Vision and support play

By Vince Ganzberg

This session is geared for the advanced level player about the ages of 14 and up. The technical ability to play 1-2 touch, possessing a good first touch, and the ability to receive under pressure is something for you to consider if you are to do this type of training session with your players. The purpose is to work on player’s vision and getting support in order to have more productive possessions. This training session also works on speed of play.

Warm-up – 3 colour passing

In an area, have 3 different groups of colours. Have one ball to start. Instruct each colour that they must pass to another colour yet receive from a third colour. For example: Reds pass to Greens, Greens pass to yellows, and Yellows pass to reds. After a little bit add a second and third ball.

1st Activity – 3v3v3

3 Teams of 3. One of the coloured teams is the defending team. The other two teams are trying to see how many passes they can get against the defending team. The 2 attacking teams are counting the total number of passes in a time period. When the defence wins the ball or the attacking team plays out the ball, they keep the ball from the two attacking teams. It is then up to the attacking teams to win the ball back and keep possession. To work on vision and support, tell the attacking teams that they cannot pass the ball to their own colour. They must pass the ball to another colour, like the warm-up. Another variation is to put a touch restriction on like 1-2 touch.

2nd Activity – Multiple Goals

Two even teams of 5-8 players. Make small goals around a half field area with cones. Make one more goal than each team has players. So if there are teams of 6, have 7 small goals scattered around half a field. This is a familiar possession game in which a point is scored when a team plays the ball thru a coned goal to another teammate. A bonus point is scored If the ball gets thru a coned goal to a teammate who then plays one touch to a third player. Could also make this way the only way to get a point If your emphasis is getting support.

3rd Activity – 5v5 plus 2

Play 5 aside to two goals. Two teams of 7 players. Play to two goals. Each team has 2 target players on their attacking end line. Before a goal can be scored, the attacking team must play the ball to one of their two target players who then only have one touch to play the ball back in the field to their own team. Could play that whomever plays the ball to the end target must replace them. The target player then plays the ball in and can join their teammates on the field.

4th Activity – Play 7v7 plus 2 to goals

Play 7v7 and have 2 plus players who are always with the attack. The plus players are now on the field. To work on possession, vision, and support limit the plus player to 1 touch while everyone else has 2 touches. First team to 3 wins.

Concluding Activity – Play 8v8

Could put a touch restriction on them like 1-2 touch, but one of my favourite twists is to make them play silently, no clapping, hooting, hollering, etc.  After a bit, then play normally.

U6-U9 moving with the ball

Warm up: Body Part Dribbling

In a 15 x 20 yd area, each player has a ball. The players dribble freely in the area. When the coach says “NOW”, the players must stop the ball with any body part. Keep it going

Variation: After the players try it a few times, the coach will yell out a specific body part. Each player must try to stop the ball with that body part. Keep it going.

The coach gives praise for creativity and asks each player what body part they used.

Red Light – Green Light

When the coach says “green light”, players dribble their ball with their feet. When the coach says “red light”, players must stop their ball and stand still. When the coach says “green light” again, the players begin to dribble their ball again. Have fun with their imaginations…have the players make “brake’ sounds when coach says “red light” and have them make loud “motor sounds” when coach says “green light”.

The coach gives praise for creative movement, whether the ball is being carried with the hands or dribbled with the feet. The coach applauds dribbling with the feet, change of direction, etc. The coach highlights players that are dribbling the ball with their feet and asks if everyone can try to dribble the ball with their feet.

Sharks and Minnows

10 x 15 yd rectangular grid. Two players, the sharks, do not have a ball. The rest of the players, the minnows, each have a ball.

The minnows line up side by side along one of the 10 yd lines facing the other 10 yd line. The sharks position themselves inside the grid facing the minnows. When the coach says, “swim”, the minnows try to dribble their soccer balls past the sharks, safely to the other side of the grid. If a shark steals a soccer ball from a minnow or kicks a ball out of the grid, the minnow becomes a shark and the family of sharks grows. The minnows that make it safely to the opposite side get to swim again on the coach’s command. Continue until all the players become sharks.

If a shark steals a ball and can dribble it over any line of the grid, then the shark becomes a minnow and the minnow becomes a shark.

(These are games of inclusion…no one sits out.)

Minnows must keep ball close when being pressured by the sharks. Minnows must recognize open space so that they can speed past the sharks if the sharks are busy elsewhere.

Sharks must concentrate on stealing (tackling) the ball.

Get Outta’ There

Set up a 15 x 20 yd grid with a goal at each end. The goal is 3-4 steps wide using flags or cones. The players are divided into to teams colour coded with pennies. NO GOALKEEPERS.

