Obviously, multiple scores are what you need to win the game, but there is no point in practicing your shooting if you never have possession of the ball. This is why it is super important for your team to have possession drills as well as shooting practice.
I’m going to go through 6 possession drills to give your team the edge, but before I do that your team needs to know the basics.
Are “Quick Decision Making” drills and “Ball Control in Tight Spaces” drills already a part of your training? If you said yes then great, continue to the 6 possession drills! If not, then let me dive into these two first.
They aren’t hard to wrap your head around, and they should be used as a baseline to help you with the other 6 drills I’ll show you later.
The Basics of Possession in Soccer
Quick Decision Making Drills
This drill is designed to help your players make decisions quickly, but also accurately. In this scenario, you have 4 players. Two on one team, two on another.
You want to have one player kick the ball to the other. When they do so the first player says a team color. Let’s say one team is orange and the other is green.
Player One says “orange”, so when Player Two receives the ball they have to pass it to an orange player. This has to be done quickly, making Player Two think fast to get the correct outcome.
You can make this harder by having multiple people around for Player Two to pick from. Player One could say “Orange, Brown Hair”, and then Player Two has to quickly know where that person is.
This makes your players speed up their thinking time, and after a while, their decision making will improve too.
Ball Control Drill
This is a simple Ball Control drill, but there are more complicated ones you can do.
For the basics, you should have cones in a pattern that your players have to dribble between. This will force them into having small delicate movements, keeping them precise and in control.
Once you feel they can do that well, tell them they are on the clock but the precision has to remain. After a while, your players will be quick and in control when it comes to small movements.
Those were the basics, but now onto some more complicated possession drills to keep your team in control of the ball. I’m going to tell you the basic structure of these drills, but you can make them more difficult as your players get better at their possession-keeping skills.
6 Soccer Drills to Keep Your Team In Possession of the Ball
The Purpose 4v4+3 Barcelona:
In this drill, the players will develop the ability to control the ball, and speed up their transitions from defense to offense.
There needs to be two teams of four players, all of which are trying to get possession of the ball. There are an additional 3 players in the drill who are neutral and ideally should already be good at keeping possession. Each team will receive a point for consecutive passes.
Setting Up 4v4+3 Barcelona:
- Using cones make a 25 x 20 yard rectangle.
- Set up the neutral team. They should be 3 players who are already good at keeping possession.
- One neutral player starts in the center of the rectangle, the other two start at opposite ends behind the cones.
- The other players are separated into two groups of four. Assign everyone colors.
- Team One starts as defensive players and should be inside the rectangle.
- Team Two starts as offensive players and should begin on the outside. Team Two should have two players on one side, separated by a neutral player on the adjacent sides of the rectangle, and the remaining Team Twos on the opposite side.
How To Play 4v4+3 Barcelona:
- The coach passes the ball to Team Two, the current offensive players.
- Team Two (offensive) and Team Neutral try to keep possession of the ball as Team One (defensive) tries to win it off them.
- After 8 consecutive passes, Team Two (offensive) earns a point.
- If Team One (defensive) wins the ball, they have to quickly transition into the outside positions. Team Neutral is now on their side, as they always stick with the offensive position. Team One (transition) can make passes between their teammates as they get into their new position.
- If Team Two (offensive) loses possession of the ball, they have to try and get it back before all of Team One (transition) get into position. If they fail, they continue as defensive.
- The team in the offensive position should always have two players on each side, not including Team Neutral’s side. Team Neutral cannot leave their side.
4v4+3 Barcelona Coaching Tips:
- Teach the players to transition quickly after losing the ball, to stop the other team from reaching the outside of the rectangle.
- Inform the players about good passing angles, to keep possession.
- Motivate defenders to win the ball and move as a team
- Inspire players to think about future passes in the moment, to keep the ball going.
- Remind all players to make quick decisions and find good positions.
Break The Line
The Purpose of Break The Line:
Break The Line enhances your players’ ability to move the ball into advantageous positions to complete an up-back-through movement to the goal. The overall achievement your players will get is the ability to think ahead to achieve multiple passes.
All in all, this means more possession of the ball.
Break The Line uses two teams who play for possession. They attempt to complete an up-back-through movement and if they are successful they can score a goal.
An up-back-through is when the offensive team passes the ball up to their striker, back to their midfielder, and then through to a winger.
