Possession for U9s

keeping possession
  • Age group – U9 and up
  • Number of players – whole team
  • Pre-requisites – ball control, shielding the ball

Warm up

Pass and Chase – Groups of 6 in circles, each circle with one ball. Player with ball passes the circle to another player, chases pass to pressure passer into one or two touch pass. Play continuously.

Two Balls – Two teams in medium size space (like 30 x 40 yards for U14 boys playing teams of 6) each start with a ball. Each team works to maintain possession of one ball, win possession of other team’s ball. Point for every success, play to 3 or 4 points, move on. For 18 players, use up to 4 balls. Encourages small group play, decision making in support of possession.

Basic Possession – 1 v 1 Game

The following game allows players to practice shielding, cushioning and change of direction.

keeping possession

Start by making a field about 20 yards long and 15v wide. Goals are placed at each end. Players are placed in each goal. These players cannot leave the goal. Two players and one ball are on the field.

The object of the drill is for the field players to complete 2 successive passes to either goalkeeper. They need to shield the ball from the defender and then cushion the defender away from the area where the pass is coming from. If the defender beats the cushion and enters the area they need to change direction quickly and head for the other side of the field.

Two complete passes = 1 point and every additional pass beyond 2 in a row is another point.

Basic Possession – Keep Away

The next game also incorporates shielding, cushioning and spin away moves. The field in this case is short but very wide. This helps to teach the concept of width.


The game can either be played with four goals that the players have to dribble through or can be played strictly as keepaway where points are given for proper shielding and spin away moves.

Divide the field in half and play 3 on 3. Allow only 2 players from any team within any half of the field. This discourages bunching up. Take the ball away when they forget.

Coaching Points:

1. Defenders get low and stay low

2. Defenders do not dive in

3. Shield the ball, attacker is low and arms are away from the body.

4. Support player close but not right on top of the player.

5. Switch the field often

6. Discourage just kicking the ball away. If players do this continually, penalize the team by having them perform an exercise like 5 pull back Vees before they can rejoin the play.

Shielding – 4 Corners – Match Related

The following exercise was suggested by a coach, who remains nameless, from the soccer-coach-l mailing list.


This exercise teaches shielding, checking back, blind side runs and aggressiveness.

4 corners

Set up the field as shown with a player at each of the four corners. One player at

one corner has a ball. Two players are in the middle, one is the attacker, one is

the defender.

Playing Shielding Four Corners

Pass comes from the corner man to the attacker. The attacker has to make a run, or a check to the ball to shake the defender. She then has to control the ball, under pressure, and shield the ball from the defender.

The attacker then has to get the ball to another corner person. She is not allowed to give the ball back to the original passer.

Count how many passes are made before the defender wins the ball. If the defender wins, she passes the ball back to a corner player immediately and the game restarts.

Switch players often. This is an exhausting drill.

Back to basics

It’s comparatively easy coaching a team that wins more games than it loses.

Parents are happy (or at least they’re quiet!) and your players are keen to train and play.

But it’s a different matter if you’re on a losing streak.

Being beaten every week is bound to affect your players’ confidence and match days become more and more stressful for everyone concerned.

When that happens (and it happens to every youth football coach at some point in their “career”), it’s important not to criticise your players’ work rate and effort. That will only get their heads down even lower.

Instead, give your players simple objectives they can achieve in matches even if they lose.

You could, for example, give your wide players the objective of staying in their position and not get sucked into play in other parts of the pitch.

A striker could be given the task of getting one shot on goal in the first 10 minutes.

But whatever objective you choose for your players, make sure it is within their capabilities to achieve it and it’s easily measured.

In training, get back to basics. Practise passing, tackling and shooting using small-sided games (SSGs) and easy, fun drills.

These three SSGs are ideal. They’re easy to set up and explain, they work on your players’ core skills in realistic, football-like situations and, most importantly, they’ll put a smile back your players’ faces!

They are all played with teams of four or five players in the same playing area.

The exact size of the playing area should be adjusted for the age and experience of your players but, as a guide, use an area that is about half the size of the pitch you use on match days.

The Four Goal game

Set-up: Place two goals at each end of the playing area.

How to play: Each team defends and attacks two goals. Goalkeepers are optional. Every time the ball goes out of play the game is restarted with a kick in that has to be taken in four seconds or less. If a player takes longer than four seconds to restart the game, the kick in goes to the other team.

Progression: Teams can score in any goal. The first team to score a goal in each goal wins the game.


Set-up: Place one goal and one team at each end of the playing area.

The players give themselves a number, starting from 1.

How to play:

– When everyone is ready, you call out a number. The players with that number run round the outside of the playing area and while they are running you throw a ball into the playing area.

– The players re-enter the playing area at the opposite end to where they started. They compete for the ball and try to score in the goal where their team mates are standing.

