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2 young players throw a rugby ball, a football is on the ground beside them

Which ball is best?

Pete Sturgess, FA national 5-11 lead, delivers a high-energy game. It creates overloads, encourages different movements and provides plenty of goals.

Which ball is best?

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


Set up an appropriate area for your players to participate in a small-sided game. Pete uses a 4v4, but the activity can be adapted to your numbers.  

Place a goal at either end of your area and place various balls along each touchline. You could have a mixture of footballs, rugby balls and netballs. It’s up to you. 


Start by playing a classic football game: both teams attack and defend, and a point is awarded for every goal. But there are two twists.  

First, each time the ball goes out, the player that last touched it must go and get it. While this happens, the other team can grab one of the touchline balls and restart the game. Encourage them to do this quickly to take advantage of having more players than their opposition. 

The player retrieving the ball must place it where the touchline ball – which the players are now using – came from. They can then re-join the game and even up the numbers.  

Here’s the second twist: if a player grabs a ball from a different sport, everyone must adopt the associated rules. For example, if using a rugby ball, only passing backwards and scoring by placing the ball on or over the goal line.


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

To make the game a bit easier, increase the size of the area. This provides more space for players to exploit when they have an overload. Plus, it gives them more thinking time. The trade-off is that your team have to cover larger distances.
Alternatively, try altering the equipment available to the players to make the game harder. Introduce even more sports balls, such as netballs and basketballs, and adopt the rules of those sports when they’re in play. For example, throwing the ball against the crossbar to score.  

But remember, learning takes time. So don’t 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.   

If you use this session with your team, let us know how you get on by posting in the England Football Community.