In this scenario the players don’t have strikers, midfielders, or wingers (unless you want them to), instead, they’ll want to do this movement to create space and confuse the defending players.
This drill is called Break The Line because it stops your players from playing in a straight line. Instead, it breaks up the normal trajectory, which halts the defenders and gives the offenders more control of the field.
Break The Line Set-Up:
- Using cones, mark a 40 x 40 yard square.
- Behind the markers and on the full-sized field, get up two goals set up on opposite sides.
- Pick 4 players for the Neutral Team and give them a color.
- Place 2 of the Neutral Team on a marked cone line adjacent to the goal. Do the same with the other 2 Neutral Players on the opposite side.
- Divide the other players into 2 teams of 5, and have them start inside the 40 x 40 square.
How To Play Break The Line:
- The coach passes the ball to Team A (offensive).
- Team A (offensive) passes the ball using the up-back-through method and can utilize a Neutral Player. They can use either goal to do this.
- Team A (offensive) earns one point for using the up-back-through method and scoring a goal. If the up-back-through method was not used in Team A’s overall possession, the point is not earned.
- Team B (defensive) tries to intercept the ball and then take possession themselves.
- Immediately after Team B (defensive) takes possession of the ball they take the offensive role.
Break The Line Coaching Tips:
- Teach the players to create space.
- Inform the players of the up-back-through method and how to utilize it.
- Inspire the players by reminding them how this can be used in their games.
- Motivate the players to think about how they can create multiple passes in advance.
- Educate the players to move constantly to create angles that can support their team.
- Inspire the defensive team to win back the ball and transition into the offensive.
The Purpose of Blackjack:
Blackjack teaches the players how to speed up their play whilst keeping possession of the ball. The idea is to make quick decisions, control the ball and increase speed all in a tight space.
There are two teams. Each team is trying to connect 21 three-touch passes, 21 two-touch passes, and then 21 one-touch passes before the other team does.
- Using cones, mark a 25 x 25 yard square.
- Divide the group into two players and give each team a different color.
- All start in the box.
How To Play Blackjack:
- The coach passes the ball into the box at random.
- Each team attempts to get the ball, and then keep possession by connecting passes.
- Each team first tries to get 21 three-touch passes, then 21 two-touch passes, and then 21 one-touch passes to finish the game. (Teams count their own passes and cannot count two-touch until three-touch is completed, nor can they count one-touch until two-touch is completed).
- Passes do not need to be consecutive as long as the pass is successful. 10 passes before losing possession, means the 10 passes are still in play when they regain possession.
- The first to reach 21 one-touch passes wins the round.
Blackjack Coaching Tips:
- Teach the players to make the space as big as possible in the box, giving them more time to think and forcing the defenses to stretch their space.
- Motivate the players to think quickly and keep the ball moving.
- Inform the players to keep themselves aware of their bodies position. Keep the whole field in view.
- Inspire the defenders to win the ball back quickly.
The Purpose of Four Quadrant:
This drill is to help your players keep possession of the ball while they are moving. So far all of the drills have been about working as a team and making good passing decisions, but this one helps your players move and stay offensive.
The players are asked to move areas but keep possession of the ball. To be successful, players have to think 1, 2, or 3 passes in advance.
Four Quadrant Set-Up:
- Using cones, mark a 30 x 30 yard square.
- Inside the square, add additional cones to make four even quadrants. It might be helpful to use different colors, otherwise, the cones can get confusing.
- Divide the players into two teams and give each a color.
- Players start inside the 30 x 30 yard square.
How To Play Four Quadrants:
- The coach passes the ball to a team, we will call this team “Team A”.
- Team A (offensive) gets a point after passing the ball 8 times.
- Team A (offensive) can only complete 4 passes consecutively before having to move to another quadrant.
- If Team A (offensive) does more than 4 consecutive passes, they lose possession and must pass to Team B (defensive).
- Team B (defensive) can try and intercept the passes to gain possession early.
- When Team B gets possession, they immediately become offensive.
Four Quadrant Coaching Tips:
- Teach offensive players to create space to spread apart the defensive players.
- Motivate players to think ahead to keep the ball moving.
- Inspire the players to find good angles to support their team.
- Suggest to players to make long passes as well as short passes to keep the defenders guessing and in the wrong place.
- Motivate defenders to predict offensive players’ actions.
