Category Archives for Coaching

Doubling Up in Defense

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 55 x 42 yards

Teams: 5 v 5 + 3 (Extra defenders)

Time: 20 Minutes


  • To slow the attackers down
  • To realize who is the closest defender and ‘double up’ on the attacker



There are 3 areas, 2 large end areas and a middle zone (5 yards wide) where the 3 defenders occupy their own personal zone between cones. Depending on numbers, separate the middle zone into 2 or 3 equal areas for each defender. 3 defenders and 2 attackers are in each end zone.




The attacking teams are aiming to score in the goals but only the 2 attackers can score. There are no GK but with a 3 defenders it should make it more difficult to score. The team in possession is looking to pass through the middle zone to their strikers. The defenders on the opposite side are not allowed in front of the attackers to intercept the ball as this is not what we are working on. But what you want them to do is to step close to the attacker to deny them the ability to turn and shoot. They should be 1 arm’s length away and side on and their main aim is to slow them down not to tackle them.

Whichever defender in the middle zone is nearest, determined by which cones the attacker is in between, is allowed to help defend and win the ball off the attacker. This term is called ‘doubling up’ on a player making a 2v1 scenario.


As soon as they win possession they must pass to another defender on that side of the field. The middle zone defender then returns to their original position.


Because the attacker is in a different area of the field there is a closer defender in the middle zone to double up. Therefore, the defender behind the attacker slows them down and denies them the ability to turn and shoot and the second defender wins the ball.


When a scenario occurs where there is a large distance between the defenders in the middle zone and the attacker it is then the responsibility of another defender, who is closer, to double up. This gives opportunities for decision making, increasing player’s awareness of the scenario and communication.



  • Depending on numbers have 2 defenders in the middle zone.
  • Allow a player who is defending to move into the attacking area when their team is in possession.

By Sean Pearson.  Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1  and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3

Thinking Ahead and Playing Quickly

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 40 x 36 yards

Teams: 4 v 3 (2 or 3 teams of 3 depending on numbers)

Time: 20 Minutes


  • To be forward thinking in players’ decision making, both by passes or runs
  • To make diagonal runs and NOT straight runs

The 2 main components for this small sided game that you must make you players aware of are first forward thinking, or ‘forward decisions’ so no backwards movement or passes as this should resemble to a fast break in soccer when players are chasing to get back and deny the attackers space. Therefore, the attack must be completed at speed. The second component is no straight runs! Straight runs help the defense out. It keeps them in their shape, they remain organized. It is the attacker’s job to moved them out of position by diagonal runs. Whether on the ball or off the ball, these runs can vary and be at different angles and speeds.

It is also important to get across to your team that players may not get the ball, but because of their unselfish movement off the ball the team was able to create a chance and score. I feel this is very important to portray to the youth of today as they think if they are not the sole match winner or directly involved they do not get the attention and so do not want to do it. It is not the ‘glamorous job’ but it is an important job. This is why when you coach, make excessive positive comments about movement that displaces a defender for a teammate. Even more than the person who may have scored. This emphasizes the ‘team’ before ‘I’ ethos.


One team of 3 acts as a back 3 going across the 18-yard box. 2 other teams of 3 face them as the Left midfielder/striker, central striker and right midfielder/striker. The distance between the defending team and attacking team is 15 yards. This can be increased or decreased depending on preference. Each team wears a different color to determine who is currently involved. Eventually any player will be able to start with a ball but for now you should determine who starts.


Next tell the wide midfielder/striker to drive further inside towards the central defender. The central striker then overlaps them and the opposite midfielder/striker pulls away again. This should do a number of things to the defense. The central defender should begin to come forward (if they back off this gives the player an opportunity to shoot) The full back should come in to support the central defender. The player with the ball then has the option to pass to the overlapping player or through to the opposite wide player.


Now have the central striker start with the ball, but do not run straight. Again you want to move the central defender. The 2 wide players aim to spread the 2 full backs out by staying wide and going around them. As the central defender steps towards the ball, the pass is played to the best option. Again if the central defender backs away there is the opportunity to shoot.


If the gap is too small to pass through, then there is also the option of the central striker taking on the central defender 1 v 1 as the full backs are pre-occupied with the wide midfielders/strikers.


When you feel comfortable as a coach that your players understand their roles depending on who has the ball and what run they are making with the ball allow the players to decide who has the ball.