The coach is located centrally on one side of the field, outside of the playing area. Each team lines up single file on both sides of the coach facing the field.

The coach kicks a ball onto the field. The first player from each team chases the ball and plays 1v1. The players shoot at the goal that is farthest from their starting position. If the ball goes out of bounds or is scored, the players must get off of the field immediately and return to the end of their line. If they don’t get off the field quickly, the coach yells,” Get Outta’ There!” Once the players are off the field, the coach kicks the next ball onto the field and the next 1v1 begins. The ball is the cue.

If the coach says, “ONE” before he serves the ball onto the field, then the game is a 1v1, like above. If the coach says, “TWO” before he serves the ball onto the field, then the game is a 2v2…2 players from each line play against each other.

The players get repetition on dribbling to beat an opponent. The players get repetition on shooting. They get the opportunity to defend 1v1. They get repetition trying to steal a ball from an opponent (tackling).

The coach must praise their effort and make the game exciting with his/her enthusiasm.

Cool Down Activity…Hit the Cone.

Cones are scattered around an large grid. Each player has his or her own soccer ball.

Players try to kick their ball so that it hits one of the cones that have been scattered around the area. They can start from various distances. After they hit one cone, they can try to hit another cone.

Coordinate this activity so that everyone isn’t kicking their ball at the same cone. Let them play and have fun.

Give generous praise for their effort and hard work

U6 balance and co-ordination

Activity Description Objective


I can do something can you?


The coach begins the activity by saying “I can do something can you?” and demonstrating a physical activity such as jumping jacks. The children then do the same. The coach demonstrations several other physical activities such as: skips, one-legged bounces; star jumps, rolls, etc. After demonstrating several times the coach asked the children, “what can you do?” and takes their suggestions.

Body movement from skipping to balancing on one leg. The important thing is to allow the children to explore how their body moves.


Snake in the Grass

In an area 15 yds x 15 yds, two children begin by being “snakes” by lying on their stomachs. The other children’s starting position is with their hands touching the “snakes.” On the command “snake in the grass” the children try to stay away from the snake while the snake slithers around trying to catch a child. When any child is caught he/she becomes an additional snake. The activity continues until every one is a snake.

The children move in all directions trying to avoid the snakes. Once snakes, the children try to work together to create more snakes.




Find the Coach


The coach has all the children close their eyes and while their eyes are closed the coach moves. On the command, “find the coach” the children open their eyes and run to tag the coach. This progress from the coach staying still to the coach moving even after the children has opened their eyes.

This activity becomes “chase and flee” quickly. The children begin to run in a direction, and for a purpose. Later they will do the same with a soccer ball, but first they learn to run to a target.


Everyone is it


In an area 20 yds x 20 yds, each child runs around trying to tag as many other children as possible while not being tagged themselves. Each bout lasts for 30 to 45 seconds.

The children must be aware of their surroundings and make decisions about where to go and where to avoid.



The activity ends playing 3v3. Use a size 3 football.



Training the second defender

Ages: 8+; Equipment: Cones, balls; Players: 4+


Start with some basic ball-control movements, such as toe-taps, interspersed with assorted ball control moves.


Defensively, the main players involved are the First Defender (“Pressure player”) and the backup supporting player (called the Second Defender or the “cover” player). The job of the Cover player is critical to the success of the team from a defensive standpoint. Only when Cover arrives and is in proper backup position is it possible for the Pressure player to move in to win the ball. Why? Because the backup player is available to instantly become the Pressure player if the first player is beaten. Of course, this means that the beaten player must loop around and become the new Cover player, so it is extremely important to work on this transition.

Small Group Work (drill)

To illustrate the concepts of proper cover, put all of the players in a large circle, except for 2 players (coach can be one player for illustration). Outside players try to pass ball around, while pressure player goes in and sets an angle to try to contain, and Cover player moves in to shut off more outlets.

Key coaching points

Cover player must sprint into position with a looping run to the outside of the direction in which the Pressure player is steering the attacker, and then shout “Cover” very loudly once in place, but not before.

Appropriate cover must be a distance of about 6-8 feet.

The outside of the Covering player’s shoulder should be aligned with the inside of the shoulder of the Pressure player so that the attacker sees a wall of two players in his way. Basically, the two defenders are trying to create a funnel that locks the attacker at the touch-line.

Cover player’s stance will be slightly more square, as he must be prepared to leap quickly to outside side if the attacker tries to spin around the outside of the Pressure player.

