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.

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.

Small group defending

warm up

Warm Up 5 – 10 minutes. Activity level – Mild, increasing. Space: General. 1 – 2 Players per group.


warm up

Groups of three, one ball per group. Player A rolls the ball (receiving ground balls) or tosses the ball (receiving air balls) to either player B or player C. In this example, player C must control the ball and get a completed pass to player B. While this is occurring, player A immediately challenges player C and tries to win the ball back. After successful pass, player C would then pick up the ball and repeat the activity as the defender. The defender is awarded a point for winning the ball back and gets to throw again.

Coaching Points

  • Encourage defender to pressure quickly after the toss. Defender needs to work hard at closing down the space while the ball is in flight.
  • Receiving player’s first touch should be away from the pressuring defender.
  • Player receiving the pass should move to create a clear passing lane.
  • Do not allow the receiving player to one touch the incoming toss. This is a receiving drill, as well as a drill that serves as a good warm-up for practices dealing with defenders.

Small Game 20 – 25 Minutes. Activity level: Medium progressing to high. Space: Defined space “smaller”. 3 – 5 players per group.

small game

Pressure / Cover Defending

2 v. 2, with goals marked out in the corner of the grid.

Have a regular game with periods of about 2 – 3 minutes in duration.

Have plenty of extra balls ready to keep the game flowing

Coaching Points

  • Defending principles of play
  • Pressure on the ball, do not let the first attacker’s head to come up
  • Second defender must cover the goal as well as be aware of the second attacker
  • First defender tries to channel the attacker into the sideline and away from the second attacker. (This is easier to do since the goals are in the corners of the grid, the sidelines come up quicker.)
  • When first defender has made the play predictable, second defender tries to double team.
  • Make sure the defenders stay balanced, that they do not become too spread out, enabling the attacking team to make “splitting passes”.
  • As soon as the ball is won, can they shoot? This is the best time to do so because the attacking team is not in a good defending posture.

Four Goals – End Line

Four goals

The Game

4 v. 4. Each team defends two goals and attacks two goals. Having the goals on the end lines makes this game more realistic as it forces the attacking team to have more of a direction to their attack.

Coaching Points

Defending principles

Defending become particularly challenging since the defending team has two goals to defend, essentially turning this into a 6 v. 4 game.

It is a good idea to allow each team to decide by themselves, at first, where they are going to try to win the ball. In other words, are they going to challenge the ball all over the field, or will they hang back and try to only defend the space close to their own goals?

Can they “channel” the ball into certain areas of the field to gain possession.

Can they apply enough pressure on the ball to limit the first attacker’s options, and make the play predictable.

Team Game 30 Minutes plus. Activity level: High. Space: Defined for the game = larger space. 7 – 11 players per team.

Four Zones Game

4 zones game

The Game

A regular 11 v. 11 or 8 v. 8 scrimmage. Break the field into 4 horizontal zones. Award the defending team points when they win the ball back in a chosen zone. For example, the Blue team might be given 3 points for winning the ball back in the first zone, two points for the second zone, one point for the third zone and no points for the fourth zone. This can change depending on where the coach wants the team to try tp force the play

Coaching Points

Try to get the players t work together, collectively, as a unit, with all 11 players aware of the defensive plan.

Can the defending team control the attacking team, making them play the ball in a certain area of the field, and then winning the ball there.

Make sure you give defending agendas to both teams.

warm downWarm Down 5 – 10 Minutes. Activity level: Low ramping down. Space: General, No specific boundaries. 1 – 2 players per group.

Two Sided Goal Game

The Game

A 2 v. 2 game played to a two sided goal. Goals can be scored from either side. The game is a continuous flow game that is best played for 2 – 3 minutes.

Coaching Points

  • A good warm-up or cool-down game to teach defending and attacking skills.
  • Defenders must make sure they cover the goal as well as the attacking players.
  • Defenders must work at channelling the first attacker away from their support.
  • Attacking team must be good at combination play to unbalance the defence.
  • As soon as the ball is lost, defending team must get goal side.
  • Try to attack immediately when the ball is won.

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!

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.

Fitness, passing skills and teamwork

A football (soccer) coaching session designed to improve aerobic fitness, passing skills and teamwork

  • Age group: U8 to adult
  • Number of players: 8 – 20

Warm up – passing skills

Set up: create groups of 4/5 players. Find a space that will allow each pass to be between 5-10 yards. No grid lines or cones. One ball between two.

The objective: to ping the ball from player to player in a one touch passing sequence.

Procedure: it’s important to stress that players do not stand still after passing the ball, so ensure the players sprint after their pass for a few yards.

Players can use their first touch to control the ball then pass with their second but they should try to pass one touch wherever possible.

Make it a game by seeing how many passes the group can complete in 45 seconds or a minute. Only completed one touch passes count.

When performed well, this exercise is attractive and satisfying, both to the players and the coach.

Team Escort Run – improves aerobic fitness

from catch them being good! by Tony DiCicco and Colleen Hacker

Note: there are two types of fitness – anaerobic and aerobic. Aerobic fitness can be sustained over long periods of time while anaerobic fitness is the ability to perform at maximum intensity for short period (up to about 12 seconds)

Objective: to improve aerobic fitness

Set up: create groups of 4. Each group stands behind a cone with a second cone about 20 metres away. The group decides in what order they are going to run (1-4).