  • Keep a tally of which team scores the most
  • Instead of keeping the same team defending you can switch each time, after a team attacks, they become the defending team.
  • Even though the attacks should be fast already you can add a time limit from the first touch until a shot. 5 seconds is a good time for this.

By Sean Pearson.  Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1  and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3

Creating Opportunities to Cross and Finish

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 40 x 36 yards (Full Back Zones: 10 x 8) 4 Mannequins

Teams: 5 v 5

Time: 15 Minutes


  • To understand when and where to create a goal scoring opportunity
  • To work on technique of passing the ball into the corner or knowing when and how to round the goalkeeper


The game is about the wide players being positive and attacking the full back 1 v 1. A team must have a player ‘take on’ a mannequin in a full back zone before they are allowed to score.

Attacking the FB (1)

To start with no other player is allowed in this area and the player must have the ball and dribble past the mannequin by using a move, whether it be dropping the shoulder, scissors etc. The attacking play has 3 seconds, once entering the zone to get past the mannequin and either cross or dribble out of the zone again.

First tell the attacker they must go to the outside and use their outside foot to cross the ball.

Attacking the FB (2)

Next tell your attackers to come inside of the full back and look to either shoot into the far corner or aim to set up a goal scoring opportunity. You can swap your wingers over so they are coming on to their strong foot or keep them on the same side so they can work on their weak foot.

Attacking the FB (3)


If you have more players, you can have them as full backs who stay in the full back zone until they are attacked. if they win possession the other team must have 2 players that go into these zones to encourage 1 v 1 attacking.

By Sean Pearson.  Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1  and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3

Small-Sided Game for Finishing

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 35 x 20 yards (Scoring Zones: 10 x 20)

Teams: 3 v 3 + 1

Time: 15 Minutes


  • To understand when and where to create a goal scoring opportunity
  • To work on technique of passing the ball into the corner or knowing when and how to round the goalkeeper


The idea of this small sided game is to increase the number of chances in front of goal per player. The more chances, thus repetition of similar scenarios, a player is able to experience the calmer they will be when presented with the same chance in a game.

Composure in Front of Goal (1)

Calmness or composure in front of goal is critical to scoring. Many times players panic because it is a pressure situation, players think ‘don’t miss’ instead of ‘score’. Players can’t handle defenders chasing them down and breathing down their neck, the GK rushing out to stop them. This all leads to two things that happen, generally players result to power and the ball goes straight at the GK or high over the crossbar.

When in the team of 3,players spread out as wide as possible, the neutral keeps advancing, if the defenders do not close them down then they can run with the ball into the scoring area and take a shot themselves. If a defender does close them down the neutral passes to the side the defender came from. The receiving player has a positive first touch and quickly enters the scoring zone. To begin with no defender is allowed in so it is like a 1 v 1 scenario, just the attacker and GK.

The attacker pushes the ball to the middle and their body is to the side of the ball, the shoulder, of the side that is shooting, points behind the ball to open the hips. the attacker aims to ‘pass’ the ball into the corner, low and with curve to get around any potential save attempt from the GK. If the GK is too far to that side, shoot near post.

Composure in Front of Goal (2)

The next scoring scenario is when the ball is too close the GK to find the spaces to shoot. Realizing this the player looks to use their body to fake a shot, ‘selling’ the GK to move one way and then calmly pushing the ball past them to pass into the open goal.

Composure in Front of Goal (3)

The repetitive nature of going through 1 v 1 gives players the chance to experience the scenario often so in games they can recall their positive experiences and have a higher chance of keeping their composure and scoring.


Eventually you can allow one defender into the scoring zone, then 2 to really increase the pressure.

By Sean Pearson.  Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1  and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3

Creating Space Undernearth

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 45 x 38 yards (Channel Areas: 45 x 3)

Teams: 5 v 5 + 4

Time: 15 Minutes


  • To understand when and where to use the space for the underlap
  • To use movement to clear space for the underlap of the full back

Underlapping Runs (1)


In order to perform the underlapping run, there must be space to do so. As often as possible aim for the ball to be played directly to the attacking neutral on one side. To create the space for the underlap, the widest player in the central area in the space must take a defender away with their run.

Underlapping Runs (2)

If the other team stays in this area because they want to stop the underlapping run then pass to the player who is now free, this should now make them think twice about staying in an area.