It is the Pressure player’s job to watch the ball and the Cover player’s job to watch the attacker and to give directions to the Pressure player. After showing the basic principles by using the circle, divide players into groups of 3. Make long/narrow grids (about 10′ by 25′). Put an attacker inside the grid and a defender at both ends, one with a ball. Have the on-ball defender play the ball into the attacker and immediately come in to close him down (he is the Pressure player). Then, have the Cover player (i.e. the defender at the other end) make a looping run to get into position to cover. Do 4 reps with the same player as the Cover player, then switch off.

As soon as he is in position, he must shout “Cover”, which is the Pressure player’s key to start closing down and/or jockeying the player to the nearest touch-line. The Cover player’s job is to give helpful instructions, including “Not yet” or “Don’t dive in” if the attacker hasn’t been pushed close enough to the touch-line to use the touch-line as an extra defender and “Now” or “Take him” when it is time to close in. It also can be useful for the Cover player to shout “Hold Him” or “Contain” as he is making the circle around, so that the Pressure player knows that help is on the way.

Note that the kids seldom talk if they are too busy concentrating on what to do, so you have made progress if you can get them to simply announce “Cover.” Additionally, younger children seldom can learn more than 1-2 things at once, so you will have to judge your group. You may want to just work on the positioning, while leave training on communications for another practice if you are giving them too much to think about. Older players, or ones with more experience, may be able to handle additional training on communications.

As soon as you are getting good positioning and some communication, start working on the recovery process. To work on recovery, tell the Pressure player to dive in just before the Cover player gets into position, which will force the Cover player to become the new Pressure player. The former Pressure player then must make a proper covering run.

Large Group

Play 5v2 keepaway in a narrow grid to encourage use of the touch-lines as an additional defender. Give the defenders a point for every successful steal, and give the attackers a point for 6 consecutive passes. Adjust the size of the grid to keep work-rates high. If the attackers can never be successful, the grid is too narrow while if they always seem to be successful, it is too big. Play to 3 points by either side, and then switch out defenders.


Play 2v2 in a narrow grid with small cone goals at each end, with 2 extra players waiting on the sides. Rotate one fresh player to each side in after 2 minutes; play another 2 minutes; and rotate the resting players in to replace the 2 remaining players. Let the players experiment with providing defensive support versus marking.

Coaching note: You will repeat some variation of this practice several times per year, both to refresh memories and to add additional concepts. You will find further information on fundamentals of 2v2 defensive support elsewhere in the manual .

Defensive Tips For More Advanced Players

  • Speed of movement

Sprint! Be moving a split second after the ball is lost!

  • Angle of run

Run on a curved line that will bring you within a few strides goal-side of your pressure man and then close down on a goal-side line to the ball.

  • How close to get

Close enough to help choke off dangerous passing lanes on your side of the ball. Close enough for the challenger to hear and feel your support. Close enough to apply pressure immediately if the challenger is beaten.

  • Why communication is so important

Your position gives you a wider picture, so you can make better decisions. When the Pressure player knows his support is in place, he can work without seeing you, as long as he hears you. Continue giving encouragement and quick, clear, confident instructions. As a general rule of thumb, say nothing unless you are in position to back it up! Your teammate doesn’t just need support; he needs to KNOW that he has it. If he tackles and is beaten and you’re not in position to cover, you’re both beaten and out of the game until you can recover from behind the ball. Let the Pressure player know when he is Covered. Announce your arrival loud and clear!

  • Giving directions

One of the most common directions that the Cover player will give is “Take him wide” or “Line, line”. This instruction means that the Pressure player is being instructed to steer the attacker towards the nearest touch-line. He does this by showing him more space to the outside. The Cover player will be goal-side of the ball, and also goal-side of the Pressure player, so that he can quickly move to provide Pressure if the attacker manages to cut inside of the Pressure player. He is dropped down about 2 yards, so that he also is available to close down the touch-line run if the attacker accelerates past the Pressure player.

Another popular instruction, used mostly by older players, is “Turn him in”, meaning turn him towards the centre area of the field. If you see you cannot cover effectively if play goes wide, or you realize the defence is being stretched across the field, tell the challenger to show the inside path where cover can more easily be provided and the defence can retain depth and compactness. Take position a few strides closer to goal than the challenger, inside him in the direction you want play to go.

When to encourage the steal

As soon as you have steered the attacker within about 1-2 feet of the touch-line, it is time to consider a counter-attack. In addition, if the attacker appears to be losing courage and is considering turning his back on your group, it is time to shout “Go in!” or “Close” or “Take him”. When your Pressure player is on the counterattack, the Cover player must stay balanced, alert, and ready to close down and pressurize if the tackle fails.

