass back to the team that passes to them. Attacking moves now have to include at least one pass to a neutral player.

If you have older players, play the offside rule.

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.

Secret weapon

Objective: To create goalscoring opportunities for a specific player.

Age range: U8s to U12s.

Number of players: Twelve

Equipment required: Some flat cones, training vests, two goals, a few balls

Set-up: Divide your players into two teams of six (five outfield players plus a goalkeeper). Use training vests to differentiate the teams.

Set up a suitable size playing area with a goal at each end. For U8s, 30×20 yards is a good size. For U11s, try 40×30 yards.

How to play: Both teams get together and choose their “secret weapon” – the only player that can score for their team.

The teams whisper the name of their secret weapon to you.

Players who are not the secret weapon can shoot – and perhaps deliberately miss – in order to trick their opponent into identifying the wrong player as the secret weapon. This is a fun introduction to tactics and strategy.

Tips: Every player should be chosen as the secret weapon at some point – a great way to integrate new or shy players.

Make sure you remember who each team has nominated as their secret weapon. It’s your job to ensure only goals scored by the nominated player count.

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.

Fox in the box

This game encourages players to shoot from a distance and to follow up on their shots. It is suitable for players aged from about eight or nine upwards.

Set up: This game is played on a short, wide pitch. For U10s, I would use a playing area 30 yards wide and 20 yards long.

Place a goal on both ends of the playing area and mark out a halfway line with flat cones.

How to play:

Set up a small-sided game of 5v5.

Each team has three defenders, one attacker and a goalkeeper.

The three defenders start the game in their own half and cannot go over the halfway line. The attacking players start in their opponent’s half of the pitch and they can’t cross the halfway line either. So each team has three defenders and one attacker who play in opposite halves of the pitch.

Key soccer coaching notes: The can’t cross the halfway line clause encourages the defensive players to take shots on goal from their own half of the pitch (remember, they are only 10 yards away from their opponent’s unguarded goal) and attacking players should follow up on the defenders’ shots in the hope of getting a touch or taking advantage of a fumble by the goalie.

Switch and score

Objective: Your players will improve their ability to switch play, to play with their heads up and their decision making.

Switch and Score is also a good physical work out for you!

Age group: U9s and upwards.

Number of players: Whole team.

Equipment: Six poles or traffic cones to make the goals, one ball, some flat cones, training vests.

Set-up: Divide your players into two teams of four or five. Differentiate the teams with training vests.

Set up a 40 yards long by 30 yards wide playing area with three goals at each end.

You stand at one end of the pitch behind the goals and an assistant stands at the other end.

How to play:

  • Each team attacks and defends three of the goals.
  • There is one rule: You can’t score in a goal if there is someone standing behind it.
  • So you and your assistant work along the end line, blocking off whichever goal you think will be targeted next.
  • Players will love making the coaches scamper along the line, trying to stop them shooting!
  • First to score five goals wins the game.

What to say to your players:

“Play with your head up”

“Find the empty goal”

“Pass the ball quickly”

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.

Play it through

I found this game really does help young players spot opportunities for a through pass and play the ball quickly before the chance disappears.

Age range: U9s and upwards.

Number of players: Eight.

Set-up: Split a 40-yard square area horizontally into thirds.

The middle third is 20 yards wide and the end zones are each 10 yards wide.

The end zones are further divided into four 10-yard squares.

How to play

  • Place one player in each of the four squares in the end zones.
  • The player in square 1 attempts to pass to the player in square 3.
  • If the pass is intercepted by the player in square 2, he tries to pass to the player in square 4 and now the player in square 3 tries to intercept.
  • If the pass is successful, the player in square 3 tries to pass back to the player in square 1.

Coaching notes: To begin with, players are not allowed to leave their zones.

If your players are finding this exercise easy, allow the intercepting player to move out of his square and put more pressure on the pass.

Tell your players not to let the ball stop moving.

Move players around between squares every minute or two.

Progression: Take away the four squares in the end zones and play a 4v4 game in the middle zone.

Teams score a point by making a pass into an end zone for a team-mate to run onto.

Coaching note: the only player allowed in the end zone is the player running onto the pass.

Finally, remove the end zones, put a goal at each end and play a “normal” SSG. Award extra points for through passes.

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.