Procedure: Runner 1 runs 20 metres to cone and back. On their return they are joined by runner 2 who accompanies runner 1 back to the cone while dribbling a ball. They return to the start with runner 2 leaving the ball for runner 3 who accompanies runner 1 . When they return, runner 4 takes runner 1 out and back. Then it’s runner 2s turn to be escorted out an back with her teammates.

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

This is a fun way to get fit that also serves as a team building exercise.

The pressing game – improves closing down, fitness and teamwork

from Paul Coopers SSG handbook

This game can have a big effect on how your team performs and is about encouraging the players to defend from the front. It is quite a high tempo game.

It is also good for conditioning and developing a physical and mental toughness.

Age Group – U8s to adults

Pitch Size 30/40 x 20 – or at the discretion of the coach, but basically a standard 4 v 4 pitch, with a half way line marking. (you can use two traffic cones at each side of the pitch)

Number of teams – 2

Team sizes – 4-6 players

Bibs optional

Goals –5 a side or mini soccer goals

The game is played as a standard small sided game with one condition. If a team wins the ball in the oppositions half and then goes on to score before the ball has left that half, they are awarded two goals.

A goal scored any other way counts as just one goal.

Very popular with the players and evokes good team spirit.

The attacking team need to work as a unit and both press and close down defenders.

Tip: try a short wide pitch so it’s easy to score goals

Finish with another SSG.

I like the 1-0 game for older children. The younger ones should just be allowed to play with no conditions.

Keeping possession

This section offers a list of soccer coaching exercises that will help develop your players’ ability to maintain possession of the ball. By combining one or more of the exercises with an appropriate warm up, a suitable practice plan can be assembled.


In any of the exercises, you will find that it will be more effective to have the opponents work to win possession of the ball, not just to kick it away. Make the rules such that this is required. Otherwise, you will be chasing cleared balls and players will be standing around.

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.

Keep Away – Groups of 4, playing 3 v 1 possession with 1 ball in 10 yard grid.

5 v 1 – Play possession, 5 v 1 in free space. Move to 10 yard grid. With 12 players, run two groups at once.

4 + 1 v 1 – Play possession in 10 yard grid. Four passers on outside, one supporting player in grid, one opponent in grid. Player who loses ball takes opponents place. Try for 20 passes without losing possession. With 12 players, run two groups at once. Encourage the passers to work to split the defenders.

7 + 2 v 3 – Play possession in 20 x 10 yard grid. Three opponents and 2 possession players in middle of grid with seven possession players around grid edges. Possession team tries to keep ball in grid and to complete 20 passes without losing possession. Rotate players every few minutes.

Splitting Defenders – Play 8 v 4 in a large space, 30 x 40 yards. Work to keep possession and to complete several short passes in order to draw defenders in, then split defenders or make lofted pass to space away from pressure. Push the pace so it happens quickly. Adjust the numbers to get some success and some difficulty.

Two Zones – Play 4 v 2 for team with ball in each of two zones, like 30 x 40 yard space. Players have to stay in their own zones, can pass with team mates in other zone. Team with ball tries for continuous possession. Add restriction, team must make 5 passes in one half before passing to other half to get point. Defenders get point for every ball one. Change defenders. If it’s too easy for possession team, reduce the space.

Three Zones – Play 4 v 2 for team with ball in their defending half, 2 v 4 against team with ball in their final (attacking) third. Leave a 5 yard empty zone between the two halves. Play to goals without goalies. Two opponents in first zone try to pressure possession team into mistake. Possession team tries to hold ball until its “strikers” in the final third can get away from their four opponents.

Game – Play 6 v 6 to goals. Coach players to keep possession and to switch the point of attack quickly to create a good isolation situation (1v1) to create a shooting opportunity. Can add restriction, like 6 passes before any shot, to encourage possession.

Difficulty Factors

When teaching possession, it is very easy to control the technical and tactical difficulty level of the exercise. These can be selected and used in different combinations to add interest and variety to the practice. At the extreme level, where many of these factors are in place, the purpose of the practice moves away from “Possession” and towards “Speed of Play”, a closely related topic, in much the way that “motor racing” is related to “driving”. Same setup, just different conditions.

To increase the difficulty of a Possession progression –

  • reduce the space
  • make the space more soccer – shaped, not open, not square
  • add players without increasing the space
  • level the sides to make it more even
  • eliminate restrictions on opponents…for example with passers outside a grid and defenders inside trying to win the ball, allow the defenders to go outside the grid
  • increase the number of teams in the exercise – like 3 instead of 2
  • add psychological pressure by adding a goal – like 10 passes to win
  • add psychological pressure by adding a penalty for the losers
  • challenge the team with the ball to keep it against pressure for a set period of time – count down out loud as the time nears
  • add restrictions – for example – if one player uses two touches, the next may only use one touch
  • give direction to the exercise – play to goal lines or goals
  • add goals and shooting – require possession before shooting
  • increase the number of balls in play to force thinking and vision

Possession warm ups

These warm ups are recommended for this type of session.

Wall Passing – Partners with ball executing wall pass in space.

Wall Passing in Grid – Put the whole team into a 20 yard square, let partners with a ball do wall passes around other pairs.

Takeovers – Partners with ball executing takeovers with overlap and pass.

1-2-3 Touch (from Kerry Miller, Women’s Coach, Charleston Southern in 1993). Partners at 5 yards with ball, one touch passing as hard as possible. Change to two touch passing. Push the pace. Finally, change to three touch passing. First touch to stop ball, second touch push ball forward a couple of steps to attack, third touch pass. Passer must retreat several steps immediately after passing. Partners move up and back together very quickly, very demanding physically on the quads.