On your bike!

This drill was  adapted from a game in The Ultimate Football Warm-Ups Manual.

Objective: To practice passing and receiving skills.

Set-up: Put your players into pairs. One ball per pair.

Place three flat cones in a short line.

How to play:

One player is a server and his partner works round the cones.

The player working must go forward to receive a pass then back-pedal up and around the cones in order to receive another pass on the opposite side.

The players work for 30 seconds on the following:

1. First-time pass back with left foot.

2. First-time pass back with right foot.

3. Bouncing serve and a half-volley return with left foot.

4. Bouncing serve and a half-volley return with right foot.

5. Aerial serve and a volley return with left foot.

6. Aerial serve and a volley return with right foot.

7. Aerial serve and head the ball back.

When the sequence is complete, swap the players round.

Coaching notes: Players should work at speed but accuracy is also important.

  • Make the game competitive by seeing which pair can get through the entire sequence without making a mistake.

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

Receiving – fault finding and rectification

It is so important that all your players can receive a pass properly you really need to spend a few minutes in every practice session watching how they do it and giving feedback to individual players or the group as whole.

  1. Receive on one foot pass with the other.

Is the player alert and playing on their toes, do they look ready to react to the movement of the ball?

Does the player move into the line of the ball early? Any delay in reacting will make control more difficult.

They should get themselves right across the line of the ball and not end up chasing after it.

Concentration is vital, do they keep their head steady and watch the movement of the ball carefully?

If the pass is under-hit do they move quickly down the line of the ball to meet it?

To cushion the ball the foot needs to be off ground and withdrawn at the moment of contact soft ankle.

Check that they use the inside area, or top of outside of the foot to make a controlling touch on ground pass.

Contact should be with the horizontal mid-line of the ball or above to prevent it skipping up on 1st touch.

To wedge the ball sweep across the top of it with the inside or outside of the foot.

With a high ball the player should make an early decision on what surface they will use to control it.

Make sure they keep their eyes open and observe the flight of the ball.

Chest, thigh, instep & outside of foot – relax and withdraw surface on contact to cushion the ball.

The ball should not be allowed to bounce, move along line of ball to meet it as early as possible.

If under pressure does the player redirect ball into space on first touch and pass it on early?

The three zone game

three zone game

Objective: To improve passing accuracy, decision making, spotting opportunities.

Age group: U8s to U14s.

Set up: Create a 40×20 yards playing area, dividing into thirds as shown below.

three zone game

Note: The goals at each end are only required for the progression.

Divide your players into three teams of three.

How to play:

The teams on the end try to pass the ball through the centre area to the opposite end without the team in the middle winning the ball.

If the team in the middle wins the ball, it changes places with the end team that played the last pass.

Teams score a point each time they pass a ball through the central area.


  • Play 5v4 using the whole playing area.
  • The central zone is now a “no tackling” area. Encourage the defending team to drop back behind the ball and regroup as soon as its opponents enter the central zone.

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

The gridlock game


Objective: To encourage one-touch passing and quick movement off the ball.

Age range: U9s to U12s.

Set up: Set out 30 cones as shown below.

The cones are about 1m apart.


How to play

Two players start in where the black dot is (bottom right). Their objective is to take the ball to where the green dot is (top right).


There can only be one player in each square of four cones.

For each square in the grid there can only be one player and they must pass the ball to other squares and the other player must receive it i.e. a player cannot pass to him/herself.

They cannot pass diagonally nor can they cross the red markers.

They cannot pass in the same direction twice. So if they pass across, the next pass must be up or down as shown by the purple arrows.

Coaching notes

At first glance, the restriction of not being able to pass diagonally means that there is only one pattern of getting the ball around the red markers up/across/down/across/etc, but the coach can give them different patterns to get there. E.g. down/up/across/down/up/across/down/up/across so that the player is forced to remain in the square after they’ve passed it and they only move on the second pass.

To make it competitive, pair up players and time each pair as to how long it takes them to get the ball to the target square.

Alternatively, record the times and in the next training session encourage the same pair to beat their own time.

With the clock running, the intention is to see if the players can instinctively move from trap and pass to one-touch passing without being told.

  • Decrease the distance between each marker to improve passing accuracy or increase it to make the game easier.

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

4v4 to lines

Objective: to improve passing and receiving, playing “heads up” and communication skills.

4v4 to lines also encourages wall passes (give and go) as well as spotting team mates who are making a move into a space where they can receive a “killer” pass.

