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England's Nikita Parris turns with the ball out wide during a match with Luxembourg.

Turning is all about changing direction. It helps players keep possession and allows them to create, exploit and even deny space. 

There are so many different turns in football, and teams use this skill all over the pitch. Examples of techniques include a drag back, stepover or Cruyff turn. These movements help change the direction of travel. 

But turning also happens when players roll their opponent and dart into space to make a run. And it can be as simple as changing body positioning to receive a pass or face an opponent. 

To be able to turn effectively, players need to:  

  • know what’s around them (position of the ball, opponents, teammates, space)  
  • judge the flight and speed of the ball to inform how and when to turn  
  • be able to use different types of turns and know which one to use  
  • get in the best position to turn  
  • have good physical literacy skills to make the right movements  
  • take the right number of touches (if turning while on the ball)  
  • follow it up with another well-executed action (e.g. a pass, a shot, a tackle).

If players get turning right, they can exploit space and catch the opposition out. Or, from a defensive viewpoint, limit their opponents’ options. But mastering this skill is tricky, so teams need lots of realistic practice.  


Check out the video to see examples of different turns and hear players discuss the skill.

Here are some ways to help your players develop their turning skills.    

1. Play in different positions

Trying different positions gives players more experience of turning and helps them hone their techniques. While no position requires players to turn in a particular way, where they are on the pitch provides them with different turning experiences. Here are some examples. 

  • Modern-day goalkeepers and centre-backs commonly work together to build up from the back. Here, they open up their body to turn and switch the ball from one side of the pitch to the other. This changes the direction of play and moves the opposition around – which leaves space to attack. 

  • Wingers tend to find themselves faced with an opponent 1v1 out wide. As a result, they need to be quick and creative when turning to get past them – or to stay on the ball as they wait for support. 

  • Strikers may experience being pinned up, back to goal, against a defender. Here they have to work on developing a tighter turning circle. This gives them a better chance of spinning off and getting in behind their marker.  

Exposure to different playing positions helps your team discover when and how to turn. And the more experience they have at turning in different ways, the more adaptable and creative they’ll be. 

2. Use small-sided games in narrow areas

If we want players to be skilful at turning, we need to create an environment where they can perform turns regularly. Small-sided games can help here. Putting players in smaller formats provides more repetition. This means there’s more chance for them to improve their techniques.  

To help with turning, try playing 2v2s or 3v3s, but in a narrow area. This creates more 1v1 opportunities where players have to use different turns to get past an opponent or find a teammate for support. 

3. Develop ABCs

Agility, balance and coordination are crucial in being able to turn. If we can help our players develop these abilities, they’ll be able to execute turns at quicker speeds and at the right times.  

To do this, provide your team with a variety of games. These can be with or without a ball. For instance, tag games, or playground games they get involved with at school. These activities naturally provide repetition of stopping, turning, accelerating, decelerating and changing direction.   

Handball and tag rugby can help too. Sure, your players will have ball-in-hand in these examples. But they’re good activities to get them used to turning before practising with a ball at their feet. You could also give our which ball is best session a go.