Practice design in football: parallel games
Planning your training session? In a series of articles, we examine five activities to help engage and develop your players. Here, we look at parallel games.
What is a parallel game in football?
In this type of activity, two (or more) pitches are set-up next to each other. This allows different games to happen at the same time – and it's a great way to support the varied needs of your players.
The key is to work on the same learning objective on both pitches, but assign specific rules to each pitch. These rules should be tailored to the development of your players. Let's take a look at an example.
Imagine you're working with a group of mixed-ability players who need to practise finding and using space. A great starting point is to create a game that rewards keeping possession.
However, as the group is of mixed ability, some players will find this task easier than others. Implementing parallel games can help you to address this imbalance. Here's how they can be used in our example:
- Create two pitches.
- On pitch one, set-up a 4v4 game. Reward teams for the number of passes they make in the build-up to a goal. For instance, five passes and a goal equates to five points.
- On pitch two, make this activity harder – and challenge your most-skilled players. This could be as simple as switching the format to 5v3 to create an overload.
In addition to helping you manage difference, parallel games are a quick and easy way to kick-start training. Simply create your pitches before the session starts and write the rules for each area on a clearly visible whiteboard. As your team arrive, direct individuals to the pitch that best suits their developmental needs. Once players know what to do and where to go, they can run the games themselves.
How do I create a target game?
- Set up the number of pitches you want alongside each other.
- Place the cones in a position where you only need to move them away if you transition to a bigger game.
- Note your scoring system and challenges on a whiteboard. This helps players to follow along.
- Try and ensure the challenges you set relate to their developmental needs and the wider session.
- Alternate which part of The FA Four Corner Model they'll be working in to ensure their holistic development.
- Don't be afraid to let the players adapt the challenges with support from you.
What does a target game look like in real life?
Watch the video below to see the parallel game that Sally Needham, a former FA county coach developer, uses in one of her sessions.