Experience: intermediate upwards. This game is probably not suitable for most players less than 10 years old.

Set-up: set up rectangular playing areas marked with lines or flat cones suitable for the age and ability of your players.

The younger and less experienced the players, the bigger the space needs to be. That may sound a bit illogical but the smaller the space, the more pressure you’ll be putting on your players and the harder it will be for them to experience success.

How to play:

Teams of four try to score by getting the ball across a nominated line.

The ball must be stopped on the line or just past it to count.

After a score, the ball is left on the line for the other team.


      • The ball must be passed through a target player before scoring.
      • Award extra points for defence splitting passes, i.e., through a gap between two defenders.
      • After scoring on one end line, the scoring team must attack the opposite line.
      • Split the pitch into horizontal thirds and place two players from each team in the centre third and one from each team in the end thirds. Players cannot move out of their zones.
      • Try splitting the pitch into vertical thirds – left, centre, right

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

Killer ball

Objective: To improve passing accuracy, spatial awareness and fitness.

Age group: U6 upwards.

Number of players: Whole team.

Equipment: One ball per player

Set up: Use the penalty area of a normal sized pitch or mark out a 30×20 yard area with cones. All players are in the playing area. One has a ball. The rest of the balls are lined up just outside the playing area.

How to play: All players jog around inside the area.

The player with the ball is a ‘hunter’ and he attempts to hit one of the other players below the waist with a killer ball.

(Note: do not allow the hunter to aim above the other players’ waists. A firm side-foot pass is what you are looking for.)

If a player is hit, he collects a ball from the side of the playing area and becomes a hunter. The winner is the last player to get hit by a ball.

Key football coaching points:

  • “Hunted” players are not allowed out of the penalty area.
  • A player who is a hunter must retrieve his own ball if it goes out of the playing area.
  • Hunters can pass to each other.
  • Encourage accuracy not power.
  • Encourage hunters to work as a team, to hunt in packs.
  • Encourage thought processes and tactics.



This game is a great way to improve passing and receiving skills as well as the ability to spot and execute a through-pass.

Age group: U8s and upwards.

Number of players: Whole squad.

Set-up: Create 20-yard square playing area.

Divide your players into two equal teams of between five and seven players.

Note: If you have more than 14 players, create four teams and play two games of Pass! It doesn’t matter if teams are not equal in size.

How to play: A player from team A stands on one end line and a player from team X on the opposite end line.


The rest of the players compete for the ball and try to pass to their team mate on the end line. If they succeed, they join their end player on the line.

The team that gets all its players on their end line first is the winner.

Note: To be counted as successful, a pass must be controlled by the end player.


The end lines are now called jails.

The game begins in the same way as before – with one player from each team in jail (i.e., on their end line) – but now if you make a successful pass, you don’t join your team mate on the line.

Instead, you get to send a player on the other team to their end line – in other words, send them to jail.

The winning team is now the team that can send all the players on the other team to jail first.

Coaching notes

Generally, the more players you have, the bigger the playing area needs to be.

If I had ten U10s playing this game, I would begin with a 20-yard square playing area. If I had 16 players, I would use a 30-yard square.

But regardless of the number of players you have (or their ages), it is good practice to progressively shrink the playing area.

Making the space smaller requires players to play faster, more accurately and is a good way to build the tempo of your coaching sessions.

With my ten U10s, for example, I would start with a 20-yard square but as they got used to the game I would gradually move the cones inwards until they were playing in a 15-yard square.

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

Clear the decks

Age group: U10s upwards

Objective: To improve short and long passing skills

Equipment: Cones to mark out a grid, several footballs.

Set up

Play on a 7-a-side pitch or use cones to mark out a 60×40 yard grid with a halfway line. Divide your players into two teams with each team occupying one half of the playing area. Place half the soccer balls behind each end of the grid.

How to play

On your signal, both teams attempt to get all the balls into their opponent’s half without crossing the half way line.

Encourage accuracy by telling your players that if they kick the ball out of their opponent’s half – either out the back or across the side – it counts against them when the game is over.

At the end of agreed time (30 secs-1 minute) award 1 point to the team that has the most balls in their opponent’s half.

If a player touches a ball after the stop signal, you may automatically award that round to the opposition to discourage cheating.

Develop the drill

Insist that the ball is in the air when it crosses the halfway line so players can practise chipping the ball.