A STEP in the right direction

A STEP in the right direction

“I only have a quarter of a full-size pitch to train on. What can I do to provide my players with inspirational experiences at training?” 

Thinking creatively about how to use the space, tasks given, equipment available and work with player numbers during training sessions can give huge variety and experiences to your players. Here are some ideas for you to consider: 


Just because you have a pitch to train on doesn’t mean you have to use all of it, all of the time. Editing the size of the areas for practices and training matches will provide a variety of development opportunities for players.  

  • Consider how the physical movements and output of players may differ by playing a 5v5 match in a 30x40 yard area compared to a 50x70 yard area 
  • How may playing 5v5 in a 40x60 yard area support players to scan for and exploit space in comparison to a 20x30 yard area? 
  • What passing techniques may a player utilise when playing 5v5 on a third of a pitch compared with 3v3 and 2v2 small-sided games on 20x30 yard pitches? 


When we coach our players, a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not always beneficial. Try to increase or reduce the challenge for individuals, a team or the whole squad by providing restrictions, challenges, or rewards. Think about attacking and defending ‘thinking skills’ along with technical actions developed by individuals and teams when introducing the examples below: 

  • Both teams in a training match are rewarded by goals scored with one touch counting double. 
  • One of your players is restricted to a maximum of three touches. 
  • Challenge a team to create and exploit space in midfield when building an attack; “Try to maintain possession in your defending third until three or more opponents are within that third .” 


Not all of us have two shiny white goals with nets for players to score in when we play training matches. Here are some ideas of scoring methods you could use if you don’t have goals or if you feel it’s of benefit to your players: 

  • Place three to five footballs on cones close together at each end of the pitch. Players have to knock them off to score. The number knocked off with each shot = number of goals scored. 
  • Use two cones five yards apart at each end of the pitch, as goals. Place them within the pitch so there is space between the goal and the goal line. To score a team can either pass or travel with the ball in any direction through the cones. 
  • Mark two american football style end zones at each end of a pitch. To score, a player has to receive a pass within the end zone. Neither the attacking or defending team can enter the end zone before a scoring pass attempt is made. 


Just because you have 14 at training doesn’t mean you always have to play 7v7. Be creative with how you use the players you have available at training to provide a variety of matched up and uneven scenarios and experiences for them.  

  • What tactical outcomes may you get if you played 8v6, the team of 6 starting 3-0 up?  
  • How may playing 4v4 and 3v3 games (or two 4v3 games) instead of a 7v7 game benefit your players technically and physically?  
  • Consider social and psychological returns may you get by starting 7v7 and each time a goal is scored the team conceding can steal a player from the opposition? 

We want our player to be capable of sensing, thinking and acting on a range of possibilities in a variety of scenarios. You have the power and creativity to edit, adapt and manipulate your training session to help them do just that. 

Let us know if and how you use different game formats with your players. If you have any questions about this subject please post them below. 

Credit to Youth Sports Trust (2022)for the creation of the STEP framework.

  • i love this,  a great tool not just for the players but for the parents also.

    if you had say 16 players turn up and ask them to pair up over the whole pitch as a 1v1.

    with the use of a visual aid hightlight each 1v1 so you have 8 squares.

    this automatically shows players and parents that these battles take place in every area.

    coaching the skills of being brave to take on a player( in posseion) and the skills on how to defend or delay (out of possesion.

    just that first simple session can be so effective .

    the progression can then move to 3v2, 4v4 and so on in different areas and with specific coaching for different areas.

    linking up different boxes with others for scanning, passing, communicating etc

    you could coach for years just adopting that  aid.