Door 7: Individual considerations during games-based training

For this year’s contribution, I decided to share a few examples of sessions that I have used throughout the past 12 months, rather than creating something that I did not yet manage to translate to the pitch.

As a general point of a lot of these exercises were around scoring goals, in a variety of different situations. Certain exercises have elements of practice design or constraints within the practice to be able to increase the exposure of certain individuals within the session to specific elements of the practice, these include defending or attacking in certain ways, delivering balls to resume or start a practice, or coaches adding in second balls to create further chaotic situations. Hopefully, these sessions help to show how running general “game based” practices could be altered and tailored towards certain individuals.

Practice 1

This practice starts with the ball being played into a red. The red then plays to the team on the left and joins in with that team to make 4v2. This practice is directional, so both teams are aware of the goal they are defending and attacking. If you score a goal you became the “attacking team” (the team who the outside players play to).

If no goal was scored, the attacking team became the defending team and the previous defending team became the “wide” starting players, with the wide starting players becoming the attacking team.

For example:

  1. White would move to the spot yellow are in, on the diagram.
  2. Yellow would move into the sport red are in.
  3. Red would move into the spot white was in.

If the team with the overload scores, that goal is worth 1 point, in contrast if the team underloaded scored that would equal three points. The point of this ruling was to make the aim of playing 2v4 after winning the ball back seem not out of reach to the players by having such a big point total relative to the reward. Explicit coaching for this practice was mostly around how the underloaded team could break into space after winning the ball, and how the non-ball carrier could offer support. For the overloaded team, they were coached to attack quickly using the width afforded to them, and the overload of the central players.

As the game progressed, I rewarded the overloaded team with a double goal for a first time finish, as well as a double point for a first-time assist. In this situation, we practiced a lot of early passes out wide for the central players to practice running “into the goal” to drag a defender with them, or run to the front post, or hold the run, with the ball-far wide player attacking the back post. Encouraged the wide player who delivered the pass inside to focus on cutback assists. For further reading on using underloads/overloads in coaching see a piece I wrote here:

Practice 2

This practice starts with the ball the feet of the yellow positioned next to the pole. They are tasked to play into the 2v2 on the left side of the diagram. Following the pass, this yellow player is tasked in sprinting to the 2v2, to create a 3v2 situation.

If yellow scores from the 3v2 they gain 1 goal, at this point the coach feeds a second ball into the white stationed by the pole to create a 2v1 on the goal on the right hand side, every player is now active in a 4v4 free-game until a goal is scored and then we restart from the structured start (playing into the 2v2). The team who scores gets to restart 2v2. If no goal is scored, then the opposite team get to begin the practice with players changing attacking/defending roles. The first team to 10 goals wins.

If white regains the ball from the beginning 2v2 they play into the white stationed by the pole to create a 2v1 on the goal, for this action (unlike the free play 4v4) this was played as only a 2v1 to create situations specifically for the defender to practice defending underloaded, in this particular situation already occupying an opponent, with another opponent arriving. This then progressed to as the pass was played into the white, the game evolved that both situations (white regain and coaches pass) led to 4v4 “free” games. This practice focuses on creating underloads and overloads through either structured starts or the introduction of a second ball. I chose to highlight this practice as a means of creating these situations in two different ways, as well as the ability as a coach to “create” a free game from a structured start.

Individual considerations for this practice were considering the distances covered by the players starting at the poles to support play, as well as when players had to play overloaded or underloaded.

Practice 3

This practice begins with the coach playing a pass into the white team who are 2v1. The two whites are then tasked with joining the 2v3 in the other half, either through dribbling the ball over the line or passing to a white in that half. After they successfully get over the line, the game becomes 4v4. Any red goal (whether off the 1v2, or once the game becomes 4v4 takes a point off the white team).

Each team would get 10 attacks each (balls starting from the coach), the scoring system was:

  1. A first time finish = 2 points.
  2. Goal in less than 5 passes = 2 points
  3. Defending team goal = -1 Point.
  4. “Normal” goal for the attacking team = 1 point.

The final rule for the practice was that if the whites managed to force the reds to lose the ball off the pitch (throw in’s or corners), before crossing the dotted line in the 4v4, a coach would throw in a second ball to the white team to allow them to continue their attack. The attacking team was limited to 2 balls per attack, on the third situation the ball went out of play, the game started again with the coach playing into the 2v1. If the reds managed to cross the dotted line when attacking the goal, no second ball is to be played. The point of this was to simulate a quickly taken set-piece which then in turn created a chaotic situation often leading the defending team to be unorganised, it was here that the attacking team often scored a goal in less than 5 passes.

If the red defender in the 2v1 zone manages to win the ball, they cannot pass backwards over the line, only attempt to score. A successful goal meant -1 to the whites points total. For this practice, an individual consideration was on the red player in the 2v1 zone, working on their individual skills to win the ball back (through either tackles or interceptions), and then score within the tight space, without support from the 3 players locked in the other half.

Both teams would get ten balls to score as many points as possible, after ten balls the reds and whites swapped their roles in the practice. I tried to vary who started in each half 2/3 times each set of ten balls.

Practice 4

This game begins with a ball played from either the coach or the goalkeeper into the reds who are 3v4 in the “bigger” area of the pitch. If a goal is scored, whites and red’s in the larger area swap roles, and play begins again from the coach/goalkeeper.

If the white team manage to regain the ball and score in the two smaller wide position goals, the yellow player stationed on that side has two touches to deliver a cross into the 2v2 in the second area of the pitch, to practice attacking a backline which is retreating towards its goal.

Individual considerations here were, specific defending situations (dropping back line) for the defending team, dealing with crosses, and for the yellow players to practice crossing techniques.

If the ball was not successfully progressed into the 2v2 area, I would occasionally put in a second ball into the 2v2 (not every round), to create a chaotic 2v2 situation, where either the reds (as in the diagram) would attack with whites recovering, or the whites attacking against a settled defence.

Progressed the practice with varying rules such as, the opposite yellow to the crossing yellow could come inside as a recovering defender or a “back post” attacker, & players from the 3v3 could sprint into the box to practice recovering actions.


Hopefully in this short article I managed to portray some examples of how through thoughtful practice design we can offer more exposure to our players to certain contexts, situations & individual considerations. I thought about including some further sessions where individual (and team) constraints were used for exposure, but I already wrote about that in-depth here:

Hope you found this piece somewhat useful, for any further discussion please reach out to me through Twitter.

Best wishes.

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