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A wide-angle shot showing a group of boys, who are in pairs, controlling and passing a ball to their teammate during a training activity.

Receiving session: north, south, east, west

Mark Leigh, FA grassroots coach development officer, shares a session that helps players think about receiving.

Session plan

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


To start, set up a square area approximately 30x30 yards. Then, along each side of the area, attach a zone around ten yards deep. Name these zones north, south, east and west.

We've created this practice with 14 players, playing in two teams of seven. You’ll need to divide each team into two defenders, three midfielders and two attackers.

Once you’ve done this, position the players to play across the pitch in different directions. One team will have their defenders and attackers in the north and south zones. The other team will have theirs in the east and west zones. Both teams' midfielders will play in the middle zone.

How to play

Unopposed with interference

The practice starts with an unopposed activity. The aim is for each team to move the ball back and forth through their three zones.

Having both teams playing across each other adds interference and increases the need for decision-making.

To begin with, players should stay in their zones. A progression could be to allow defenders or attackers to move into midfield, with teammates rotating to take their place in the end zones.

Opposed practice

For this stage, remove one of the footballs.

The ball starts with the defenders in the end zone. One defender passes to their teammate who then plays into midfield. Doing this gives the midfielders time to create space before receiving a pass.

The aim is to play through the midfield zone and into their attackers to score a point.

When a team scores, the attackers play the ball to the opposing team's defenders to start the activity again.

If the defending team's midfielders win the ball, they can play it into their attackers to score a point.


For the final stage, turn the practice into a match.

To do this, remove the east and west zones. The attackers and defenders from each team now occupy the north and south zones.

Extend the north and south zones to add a new area for a goal. Ask a defender from each team to become a goalkeeper.

If you don't have goalkeepers at training, outfield players could take turns, or you could play without a keeper and set a challenge, such as scoring with a one-touch finish.

Players stay within their zones, but you can slowly remove the restrictions as they understand how the game works. The aim is to play the ball through the thirds and score.


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

  • Add grids to the opposed practice. Split the midfield zone into four and add a rule that players can't share a square with a teammate. On top of this, allow the defenders to dribble into any free squares to create an overload.
  • During the match, allow free movement between the zones when in possession. Doing this creates overloads and encourages the opportunity to practice receiving.

Remember, learning takes time. So don’t alter things too quickly or too much. Using the STEP framework (Youth Sports Trust, 2002) can help keep things fun, engaging and appropriate.

Want more info on this session? Watch our tactics board explainer on YouTube.

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