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A 1v1 where the defender is running alongside the attacker to try and get in position to challenge for the ball.

Tackling session: 1v1 challenging grid

Darren Grover, FA physical education and coach development officer, shares a session that helps players think about challenging for the ball.

Session plan

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



To set up, mark out a square grid and split it into four equal boxes with a safe zone down the middle. 

In this example aimed at 12–16-year-olds, the grid is 20x20 yards and starts on the edge of the six-yard box. You can adapt the space depending on the age and stage of your players.


How to play

Split your players into two teams of four plus two ‘servers’.  

A player from each team will start the game in all four boxes on the grid. One player will be an attacker, and the other a defender.  

The servers stand at either end of the grid with two footballs. They start the game by passing a ball to the attacker in each box. 

The aim is for each attacker to try and move the ball into the safe zone to score a point. The defenders can score points by winning the ball back and returning it to the server.  

When a point is scored, the attacker and defender swap roles.  

Play the game for five minutes, then add up the scores across all the squares for each team. Make sure to swap the teams around so every player has a go at being a server. 



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

  • Merge the squares on either side of the safe zone to make it a 2v2. This focuses more on pressing, communicating and challenging as a pair.  
  • Add goals and turn the servers into goalkeepers. This increases the focus on finishing when defenders win the ball.   

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.