Three musketeers

Objective: To improve passing, support off the ball, teamwork and communication.

Age group: U8s to U12s.

Set up: Divide your players into teams of four – a goalkeeper and three outfield players.

Two teams play football in a 30×20 yards area with one condition: All three outfield players have to touch the ball before a goal is scored.

All for one and one for all!

Play for a set time or until one team scores X goals.

Coaching notes: The three outfield players have to touch the ball without a player from the other team touching it. If the ball is intercepted, the sequence has to start again.

Variation: Award a bonus ‘goal’ for five or more consecutive passes.

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

Team dribble

Objective: To improve aerobic fitness, dribbling and team-working skills.

Set up: Split your players into teams of four.

Each team stands behind a cone with a turning cone about 20 yards away.

The team decides in what order they are going to run (1 to 4).

How to play: Runner 1 dribbles a ball to the turning cone and back.

  • On her return she is joined by runner 2 who holds hands with runner 1 and runs with her to the cone and back.
  • When they get back, runner 3 holds hands with runner 2 and all three run to the turning cone and back.
  • Then runner 4 joins the group for the final run.

Make it a competition between the groups to see who can complete the exercise the quickest.

Play four rounds with a different player dribbling the ball each time.

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

Neutral players game

Age range: U8 upwards.

Set-up: The game is played by teams of four or five players on a 30 yards long by 20 yards wide pitch with four goals – two on each end line. Each team attacks and defends two goals.

How to play:

The two neutral players take up various positions depending on the coach’s objective.

  • To encourage switch play from right to left: place one neutral player just outside the left hand edge of the playing area and the other neutral player on the opposite side.
  • To encourage forward and backward passes: place the neutral players on the sidelines between the goals.
  • To encourage fast, short passing: place the neutral players inside the playing area.


Play each game for 10 minutes or until a specified number of goals have been scored.

The neutral players cannot be tackled and can’t score goals.

Encourage neutral players to actively support the team in possession by calling for the ball. Don’t let them stand around hoping that someone will pass to them.

Change the neutral players in every new game.

Progression: restrict neutral players to two touches or give them a maximum of four seconds to release the ball. This encourages the team that passed to the neutral player to move quickly into a place where they can receive a return pass.

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


Objectives: To practice support play, passing and receiving.

Age group: U9s to U15s.

Set-up: Create a 20-yard square for every five players in your squad. Mark out a triangle with cones, poles or flags in the centre of each area.

Split your players into groups of five (four attackers and one defender).

Note: You can play this game with two or three attackers plus one defender if necessary.

How to play: Attackers pass the ball around the area, keeping the ball away from the defender. They score a point every time they can pass through the triangle to another attacker.

Make it competitive by challenging each group to get to a certain number of points first or see how many points they can score in a set time.

Coaching points: Good communication (both verbal and visual) is important. Attackers must “stay out of the defender’s shadow”, pass the ball around rapidly and make decisions quickly if they are to succeed.

If your attackers find the game difficult, make the triangle bigger or add more attackers.

If they find it too easy, make the triangle smaller or add a defender.

Progression: Restrict the attackers to two touches (one to control the ball, one to pass).

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

Four way football

This game will encourage young players to play with their heads up and spot opportunities as they try to score in three goals while defending their own.

Objective: To practice shooting, football “vision”, communication and support play.

Age range: U6s to U14s.

Set-up: Create a 30-yard square with a goal on each side line.

Divide your squad into four teams. Goalkeepers are optional.

How to play: Each team defends one goal and attacks the other three.

Play first to five goals wins the game or play for a set amount of time.

Coaching points:

Encourage quick, positive play. Emphasise the need for the players to keep their heads up and switch play to unguarded goals.


  • Play with two balls.
  • Use five teams. Play the game as described above but, when one team concedes two goals, they are replaced by the fifth team. Play does not stop, so the fifth team has to be observant and prepared to enter the game quickly. This improves transition.

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

It’s a knockout!

Objective: to improve decision making, communication, passing and shooting skills.

Experience: any.

Set up: three goals are evenly spaced around the edge of a circular playing area.

The size of the playing area depends on the age and experience of your players. For players up to the age of about eight, I suggest the circle is about 25 yards across.

Divide your squad into three teams.

How to play: each team defends one of the goals and attacks the other two.

Each team starts with five lives. Every time they concede a goal they lose a life. When they get to zero, they are out.

Alternatively, the team that loses all its lives first can join forces with one of the other teams.

Key soccer coaching points: making the goals big and playing with no goalkeepers encourages quick shooting.

If you allow the first team that is knocked out to combine with one of the remaining teams, you will see how your players cope in outnumbered situations.

The transfer game

Objective: This soccer coaching game is a useful one to help youngsters practice overload situations (4v3, 5v2 and so on).

It also helps solve that old soccer coaching problem – how to pick teams for the end of session scrimmage!

Set up: create a playing area 30 yards wide by 40 yards long and divide your players into teams of four.

Use two teams per playing area.

Coaching note: if you have an odd number of players, you can make teams of either three or four but try not to have more than four players in a team. If you have a spare team, they can work as side supports.

How to play:

Play a normal match in each playing area with the condition that a player who scores a goal immediately transfers to the other team.

If you are playing 4v4, for example, as soon as the first goal is scored, one team will have five players and the other will have three.

Play for a set time or first to a certain number of goals wins.

Don’t talk!

A soccer coach contacted me concerned that his 11-year-old players were not communicating on the pitch, although they had been playing together for four years.

Very young children are too busy chasing the ball to talk but 11-year-olds should be able to warn their team mates when there’s a “man on” or call for a pass.

You can encourage your players to talk to each other while they’re playing by warming up with games that require them to call for the ball.

The best game I’ve come across for improving communication skills is a small-sided game where talking is banned!

Talk about the importance of good communication with your players then play a “match” where your players are not allowed to speak at all. If anyone does say anything, award a free kick to the other team. After a few minutes, remove the condition and see what happens. They will start talking!

Play this game regularly and pretty soon you’ll see a big improvement in the way they talk to each other during matches.