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A group of young players
SESSION

Control both pitches

Amy Price, FA women's national coach developer, shares a video-game-inspired session that gives players ownership and tests their problem-solving skills.

This session helps players to: 

  • make and tweak game plans 
  • detect key information about the game and the players 

  • impact their next move by setting game problems. 

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Session plan

Want to try this with your team? Download the session plan and give it a go.

 

Organisation

Set up two areas that are parallel with each other. Ensure there's a small gap between and that they're appropriate for your players' age and developmental stage. Both pitches have goals at each end and a halfway line. As shown in the graphic, they also have a wide lane. One pitch needs the wide lane on the left, while the other has it on the right. Depending on the area size and age of your team, you may wish to include offside lines. 

You'll also need two whiteboards – place them in the gap between both pitches. Players will use these to discuss tactics during pauses in the game. 

For this practice, we have 18 players, but you can adapt this based on your numbers. In our example, the players are divided into two teams of nine. Each team is then split over the two pitches. On the first pitch, arrange a 4v4. On the second, a 5v5. If you're using a mixture of large and small goals, ensure that both teams have an equal opportunity to score into both. Goalkeepers can be used in large goals. 

Each team will play multiple games on both pitches. 

 

How to play

First, agree on how long games should be, set a timer and let both games play. 

The aim of this activity is to win your game. If a team wins on both pitches, they 'level up' for the next game. 

Our example has six levels, but you can adapt this to suit your numbers. Each level requires players to decide who can play on both pitches (roaming) – allowing teams to create an overload when needed. Both teams start at level one. Let's take a closer look. 

  • Level zero: nobody can roam both pitches. 
  • Level one: choose one player that can roam both pitches. 
  • Level two: choose two players that can roam both pitches. 
  • Level three: choose three players that can roam both pitches. 
  • Level four: choose four players that can roam both pitches. 
  • Level five: the boss-level challenge. 

If a team loses both their games, they drop a level. A team cannot drop below level zero. 

If neither side wins both games, allow your players to talk tactics and try again. 

If a team reaches level five, the 'boss', they face a final challenge. This is to win on both pitches without conceding a goal in the last two minutes of both games. Do that, and they win the whole game, achieving the overall mission to control both pitches. 

To help solve the problems this activity poses, teams can try the following video-game-inspired actions. 

First up: each team can use one 'save' at any time and on any level. This means they can't level down even if they lose on both pitches. 

They can also use a 'superpower'. It's advised to introduce this once they've had time to play and understand how the game works. To include a superpower, place a tied-up bib anywhere on the pitch (have at least one per pitch). When a team has possession, any player from that team on that pitch can pick up the bib and move into the wide lane. Here, they can have a maximum of three touches unopposed (the third touch must leave the wide lane). When possession is lost, the superpower bib must be dropped straight away. 

Players can also 'pause' the game. Once again, it's advised to introduce this once they've had time to play and understand how the game works. At any time in a game, on either pitch, a team can decide to pause the game for 60 seconds. During that time, they can choose from one of these things: 

  • cheat with the last goal wins
  • change which opposing player can roam both pitches
  • ask for a clue so the coach can help them based on what they've noticed
  • challenge themselves by awarding all non-foul restarts to the opponent. 

The pause must be timed, by the coach or a team captain, so it doesn't run over. While one team pauses, the other side might use this time to discuss their tactics, rest and grab a drink, or observe play on the other pitch. 

At the end of the session, note what levels the teams finished on. Then they can pick up from where they left off the next time they play. 

Progression

In this game, there is no need to plan for progressions. As the players solve game problems and level up, the game will automatically progress to the next level. Also, using superpowers and pauses will support the players when they need it. 

It's possible to play this game multiple times with the same group of players without having to adapt it. After all, it will take time for the players to master it and reach the boss level. 

Plan to use this with your team? Let us know how you get on by posting in the England Football Community forums.