Soccer coaching session on switching play

When their team is on the attack, young players need to be alert to the possibilities of switching play from one side of the pitch to the other. It’s a tactic relied upon by every professional football team and takes craft, vision and confidence.

It works so well because of the need for defending teams to play a pressing, compact line in the modern game. That makes them susceptible to the switch and the potential of being caught out.

That’s why it’s crucial for attacking players to know when and how to switch – either by a long pass or a series or quick, short balls from one side of the pitch to the other.

In this exercise your players first have to work out how many ways they can get the ball from one end man to another. They will then move on to put that technique into practice to score points.

How to set it up:

  • For this practice, you will need bibs, balls and cones. The session uses three teams of four players.
  • Create a 30 yards long by 15 yards wide area, split into three equal zones.
  • In the middle zone, mark out three cone gate goals along each line across the pitch. These should be one yard wide and evenly spaced along the line.

Getting started:

Start by getting the teams to work out all the combinations of play that can ensure the ball moves from one side of the pitch to the other in their groups... so either a long ball across, passes to each man individually, etc.

Get them to switch positions.

  • Practise this for five minutes.
  • Then split the middle row of players into two teams of two.
  • One team defends the three gates towards the top of the area, while the other team defends the other three gates towards the bottom.
  • The outside teams must pass the ball within their area and score points by putting it through an empty gate, but any scoring effort must be passed through the gate, not struck hard.
  • Rotate teams every five minutes and play for a total of 15 minutes, seeing how well attackers switch play and defenders cope with the demands of a versatile strikeforce.

Developing the session:

  • In a 36 yards long by 20 yards wide area, use a goal and goalkeeper at each ends. Play 4v4 with two neutral players who run the lines but cannot go onto the pitch.
  • Teams play a standard game but must involve a neutral player in every attack.
  • Play for 10 minutes.

Why this works:

Getting players used to switching play encourages them to use the technique in matches, and in this session, you are showing them how and when to make the correct decision.
In the main game, having three goals protected by only two defenders means attackers will always be keen to hunt out space in which they can score.

This session originally appeared in Soccer Coach Weekly.

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