Decision Making in Small Side Games

Playing Line Football was one of the first Small Sided Games (SSGs) I was ever shown. To score the players have to run the ball over the opponent’s End Line.

Basic Line Footbal

I like it and still use it regularly but I thought I would share a few tweaks I have used from time to time with the basic game to encourage more decision making and more running with the ball.

The Tagging Rule

Often players will try to run over the End Line almost like scoring a try in the corner in rugby. They may be running into a dead end but if they just make it over then it is a goal. I didn’t really want the players to get success by running with the ball like this so I introduced a rule that a goal didn’t count if a defender could touch or ‘Tag’ you within 2m of the End Line. This encourages the players to scan for options, position themselves better and make more decisions about how much space they are in or their team mates are in as the defenders don’t have to win the ball just get close enough to touch you to stop a goal.

End Zones

Regularly players will score goals by simply standing away from the other players near the End Line and then taking 1st Touch over. As my tweaks are trying to encourage more running with the ball I don’t want players to score when there could be no running with the ball involved in the move at all. So I have introduced End Zones (any size you want) at each end of the pitch. Now to score you have to run the ball both into the End Zone and over the End line.

Line Football

This had the added benefit of introducing an element of offside into the game if you say no one is allowed in the End Zone before the ball. I got the idea from John Allpress in a brilliant video from the Dorset FA which is well worth looking up on YouTube.

Using the same set up I have added a condition were one player must run the ball into End Zone and another over the End Line. This encourages more players running with the ball and the runner  to create space for their team mates.

One of the problems with Line Football is that although players enjoy it but after a while they really want to shoot at a goal. The above set up with End Zones can be used to keep the theme going after you introduce goals.

Line Football with GKS

Now before a goal can be scored the players have to run the ball into the End Zone. You can use a similar progression to the previous set up that the player who runs the ball into the End Zone cannot be the goal scorer. Although when I used that progression recently I felt it encouraged the players to simply run into the corner and cross the ball rather than make a decision.

It is such a widely used SSG that I am sure there have been lots of tweaks used by Coaches and would love to hear about them so we can all benefit.

Thanks to all the Coaches who contact me and retweet my blog it is really appreciated.

Till next time


Repetition without Repetition

I have mentioned before about how over the last year or so I have started to use small sided games (SSGs) throughout my sessions from start to finish. Lately I have added another variation to working this way that I am still evaluating but so far it has worked well.

I have started having an additional constant condition on all SSGs played throughout a number of sessions to encourage a certain style of play. For example recently I wanted to encourage more attacking combination play in the sessions so for 3 weeks every SSG we played had an additional constant condition that you could not pass back to the player who passed to you.

Each session had a different core skill as its topic so we played different SSGs but there was an overall theme to each session of combination play.

As always there was still a time in each session when the players had free play and all conditions were removed.

NB – By the way this condition is an excellent stand-alone condition too because it provoked players to move off the ball because they knew were more likely to get the ball plus it encouraged players to scan more because they couldn’t just give the ball straight back if getting closed down.

A previous constant condition I have used was that every player had to have a minimum two touches whenever they got the ball. The overall theme was building the play up from our own half so I was trying to encourage players to plan their 1st Touch. I felt this condition was successful too.

Like I said I have only recently begun having this constant condition from session to session in the last 4/5 months so it is too early to tell how successful it has been but there are some things I have noticed.

– the sessions are more obviously linked so I feel this is helping the players understand the connection between the sessions and the core skills.

– easier for players to revisit or bed in or build upon the learning from previous sessions.

– the players ‘almost forget’ the additional constant condition and simply play in the style the condition encourages focusing more on the topic of that particular session. It feels like it is practice for following a game plan.

– easier for me to plan session as overall theme is taken care of.

As previously mentioned I have just begun working in this way and I would be very interested to hear from other Coaches who have done something similar or from any Coach who has read the blog to get their thoughts on the positives and negatives of working this way for the players.