– If the ball goes out of play, throw another ball in.

– If neither player can score in 30 seconds, their turn is over.

– When every player has had a go, the team with the most goals wins.


1. After players have been competing 1v1 for 10 seconds, call out another number. The players with that number run straight on to the playing area to help their team mate.

2. Call out two or three numbers.

Pass to The End Player

Set-up: Goals aren’t needed in this game so move them back from the end lines.

A player from team X stands on one end line and a player from team Z stands on the opposite end line. These are the “end players”.

How to play: Both teams try to pass the ball to their end player. A player who makes a successful pass joins their team mate on the line.

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

Coaching note: End players should be encouraged to make themselves available for a pass by moving up and down the line.

Steve Says: Play games like these at your training sessions instead of fretting about disappointing match results and you’ll not only be helping your players improve their football skills, you’ll be helping them have a bit of fun and remember why they wanted to play football in the first place – to have a bit of fun!

Passing, defending and communication

Objective: improve passing, defending, communication

  • Warm up 15 minutes
  • Skills exercise: 20 minutes
  • Game: 15 minutes
  • Drinks, discussion, setting up: 10 minutes

Total time: 60 minutes

Equipment: 30 small cones, a goal (can be cones but the exercise goes better with a ‘proper’ goal), bibs and one ball for every player.

Warm up

  • Set up three parallel lines of ten cones, closely spaced. Lines should be about 20 metres apart.
  • Children jog slowly from one line to far line and back then:
  • 2 footed jump over centre line
  • 2 footed jump forwards/backwards (once, twice) over centre line
  • Sidestep to centre line then other way
  • Jog to end line, jog backwards to centre line, sprint
  • Heels up to centre line then knees up
  • Touch cones on centre line as they pass
  • On end line, usual stretches
  • All have a ball – feet together, legs straight, slowly roll ball down body to toes and back 5 times.
  • Legs apart, knees bent, figure of eights.
  • On your toes, tap passing. Ten quick taps.
  • Repeat taps followed by sprint to far line pick up cones, and back.

Skills exercise: 1 goal keepaway

Set up a rectangular playing area with a goal in the centre of one side.

The larger the area is, the easier the exercise is, so for young children you can use up to half a full size pitch. As they get more skilful and/or older you should gradually reduce the size of the playing area to make the exercise more challenging.

Divide the children into two teams identified with bibs. One team attacks, the other defends. The defending team ‘scores’ a point by achieving a certain number of consecutive passes, the attacking team gets a ‘point’ by scoring a goal. First to five points is the winner.

Start play by giving ball to attackers. Their first pass is free (no tackling by defenders).

Restart play with throw in or kick in. No corners. Goalie throws ball out to a defender (credit one pass).


Play two touch, then one touch.

Coaching points:

Emphasise the importance of the defenders not diving in. Encourage ‘123 defending’.

Attackers should pass and move. No standing still!

All players should be encouraged to communicate with each other.

Small sided game

Finish the session with a small-sided game. Look for children building on the skills practiced in the above exercise and praise them.

Passing for U9s

Equipment: Cones, pinnies, 1 ball per player

Warm up

Passing Grid – Half the players inside the grid without a ball and the other half of the players around the outside of the grid with balls. The players on the inside move towards a player on the outside receive the ball and return it to the same player. Progressions: 2 touch, 1 touch, out of the air, turn and find a new target


  • Marbles – Players pair up each player needs a ball, staying within the grid player A passes their ball about 5 yards away and their partner tries to hit their ball, they then trade off. Players get one point for each successful hit. Have a competition of first team to 10. Loss of point if ball goes out of the grid
  • Gatekeepers – Create four small goals one on each side of the grid, put one player in each of the small goals without a ball (gatekeeper). When directed the gatekeeper will step outside of their goal until told to move back in. The rest of the players are inside the grid dribbling around looking for the open goal to pass their goal through. How many goals can they get in 1 minute.


4 v. 4 The Passing Game – Play a 4v4 game in 30X40 yard grid. Put two goals on the end line in the corners. Scoring is by stopping the ball anywhere on the line or passing through an open goal. Grid should be setup so it is longer than it is wide.

Passing for U8s

Equipment: Cones, pinnies, 1 ball per player

Warm up

Retrieve the ball – Get the players in pairs with one ball, each pair brings the coach their ball, the coach throws the ball in some direction giving the players directions about how they must retrieve the ball and bring it back

3 passes, 2 passes each, 3 different body parts, 8 passes, etc.


  • Golf – Setup gates (two cones close together) around your practice area, see the lowest number of passes a team can make in getting through all of the gates. Have each pair keep track of their scores. You may want to keep track of the score for the entire team and then challenge them to do it again in fewer passes.
  • Passing with pressure – Now add in one or two defenders, see how many goals the players can score in 2 minutes, defenders go around blocking the goals but not taking the ball away.
  • Fox & hounds – Tag game, one or two players start with balls and try to hit their team mates below the waist with the ball. If a player gets hit then they must also get a ball and help catch the others.


