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A training session taking place outdoors at night.
whole part whole graphic

Whole-part-whole includes three sections. It starts with the whole team playing a game. You then split them into smaller groups to focus on a specific technique or skill. Finally, you finish with another whole-group game. 

The group sessions could be small number games like a 2v2 or 3v2, a chance to practise techniques, or even one of each. You can see the different options in the image above. 

Here’s an example of a simple session that focuses on finishing: 

  • Whole – a whole-group game where they have to show three different types of finish. 
  • Part – small number games focused on different types of finishing. The smaller team numbers mean players have more opportunities to practise each type.
  • Whole – another whole-group game where you award points for the type of finish used (e.g., first-touch finish). The team with the most points wins. 

This approach provides players with repetition. And it breaks the game down, making the practice deliberate and focused. 

Here, Ben Hardaker and Sarah Lowden discuss the benefits of a whole-part-whole approach. 


The carousel approach allows your team to practise a range of related skills in small groups. They then come together to test those skills in a realistic matchday environment. 

Set up three or four stations focusing on a different skill related to the session's theme. Some examples are included in the image above. After their warm-up, split your team into smaller groups and assign them a station. Rotate the teams to give everyone a chance to take part in each area. Players can get bored easily, so this helps keep them engaged. 

Once everyone has had a go at each practice, bring the team back together and play a match. This allows the team to practise the skills in a matchday environment. 

Make sure you think about who you group each player with, or which skills they need to work on. Always take individual needs into account when planning.  

In this video, Sarah and Ben discuss the benefits of using a carousel session. 

Up the steps 


An up the steps approach allows you to gradually increase the difficulty level throughout the session. 

With this structure you can start small by practising individual techniques. You then build on this by incorporating those into small group games (2v2, 3v3, 5v5). For example, if you're working on dribbling, the first step might be moving around cones. The second step would then introduce defenders. The session becomes more complex but still focuses on the same technique or skill.  

After having the time to work on a set skill, players can then try to put it into practise in a whole-group game at the end. As an incentive, make sure the game rewards players for demonstrating the skill they've been practising.   

Watch Ben and Sarah talk more about this approach here. 

  1. Make sure your sessions follow the ‘Three Rs approach’. They should be realistic to the game and relevant to your players' age group. They should also offer repetition to give players plenty of practise. 

  2. Keep your players' needs at the forefront when deciding which type of session to use.

  3. Vary your practices; don't use one type of session – mix it up to keep it interesting. 

  4. Give rationale – explain the benefits of a particular session or practice.