The Retreat Line Playing Out From The Back

Youth Session Plan – The Retreat Line Playing Out From The Back

Objective: To encourage players to use the retreat line law to play out from the back

The Set Up: Either use half a mini soccer pitch or mark out an equivalent area. The size will depend upon the age group, number of players and their ability.

4+GK v 2 –  The objective for the goal keeper and the 4 defenders is to get that ball across the retreat line (halfway line) under control on 8 out of 10 attempts. Each attempt starts with the goal keeper taking a goal kick on the floor from the edge of his penalty area. When the keeper passes the ball to one of the defenders the two attackers can run towards the ball from the retreat line, one pressuring the ball the other providing cover.

The four defenders need to react to the movement of the two attackers by exploiting the space, usually by passing the ball back and or across the pitch to exploit the width. The four defenders have to get the ball across the line by either dribbling it or passing to a team mate who has made a run.

Based on the numbers the objective looks quite easy for the defenders to achieve  but the two attackers can prevent the four defenders achieving the objective by either scoring a goal or getting the ball out of play. Making the objective much harder than it initially appears.

If you have extra players rotate them with the two attackers as it can be a tiring game for them.


Progression to the next exercise will depend on how successful the defenders are, If they achieve the objective you may want to increase the number of opponents in the following possession game, making the overload less favourable for the defenders.

5v2 Possession: This is a simple possession game that encourages the players to use the width of the pitch. The game is played in half a mini soccer pitch as before. The five defenders start with ball and try to keep possession by passing and dribbling. If one of the attackers intercepts the ball, they swap places with their opponent.


After playing this game for about 5-10 minutes go back to the 4+GK v 2 exercise, if the defenders achieved the objective first time around increase the number of attackers to make it more challenging for the defenders.

Normal Game: Focus on the skills learnt in the session, giving particular praise to players taking opportunities to play out from the back


Vision and Awareness

Youth Session Plan – Vision and Awareness

Objective: To give players lots of opportunities to make decisions based on what they see (adapted from a session on

The Set Up: Magic Rectangle – The overall pitch size is 45×35 yards with each corner square 15×15 yards. Adjust according to age, ability and number of players.


Possession with Interference – This game is played ideally with two teams of four. One of the teams has a ball each, the other team stand around the outside of the square.


The players on the outside have to pass their ball around the area. The players on the inside have to dribble their ball to towards the outside players and block them from making a pass. This should encourage the outside players to play with their head up and exploit any space that is created. As a progression the players on the outside can be allowed to move into the square to receive the ball, then either check back out of the square with the ball or pass it to a team mate.

You can make the game competitive by giving the dribblers a point for each time they block a pass and give the players on the outside a point for a certain number of completed passes.

Making Runs: Two small target areas are added just outside the squares used in the previous game. Place a player in each target area who are playing for both teams. To start two teams of 3 play with a ball each in the square play bi-directional passing the ball to their team mates and eventually to a target player who returns the ball for them to attack the opposite end. players should be encouraged to create space to receive a pass.


To progress the game and make it competitive take one of the balls away. The game still remains bi-directional but each team receives a point for transferring the ball from one target player to the other without losing possession. Don’t forget to rotate the target players.

One – Nil Game: This game can played small sided (i.e 4v4) or with larger numbers like a normal game. The basic rule of the game is that you can only win by one goal.


The game is played according to the usual rules, with the exception that when a goal is scored, the team that scored must just try and keep possession and can’t score into the goal. If they do, the goal is disallowed and a goal kick ensues. If the other team then equalise the score is reset to 0-0 and both teams can try and score.

This is an excellent possession game and also allows a team to play out time by keeping possession.

Possession with Purpose

Youth Team Session Plan – Possession with Purpose

Objective: Possession with Purpose (This session is one I adapted from a session posted on twitter by Gavin McLeod (@GavMac21) Cincinnati Saints NPSL Head Coach)

The Set Up: One or two pitches (dependant on numbers) I used 50×25, but use whats appropriate to your team and the space available.

Ball Work – As the players arrive partner them up and get them passing between two. After each successful set of 8 to 10 passes get them to take a step further away from each other. How far apart can they complete 8 to 10 passes?

Pass and Move Unopposed: Split the players in two and play in separate halves of the pitch. The play is unopposed with players passing the ball in their group and moving into space. Those not in possession should also be constantly moving into what they feel is the best space. So the picture is constantly changing for the player in possession.


You can start the exercise off by getting players to roll the ball to each other along the ground. Once players understand what is expected they can then pass the ball, if they can using one or two touches. Other progressions included using a passing sequence (short, short, long). Then make it competitive by seeing which team can make the most passes in 1 minute.

Keepaway: Using the same area as the previous exercise play this keepaway game (5×3, 5v2, 4v2 etc)


The objective for the team with the ball to retain possession in their own half of the pitch, whilst 2 or 3 players from the other group try to recover possession. The attackers get a point for every time they complete a set number of passes without the defenders getting the ball, or the ball going out of the grid. If they defenders gain possession they should look to switch the ball to their free team mates in the other area and move back to provide passing options for their team mates. 2 or 3 players from the team that lost possession now go and defend in the other half.

Four Goal Game:  A regular game but each team has a goal in each corner they can shoot for.


The use of four goals means that players will learn to use the space on the flanks by switching play. As a result the game should increase awareness and encourage players to play with their heads up, rather than looking down at the ball all the time. The team without possession need to play smart because the extra goal will make it seem like they are playing a player down.

Normal Game: Focus on the skills learnt in the session, giving particular praise to players taking players making decisions that enable their team to maintain possession.

The Real Madrid Game – Variation

Real Madrid Game – Variation

This game has both the elements that I loved about football as a kid, hitting the ball against a wall or fence to try and control it and scoring goals.


This game has the benefits of increasing the pitch size when used indoors or in a caged area encouraging players to use the extra space effectively.

Just like the Real Madrid game the team in possession have to get into the other half and score in the goal that is backed onto their goal. Each team must have at least one player in each half at all times. But before they can shoot at the goal they have to hit the ball off the back fence, wall or bench in the half they are attacking. Whenever the ball goes back into their defensive half of the pitch the have to hit the back again before they can score.

This game forces players to switch play quickly and tests their reaction to unpredictable bounces off the wall or fence and it encourages players to take shooting opportunties. It can take the players a little time to figure out the strategy.

If you only have one goalkeeper use a couple of cones as goals so the keeper to change the way he faces dependent on which team is attacking.