What if the opponent succeeds in making a pass

If the ball carrier manages to make a pass, your response will depend on whether the pass is forward, square or back. With the changed situation, you must decide whether your job is now to pressure, support, track down, mark, or destroy opponent’s support.

Common Mistakes

  • The decision to provide support is made too late.
  • Player doesn’t work hard enough to achieve effective covering position and supports from too far away – which is no support at all.
  • Supporting player doesn’t tell the challenger he is in position, or tells him that he is covered while still too far away.
  • Supporting player doesn’t encourage the challenge.
  • Supporting player doesn’t maintain concentration and fails to react quickly to the play

The reset game V2

The original Reset Game was submitted by Coach Carey in New Zealand)

This modified version of the Reset Game is for two teams of four players.

I’ve used it with my U13s girls to good effect. It really did show them the benefits of constant movement and making angles so they can receive passes. It also sharpened up their first touch.

Age range: U9s to U14s.

Number of players: Eight.

Set-up: Place three small cone goals randomly in a 30-yard square.

Divide your squad into teams of four. Two teams per playing area.

The two teams spread out and you give one team a ball.

How to play: The team with the ball has to complete three passes before it can score in one of the cone goals.

The passes must involve all four players, i.e., player 1 passes to player 2, who passes to player 3 who passes to player 4.

If, for example, player 2 passes back to player 1 it doesn’t count towards the team’s three passes.

However, pass backs may be used (and should be encouraged) if the third or fourth player isn’t in a good position to receive the ball.

Players must not allow the other team to touch the ball and they can take as long as they like to make their three passes.

If an opposing player does touch the ball, however slightly, yell “Reset!”

Possession is then given to the other team who must now make three passes in order to score.

As soon as one team scores, it gets to keep the ball and try to make another three passes. The game does not stop.

Coaching notes

1. Players should see they need to create angles in order to receive passes. If they don’t, ask them if it’s a good idea to form straight lines if there is an opponent standing between two of their own players.

2. After a while the better players will start to see that the last player to receive the pass is the most important and they will need to mark him well in order to disrupt the passing sequence.

3. They should also begin to understand the need to control and shield the ball effectively. Ball retention is absolutely encouraged. “Hoof it and hope” definitely does not work in this game.

4. You need to keep your players moving – the team in which one player stops moving usually loses.

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

Team building

Ball tag—In a space about 40yd x 30yd, give every player a football and a partner. When the chaser hits the ball of the chase with their ball, the roles reverse. Players do not want to be chaser when coach yells freeze.  Version 2: Make two teams to make more dynamic, give each team a 2 minute time limit in which they are on attack and get a point for every time they hit one of the other team’s balls. See which team has the most points at the end (winners).

Colors Passing—Half of the players in red bibs, half in blue. Teams playing together in the same space combine in the passing sequence blue-blue-red-red-blue-blue-red-red etc. etc. Ball can never stop, players can never stop moving, and ball cannot leave area of play. Coach can limit touch-count, mandate which foot to pass with or which side of foot to pass with as sees fit. When players can do first sequence adequately and without frequent errors change the sequence to blue-blue-blue-red-red-red-blue-blue-blue etc. etc. Stress communication and technical passing points throughout. Make this activity competitive by counting errors and setting goals by lowering allowed errors.

Keepaway with handball-–Teams play keepaway with one ball on the ground. However, the defensive team does not defend as they normally would in soccer. The defensive team has two balls in their hands that they must throw at the keepaway ball in order to gain possession. If one of the handballs hits the keepaway ball, then possession switches. Version 2: To make this competitive add a rule in which 5 passes equals a goal.

Multi-goal game-–8 v 8 in 65×50 yard grid. 6 two-yard goals are spread out throughout the grid. The teams score by passing through any of the goals to a teammate. First team to 10 points wins. Add balls if need to space out players. Players need to be able to see where the open goals are, and receive with a “picture” of what is around them. With this in mind, if the players are advanced enough, the player receiving through the goal must play 1 touch or coach could require receiving player to perform a feint before touching ball. Version 2: Use different color cones for goals and assign different point totals to different goals.

 8v8 game—On a 70×50 yard field with goalies and large goals, play a regular match. To make the game more fun let team know they can only score off of a one touch and get multiple points for headers and volleys. The coach should call fouls throughout the game to give teams opportunity to be creative on set plays.

Cool Down—Juggling in team so everyone must touch with certain body parts called out by coach. Players have to guess the total number of touches it will take for their team to accomplish goal. First team to guess exact number wins.