When there is space to do so, the neutral on the side with the ball sees the space infield and runs into it, this is what a full back may do in a game. Depending on what the defense does, they can either continue and shoot or draw a defender close to them and slide and attacker for a shooting chance.

Underlapping Runs (3)


If the ‘full back’ has the ball and there is space to come infield already, without anyone having to pull any defenders away, then run with the ball into the space.

By Sean Pearson.  Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1  and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3

Zonal Finishing Game

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 40 x 34 yards (Heading Zone: 28 x 5)

Teams: 5 v 5 + 2

Time: 15 Minutes


  • To understand how to head the ball when aiming to score
  • To understand where to head the ball

4 v 4 with GKs. 2 neutrals, 1 in each channel. The aim of this small sided game is to create heading opportunities to score goals. Both ends have a heading zones which only the player heading the ball is allowed into. The GK must stay on their line. This is for safety reason so there are no collisions.

Heading from Crosses 1

Each team looks to play the ball out wide as often as possible, if the neutral is not near the heading zone they can run with the ball towards it. A single attacking player is allowed in the heading zone. The neutral aims for this player and the attacker uses their forehead, neck and shoulders to aim the ball towards goal.

Work on timing of the run, timing of connection, accuracy and power of the header.

Heading from Crosses 2


Allow two attackers to enter the heading zone, 1 at the front post and 1 at the back, eventually allow a defender to mark one of the attackers. The neutral needs to see which attacker is open and aim for the free player.


If your team are struggling with crosses you can place 4 players on the outsides, in the channels by the heading zone. When the ball is passed, they are allowed to pick the ball up and throw the ball in, to increase the amount of headers. With numbers this could take out your current GK’s or you could have 2 neutrals who throw the ball in at both sides keeping the GK’s in goal.

Heading from Crosses 3

Eventually the opposite CM will start to cut off the pass to the striker. This is when you tell your players to go wide. From here can the WM commit their counterpart and play the ball into the striker. The can striker can either perform the give and go or again set one time to the CM.

Combination Play (4)

Coaching Points

  • Striker and Cm move oppositely so combinations can be played
  • Move the ball until the scenario presents itself, do not force it


  • Change formations
  • After the half way line you must play 2 touch

By Sean Pearson.  Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1  and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3

Possession to Attack

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 40 x 50 yards. (end zone 20 x 2 yards)

Teams: 6 v 6 + 1

Time: 25 Minutes


  • To build possession from the center backs
  • To work together as a team to create opportunities to move the ball forward

Each team has 2 CB’s off the main area of the field, they start the game off each time. Both teams have a CM, 2 WM and a ST. A neutral is used to create an overload in the midfield for passing options. To start with instruct your team not to high press but to defend how they see fit. Work with one side and see if the other team also responds to what you are coaching.

Playing out from the back (1)

When either CB has the ball, there are specific movements that other players should make to create different options. The CM drops down and away from the ball, the WM start high and drops down and further wide and the neutral moves opposite to the CM. The ST aims to stretch the defense by moving as far away from the ball that the defender moves with them.

Playing out from the back (2)

This then gives the CB 3 different options to pass the ball forwards. You can see here the movement of all players allows the neutral more space to receive the ball beyond the first line of pressure. It is up to the CB to decide where to pass the ball depending on the positioning of the defending team. When a player receives the ball the first option is to continue to play forward whilst making high percentage passes to maintain possession.Playing out from the back (3)

If the CM is passed the ball and pressured they can pass backwards to the opposite CB. If there is no obvious passing option available, then encourage them to bring the ball forward into the space ahead of them. If this happens the CM takes their place at CB to maintain defensive discipline. Now the CB will draw attention from opposition which is when options for a pass become available.Playing out from the back (4)

The whole point of playing out from the back is to make high percentage passes to move the ball forward. This can only be achieved through movement of all other players to effect the opposition and a confidence and composure in possession. If the defense is well organized know when to go back, but also know when to penetrate to attack. When the ball is in the attacking third of the field the team can shoot. If there is no GK apply a 1 touch finish rule, you can even put cones in the goal in the middle so only goals in the corners count.

Coaching Points

  • Movement of players ahead of the ball is key for creating passing options forwards
  • Move players out of position by ball movement and having composure to play high percentage passes


  • Add a GK
  • Play with 2 touch
  • The striker must touch the ball before scoring

By Sean Pearson.  Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1  and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3