4 v. 4 The Passing Game – Play a 4v4 game in 30X40 yard grid. Put two goals on the end line in the corners. Scoring is by stopping the ball anywhere on the line or passing through an open goal. Grid should be setup so it is longer than it is wide.

Teamwork for U10s

Equipment: 7 balls, cones, pennies

Warm up

  • Passing gates – setup a eight gates (two cones 3 yards apart) in a random pattern around a 30×30 yard area, organize players in groups of three, 1 ball per group, how fast can each team get through all of the gates?, how many gates can you get through in 1 minutes

Look for teams that are talking and planning ahead


  • 3v1 Triangle Keepaway – One player is placed in the middle of the triangle with each side about 6 yards long, the other three players take up position on one of the sides and try to maintain possession of the ball, they only get a point if they pass through the triangle, they can pass on the outside of the triangle, switch defenders every two minutes

Look for players that are moving into good angles of support

  • Capture the Ball – 30×30 yards, Pile of 7 balls is put in the middle of grid, divide the players into four teams and assign them to one of the corner boxes, Objective is to get three balls back to your box, only one player may go at a time for your team, you may steal a ball from another team’s box, you can not stop someone from stealing a ball from your box


  • 4 goal game – Create two grids of 20×30, put the goals in the corners of the grid but on the endline, Players score by passing through the goals to a team mate.

Passing and receiving

passing practice plan

An easy to set up and explain series of drills that will improve your players passing and receiving skills.

Can be used as a warm up or in the technical phase of a coaching session.

Suitable for all ages.

passing practice planPASSING PRACTICE I

Set Up

Using four cones, mark out an 8 x 15-yard field.

Station one player at each cone.


Players A and B play a wall pass, and then B takes A’s position.

A kicks a diagonal pass to D and runs to B’s position.

Next, D and C play a wall pass. D shifts the area of play again with a diagonal pass to B, and D and C switch positions, etc.

Focus On

  • Accurate passes over short and long distances
  • Making combination play safer
  • Learning alternatives for combination play

passing practice planPASSING PRACTICE II

Set Up

Setup is the same as Exercise 1.


Player A dribbles to B, who moves to meet A.

B takes over the ball and kicks a precise diagonal pass to D. Then A and B switch positions.

Next, the same sequence takes place on the opposite side, i.e. C takes over the football from D, and they switch positions, etc.

Focus On

  • Accurate passes over short and long distances
  • Making combination play safer
  • Practicing takeovers

passing practice planPASSING PRACTICE III

Set Up

Setup is the same as Exercise 1.


Player A passes in the air to D while C moves in front of D. C fakes receiving the pass and lets the ball go by.

D volleys the ball into the path of C, who dribbles to the other cone and then kicks a diagonal pass in the air to B while A moves in front of B.

B volleys the ball into A’s path, etc.

Focus On

  • Accurate high passes
  • Volley passes under opposition pressure
  • Making combination play safer

Passing and dribbling

Passing and dribbling

A simple series of drills that will improve your players dribbling and passing skills. Can be used as a warm up or in the technical phase of a soccer coaching session.

Suitable for all ages

Passing and dribbling1. PASSING AND DRIBBLING I

Set Up

Using four cones, mark out a 10 x 12-yard field. passing and dribbling 1
Place another cone in the center of each endline.
Station one player at each center cone; the remaining players form two lines, one at each slalom course.


In this exercise, the corner cones are unoccupied.
The following technique exercise runs simultaneously on both sides: The first player in the group dribbles her football through the slalom course and passes diagonally from the last cone back to the player on the endline. This player passes the ball to the next player in line, etc.
All players follow their passes to their next positions.

Focus On

  • Practicing dribbling
  • Accurate passes over short distances
  • Combining dribbling and passing as the situation requires.

passing and dribbling2. PASSING AND DRIBBLING II

Set Up

Setup is the same as Exercise 1.


Players dribble through the slalom and pass diagonally back to the endline.

The player on the endline passes diagonally forwards to the cone at the far end of the near sideline.

All players follow their passes to their next positions.

Focus On

  • Practicing dribbling
  • Accurate passes over short and long distances
  • Combining dribbling and passing as the situation requires

passing and dribbling3. PASSING AND DRIBBLING III

Set Up

Setup is the same as Exercise 1.


Like Exercise 2, except now, after the second diagonal pass, the player at the corner cone kicks a square pass along the endline (to the other group). passing and dribbling 3

As above, all players follow their passes to their next positions.

Focus On

  • Practicing dribbling
  • Accurate passes over short and long distances
  • Combining dribbling and passing as the situation requires