Teach your players the push pass

Ages: 8+; Equipment: Cones/balls/bibs;

Players: 12+


Basic keepaway, with 1-2 defenders and remaining players in large grid, with rule that outside players must keep moving at slow jog. Defenders get 1 pt. if they steal ball, and outside players get 1 pt. if they can get 5 passes in a row. Outside players limited to 3 touches, then must pass or defenders win a point. Play to 5 points, then switch defenders out. Do stretches at each switch. Play for about 5-10 mins.

Individual Work

Illustrate the basic push pass.

Coaching Points:

  • Lock ankle of pass foot and turn foot outward;
  • Step beside ball, keeping knee of plant leg slightly bent, with toe of plant foot pointed where you want the ball to go;
  • Strike middle of ball with pass foot and follow through.
  • Stay loose and on your toes as the ball is approaching, so that you can adjust body position easily.

If possible, find a wall where each player can pass against the wall, or find flat bench (like for picnic table) to use as wall. Have players work on passing to specific spots (such as chalk marks) on the wall. Suggest to players that they can use wall or steps or garage door at home to work on passing.

If no walls available, then divide players into pairs, and put in small grids (about 20’x 10′). Put extra cones at the corners of the grids (will be used later). Have them pass to one another. Circulate to make corrections. When most have success, then add a contest where team which makes 20 good passes in a row wins the game. Hint: If you have an odd number of players, put 3 in a triangle in one grid.

Then, put cone in centre of grid, and require players to stand at the ends. Have a timed contest to see which player can hit the cone the most times in 2 mins. from his endline. Can use 1 ball or give ball to each player, allowing them to take closest ball back to endline for another pass at the cone.

Small group (match-related)

Set up series of small cone goals/gates in a large grid. Start 2-3 teams of players at any cone goal in the grid. Object is to pass thru all gates (either direction) to partner and then be first to exit by passing ball thru gate by coach. Must redo gate if ball not received by partner. Use extra players on sides to monitor that each team makes all gates. Swap out teams and run exercise with next group. Let each group run course 3 times, then do run-off of winners from each group. Hint: If you have an odd number of players, have 1 player play on two teams.

Set up new teams of 3 players each. Repeat exercise, and allow players to discover for themselves how much better they do with communication and an advanced runner. Say nothing for first 5 mins, except to correct passing techniques. Then, mention that the teams which are doing better are the ones which are talking and planning ahead on which goal to use next. If there is time, do another run-off of the winners.

Large Group (Match conditions)

Pick up cone goals inside large grid. Put most players in large circle inside grid, with 2-3 target players inside circle. Each of the outside players starts with a ball. Inside players must call for the ball, then pass to the feet of an outside player who does not have a ball, and go to another outside player to ask for another ball. Run for about 10 good passes/inside player, then swap them out. Now, add “shadow” for each of the inside players, who does not try to steal ball, but just shadows the receiver to add some pressure. Run exercise again, swapping shadows with passers after 10 good passes, then swapping in outside players for them. Finally, allow shadows to become active and try to win ball. Hint: If you have only 8 or fewer players, reduce the number of inside players to allow at least 5 outside players.

Ending game:

Play keepaway again inside large grid. See how many passes the group can now make in a row without interception by defender. Should have much better accuracy, as well as vision and communications.

Coaching Tip: This practice can be repeated for the next practice, to work on using the non-dominant foot. It also can be used to work on the quality of receiving the ball. Other passing games can be substituted for the sake of variety.

Chipping the ball

Why is it useful to get players chipping the ball?

The chip is used to quickly lift the ball over short distances, for example, to pass the ball over an opponent to one of your team mates or to lift the ball into the penalty area from a few meters away.

If executed correctly, the ball will arc beautifully and in the last moment, drop quite rapidly to its target.

The chip is a useful technique – strikers will score more goals if they can chip the ball over an advancing goalkeeper and all players will need to find a way to pass to a team-mate standing behind an opponent sometimes – so all young soccer players should be able to execute it.

Step-by-step instructions to give your players:

  • Approach the football at a slight angle
  • Place your non-kicking foot approximately 6 inches to the side of the ball and slightly behind it
  • Take a back swing with your kicking leg, keeping in mind that a shorter back swing will allow you more control and better placement
  • Angle your toe down as you make contact with the bottom part of the ball, the part closest to the ground
  • Lean your body back as you kick to increase the lift of the ball. The farther you lean back, the greater the ball’s arc.

Coaching tip: remember that the backspin generated causes the ball to slow down upon hitting the ground.

Encourage your players to practise chipping the ball at home by setting up a hoop or bin a few meters away and trying to chip the ball in.