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EFL session graphic mobile header showing an U14 defender, stood behind his opponent, moving to stick his right leg out to try to intercept the ball as it approaches.

Intercepting session: intercept, break and score

The FA’s Stacey Miles shares a session that helps players work on their intercepting skills.  
Intercept, break and score

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

Set up an area that’s appropriate for your players’ age and developmental stage. For this practice, we used a small rectangular area from the centre circle to the 18-yard box.

Place a goal at either end of the area and some footballs around the pitch to use when the ball goes out of play. For this practice, we had a keeper in each goal and three players on each side. You can adjust these numbers to suit your team.

The players move the ball around the pitch by hand. The attacking team should aim to score a goal by throwing the ball into the net. And the defending team should try to win the ball by intercepting it.

The game starts with a keeper running with the ball or throwing it to a teammate. The next player does the same – and so on. The opposing team tries to win the ball back by tagging the ball or intercepting a pass. If this happens, then the intercepting team become the attackers.

If the defending team intercept, they are awarded three points. If the attacking team score, they get one point. But they get an extra point every time they make a successful pass before a goal. Encouraging a team to pass more increases the opportunity for the other team to intercept. It also helps players to practice keeping the ball under pressure.

If the ball goes out of play, players restart the game with a throw-in. They can use the original ball or one of the spares from the side of the pitch.

Teams should watch their opposition’s body shape. This is especially true if a player is about to throw the ball – which is a great time to intercept. Coaches can support players with interceptions by showing them how to move and position their bodies. They should also provide praise and encourage players to talk to each other.

If your players master your activity – or find it too hard – try adding a progression. Here are some examples.

If your players are struggling to intercept, try reducing the number of attackers to create an overload in favour of the defending team. Alternatively, introduce a rule where players can’t move with the ball. This makes teams pass more, which slows the game down and increases the chance of an interception.

If your players are finding it too easy to intercept, decrease the number of defenders to create an overload in favour of the attacking team.

To add another layer of difficulty, challenge teams to pass as much as possible before scoring. You could also try switching the activity to a 4v4 game of football. The point system stays the same, but the ball is on the floor and passes are made with players’ feet. If the ball goes out, players restart the game by passing or dribbling it in.

If your players master this, try increasing the size of your pitch. Then, add a goal at one end and an end zone at the other. This makes your practice more realistic.

Whatever you do, remember that learning takes time. So, do not alter your activity too quickly – or too much. Try using the STEP framework (Youth Sports Trust, 2002). This helps keep things fun, engaging and appropriate.   

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