Thank you to everyone who engages with the blog it is really appreciated.

Look forward to hearing from you

Please leave a comment or email me

Follow me on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Till next time

So what did you learn today?

My last blog was about how sometimes as Coaches we get fixated on using an exercise that we have seen and use it despite it not really being appropriate for the session you are doing.

I got my point across fairly quickly and I thought the blog was a little too short so I added what changes I made after I reviewed the session and how these worked with the next session.

Surprisingly I got more feedback on the fact that I reviewed the session that I got from the topic itself. This really made me think about what I had written as if I am honest I would have never written anything about reviewing the session if it had taken me longer to get my initial point across.

I have read before about how we can learn something valuable but completely off topic from everything and this really brought it home to me. It started me thinking that if I do a game based training session that focuses on a player’s 1st Touch for example what else can be learnt.

First thing that came to mind was for there to be lots of 1st Touches there has to be lots of passes so clearly different ways to strike the ball with different parts of the foot, speed of the pass, accuracy of pass plus a whole variety of types of passes from driven to chipped can all be learnt.

Second thing that came to mind was if the players have lots of 1st Touches then they have to position themselves frequently to receive those passes so clearly we have looking for space, looking for options, losing an opponent and timing of runs to receive the ball.

Next if there are lots of passes then there needs to be frequent communication between the players so now we get checking for opponents shutting team mates down, making sure team mates know they have time plus all the other information that can be passed on.

Clearly there are many more so no matter how well the session is planned I can only point the players or encourage the players to learn the topic I intended but it could be just as likely that they have learnt something else that improves them as a player.

As always I need to hear other Coach’s’ opinions so we can all improve.

Thank you to everyone who engages with the blog it is really appreciated.

Look forward to hearing from you

Please leave a comment or email me

Follow me on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Till next time

Classic mistakes are always the best

Funny how even after planning so many sessions I can still make really elementary mistakes. After one of my recent blogs I was chatting with a Coach about the Dick Bate Session in Spokane that is on YouTube ( ) and I simply got too focused on using one of the exercises in the clip in my next session.

The topic of the session was 1st Touch specifically with the ball off the ground with an overall theme of trying to create goal scoring opportunities. My problem was that I wanted to use this exercise so much that I built my session around using it rather than the topic.

As I have stated in the past I am experimenting with making my sessions totally games based so I am using SSGs from start to finish in my sessions.

(Is this what we do at training? )

I ignored this by saying to myself that this exercise would be perfect for the warm up and will give the players lots of practice with the ball in the air. It is a good exercise but I wanted the players to have to deal with the ball coming at all heights and speeds and with this exercise I had to artificially create this. I had an overall theme of trying create goal scoring opportunities too which this exercise didn’t address either.

I made the classic error of seeing something that I liked and so finding a way to use it rather than thinking is it the right exercise for this session. Only three months ago I was critical of a Coach who used an exercise that I suspect he saw, like I did, only 24 hours earlier on Twitter. The exercise was clearly just plonked in the session and had no real reason to be there other than he had just seen it and wanted to use it.

This episode has taught me a valuable lesson that I need to constantly focus on the topic of the session and not the exercises I want to use. The content of the session is there to bring out the topic of the session and not something that resembles the topic but you feel like using.

If you are wondering what I feel I should have used then upon reflection I think I should have started simply with 2 x games of 4 v 4 and put on a condition that a goal doesn’t count unless the ball leaves the ground in some way for each pass.

I did this as a warm up in next session and it worked perfectly. The players got bounce passes, driven passes, flicked passes plus everything inbetween to control. I didn’t have to encourage the players to vary the service because there was natural variability in the passes and the players still got to maintain the overall theme of creating goal scoring opportunities and I simply expanded upon this condition throughout the session.

As always I need to hear other Coach’s opinions so we can all improve.

Thank you to everyone who engages with the blog it is really appreciated.

Look forward to hearing from you

Please leave a comment or email me

Follow me on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Till next time