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!