The Purpose of English Squares:
English Squares teaches your players how to successfully connect their passes in tight areas. This in turn speeds up their decision making and their overall speed of play.
The idea is to create three teams. Team A and B are offensive, and Team C is defensive. There are two boxes, one occupied by Team A, the other by Team B. Team C’s job is to try and get the ball before the individual offensive team completes 6 passes.
If Team A completes 6 passes before Team C gets the ball, they then pass it to Team B. Team B now has to complete 6 passes and hopefully pass it back to Team A again.
Team C can try and get the ball at any time, including the transition between teams. If Team C gets possession of the ball, they take the square of the team they won it off.
English Squares Set-Up:
- Using cones, mark two 20 x 15 yard boxes leaving 10 yards of space between them.
- Divide the players into 3 teams of 5, each team has its own color.
- Team A & B can start in a box (one box each), and Team C starts in the 10 yard gap.
How To Play English Squares:
- The coach passes the ball to either Team A or Team B (either team which is in a box).
- The coach-to-player pass counts as the first touch. At this point Team C (defensive) can have two players enter a box to try and gain possession.
- Team A (possession) tries to get 6 consecutive passes and then tries to pass to Team B (offensive).
- Team A (possession) gets one point if they are successful in the 6 passes and the team passes.
- Team C (defensive) can prevent scores by gaining possession, passing to Team B (offensive) before the 6 connections are complete, or if the ball goes out of bounds.
- If Team C (defensive) wins the ball or if the ball goes out of bounds, then Team A (possession) becomes the defender and Team C gets Team A’s box.
- If the ball goes out of bounds, then Team A (possession) has lost the ball and they become defenders. Team C (defensive) gets Team A’s box.
- Team C (defensive) can only have two players in a box at a time. They can swap players at any time but if 6 consecutive passes and a team pass have been completed, then the active defender players have to swap.
English Squares Coaching Tips:
- Encourage players to make space and create good angles.
- Teach players to search for space and to recognize when small passes are more appropriate than long passes. For example, if they cannot find space to pass to Team B but they have already made 6 consecutive passes, they can continue to pass between themselves to get a better angle.
- Motivate offensive players to think quickly so defensive players cannot steal the ball.
- Inspire defensive players to anticipate the offensive player’s next moves.
- Encourage the defensive players to make strategies in preparation for team passes. For example having two teammates ready to defend Team A, two teammates ready to jump in and defend Team B if a pass is made, and one teammate ready to interrupt the team pass.
The Purpose of Golf Possession:
This drill is all about moving the ball in one direction as a team. Gold Possession improves your players’ foresight and team working skills.
The idea is simple. There are two teams and they are trying to get possession of the ball. They score points when they pass the ball to another teammate in their team’s box. It’s an easy directional drill.
Golf Possession Set-Up:
- Using cones, mark a 30 x 30 yard square.
- Inside this square, a couple of yards away from each corner, make four 4 x 4 yard boxes.
- Separate the players into two teams, and give them colors.
- Two players from each team start inside a 4 x 4 box. Players should choose boxes that are opposite their teammates and cross from their opponents.
- The other players start elsewhere in the 30 x 30 yard square.
How To Play Golf Possession:
- The coach passes the ball into the 30 x 30 square box.
- Teams need to keep possession and move the ball to a teammate in a 4 x 4 box.
- Successful passes to 4 x 4 boxed players earn a point.
- The player who receives the pass in the 4 x 4 box dribbles the ball out and continues to keep possession.
- The player who made the pass into the 4 x 4 box now takes the place of the receiver.
- Defenders can tackle or intercept to gain possession of the ball.
Golf Possession Coaching Tips:
- Motivate your players to move and create space.
- Inspire your players to position themselves well to help keep possession, either by finding good angles or finding open spaces.
- Teach your players to think 2 moves ahead.
- Motivate your defending players to predict the offensive team’s movements and intercept their play.
How to Create Variations of the Drills:
An easy way to make the drills harder is to make the players achieve a fixed amount of touches, have them aim for a score before a certain time, or increase the number of players to be aware of.
A simple way to make the drills easier is to add neutral players. Neutral players help the teams keep possession and because they aren’t on any side, they can speed up players' decision making.
These drills have simple starting points so you can adapt them to better suit your player’s needs and size. As they get better at keeping possession, make the drills harder. The more they hold on to the ball, the more score they can make! Good luck!