Creating space for your practice.
Working Out The Space
Without doubt getting the size and the “make up” of the playing area is a fundamental key to effective and fun football sessions. If the area is too large, the practice or game becomes a physical endurance test. If it is too small, it is equally demanding as players are working at a frantic pace to try to find both time and space. In both cases nobody really benefits or learns anything.
One of the major aims of a coach or teacher is to improve technique, and this essentially only happens when players work in small groups, have plenty of touches of the ball, and have the time and space in which to practice and experiment. Naturally the better a player becomes, the smaller the area needed.
Technique practice needs to be done at a slower pace than “match” speed, and invariably in more space. As players get technically more proficient, the challenge is to perform the skills in tighter spaces against more intense opposition. It is up to the coaches/teachers to provide drills and sessions which allow the players time and space in which to practice.
For those just starting in the game, the basic formula that many coaches work to is the grid area of 10 yards by 10 yards for a maximum of 4 players (one long pace being one yard)
The basic formula
Here is a simple practice for 4 players in a 10×10 yard area
Area is 10 x 10 with players in groups of 4
There is one ball, and players just pass and move.
Variations can include: –
Receive with one foot and pass with other
Receive with one part of foot and pass with another i.e. INSIDE/OUTSIDE
Must do a dribbling skill before passing
All passes played with one touch only
After pass put pressure on the next receiver (to improve first touch)
Working with larger numbers
An area of 20 x 20 can accommodate up to 16 players, and following the formula even larger groups of 30 players can work in an area approx 40 x 20 yards. Marking out the grids is ideal for coaches to be able to control larger groups.
In this practice 4 groups work simultaneously in their respective grids
Area is 20 x 20 split into 4 grids with one ball per grid
In each grid 4 players number themselves 1-4
Players pass and move in the numbered sequence
on coaches command the player with ball looks up and passes to a player in the next grid clockwise. That player then follows the pass, and the new groups keep passing and receiving for the coach to repeat activity.
On coaches command the player with the ball passes into the space for a player making a run to the next clockwise grid. Again the new groups to keep passing and the coach repeats the activity.
On coaches command the 4 players with the ball dribble into the grids diagonally opposite. They all move together and use dribbling skills to avoid contact
Working in a circle.
The principles are the same no matter what the shape. Break the group down into smaller units but try to keep everybody involved
Players are in 2 groups. Those around the outside form a big circle and have a ball each.
Those on the inside receive a pass and turn with the ball and pass to any outside player
Once passed to outside look for another ball to repeat the process.
Inside players should practice a variety of turns when moving with the ball and accelerate away once turn completed
Players work for approximately 30 seconds then change roles
Vary the serves from the outside group to including throwing in for aerial control. Players inside control using their feet, thigh, chest or head before moving off with the ball.
Use of Buffer Zones
What are they?
Areas used between the practice zones for safety, ie. Reducing risk of player being hit with the ball.
Provides good coaching positions to take up.
Avoids disruption of practices through stray balls from other areas.
Dependent on the practice
The following are some examples of practices using buffer zones
THE SHOOTING GAME
Each grid are two 10×10 yard grids with a 15 yard gap between
Players are in groups of 3 or 4 depending on numbers with one ball between the 2 groups
The group with the ball pass and move to allow each player at least one touch
After each player has had a touch any player may shoot towards the other end
The players at the other end repeat
Each shot must be below waist height
Players facing the shot may use their hands to save
Encourage movement and creativity
Encourage use of weaker foot
Play a game where shots that pierce the players at the other end scores a goal. Only shots that stay within the side boundaries and are below waist height count.
Award 2 goals if scored with weaker foot
The players facing the shot cannot use their hands and their control must stay within their grid
LONG PASSING PRACTICE
Area is across half a field
Players are in groups of 4 with 2 at either end approximately 30 yards apart, and 2 central
The first pass from an end player (A1) is short into (A2), who sets back for A1 to play a long pass into A3.
A1 and A2 switch roles. A3 and A4 continue in the same way
Mix up the long passes between long-lofted and driven
Try using both feet
USE OF END ZONES
What are they?
End zones are designated grids placed at the ends of the playing area, and are commonly used as a place where a “goal” or point maybe scored
Only certain players are normally allowed into an end zone with or without the ball
Why use End Zones?
They provide an area for an end product when possibly there are no goals available
They are useful to keep a game competitive without balls necessarily going astray
To avoid congestion on the pitch
When to use end zones
End zones are particularly useful in possession practices when playing without goals or goalkeepers. For example the team in possession can score a point or “goal” by passing to a team mate who moves to receive the pass as it is entering the zone.
They could be used to highlight specific techniques and skills in small sided games. In dribbling or running with the ball games, for example, players either score, or are deemed “safe” when entering the end zones.
How to Use End Zones?
Make colour co-ordinated where possible as visual aid for players.
Condition who can enter the End zone, i.e. only players dribbling the ball or receiving a pass are allowed in.
Once players are in the zone they cannot be tackled
If coaches wanted to keep the tempo of the practice high, a suggestion could be that once a player enters the end zone his/her team keep possession and immediately play in the other direction.
Condition when players can enter the End zone i.e. a player maybe deemed offside if he/she is standing in there before a pass is delivered.
End zones maybe combined with “safe” zones whereby players can move into their own zone with or without the ball to get more time and space.
CONDITIONED END ZONE GAME WITH TARGETS TO GOAL
Area is 40 x 30 with 10 yard end zones at each end.
2 small goals are at either end of each end zone
Game is one directional and 7v7, with each team having an attacking target marked by a defender in each end zone.
Objective is to pass into the attacking target in the end zone who plays 1v1 to score in either goal
Rotate target players
PLAYING OUT FROM THE BACK GAME USING END ZONES
Area is 40 x 30 with 10 yard end zones at each end.
Two teams play 7V7 with 2 defenders and 1 attacker in each end zone.
Objective is to play out from the back defending zone to get the forward in behind the two defenders in the attacking zone.
The forward can either dribble through or receive a pass to the back of the defenders but within the end zone
USE OF END ZONES TO DEVELOP SWITCH OF PLAY AND FORWARD MOVEMENT
Particularly useful in a narrow space with the area wider than longer.
Area is approximately 20 yards long x 30 yards wide with end zones at each side
3 gated goals are positioned in each end zone
Two teams play a directional 4v4 game attempting to score by dribbling through the goals
Encourage quick switching of play, give and go’s and overlaps to create scoring opportunities
USE OF END ZONES FOR MINI TOURNAMENTS
Particularly useful in small areas with larger groups and 1 goalkeeper
Three teams rotate between resting, attacking the big goal and attacking 3 small target goals in the end zone
Teams play for a set time period and change in a round-robin tournament or change after 1 goal is scored
Each team keeps their own scores