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A player running with the ball while being pressured by an opponent on his left.

Pressing session: press, cover and balance

Chris Sulley, FA youth coach developer, shares a session that helps players practise their pressing skills.

Session plan

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


This is an overloaded game, with four attackers and two defenders. Set up an area that’s 10x8 metres and place footballs around the edge. Begin with the two attackers at each end of the area and the two defenders in the middle. 

How to play

As the pitch is small, it provides plenty of opportunities to press and intercept the ball. Players get points when they intercept the ball or force the opposition to make a mistake. 

The attacking team starts with the ball and tries to keep possession by passing it to one another. The defenders work together to press the player with the ball.  

A misplaced pass or player running with the ball toward their own goal can be a good time for the defending team to press. They can intercept or force the attackers to kick the ball out of play, but they aren’t allowed to make a tackle. 

After 30 seconds to a minute, switch players around.  

With a large team, try setting up two or three playing areas. And use other coaches or players to manage these games.  

Repeat two or three times and ensure players take plenty of breaks. 



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

Progressions will also help players develop their understanding of pressing.  

Here are some examples. 

  1. Create a small-sided 3v3 end zone game. The aim is for each team to get the ball inside the end zone. The defending team works together to press the player with the ball. Even-numbered teams mean the defenders can press the attackers more often. This format also encourages defenders to run with attackers who are trying to get into the end zone.

  2. Increase the number of players to 5v5, including a keeper on each side. Replace end zones with goals. This increases the need for the defenders to press the ball and prevent shots on goal.

  3. Increase the size of the area to a quarter of a pitch and turn the game into 7v7. Introduce zones to each side of the pitch. One player from the team with the ball can enter these zones. One defender can enter once the ball is passed to the player inside it. A halfway line can be created to make it more realistic – and offside can be introduced.  

Whatever progression you choose, remember that 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.

Extra resources 

Want more info on this session? Watch our:

Once you’ve put this session into practice, share your experience on the England Football Community.