Coaching the Coaches, Rehan Mirza on ‘Encouraging movement of the ball’

By Rehan Mirza, UEFA B licence and Coach, Centre of Excellence, Notts County FC.

The following is a soccer drill designed by Ian Dowie (Current manager in the UK). The session is designed to encourage more movement of the ball. This is a small-sided game that is 8v8. These are a good to get a coaching topic across to players that have limited knowledge on specifics on the pitch. I mentioned in a previous article that if you are not satisfied on a specific outcome, then you should stop the session with the players stood still, and address the issue. Tell the players to even rewind that movement by 3 seconds if need be to make adjustments.

If the numbers in your team do not add up to 16, then adjust accordingly. We may have an odd number, in which case we can simply add a roaming player who plays for the team in possession.

Encouraging movement of the ball – Small Sided Game 1 (20 mins)


6 v 6 + 2 target players for each team. 6 consecutive passes results in a goal. An additional goal is scored when to passing to a teammate positioned between the gates in the end zone. Players can also use the area behind the gates. Condition – two touch only. After a while, target players can be swapped.

Coaching Points

1. Create space from outside the field to in and also in to out. This takes marker away so teammates can exploit space in middle and attacking areas of the field.

2. When creating space outside to in, can players exploit space with an overlapping run?

3. Player body shape and positioning – Players should be on the half-turn as much as possible, and not square on. This makes it easier to receive the ball, identify space and awareness and also provides more playing options.


1. 8 passes to score

2. All the players must have a touch

3. See Small Sided Game 2

Encouraging movement of the ball – Small Sided Game 2 (20 mins)


8 v 8 with 4 gates. 8 consecutive passes results in a goal with 3 touch condition. An additional goal is also allocated for passing to a teammate through any of the 4 gates.

Coaching Points

1. Encourage players to find space, unless they are already in space. In which case, let them stand still so long as they are ready to read the possibility of receiving the ball.

2. One-touch play has its benefits. However, too much may result in lack of vision. If there is no pressure, then there is no need to rush a pass.

3. Sometimes players run towards the ball. This closes the space down as the opposition is now dragged towards the ball.

4. Encourage passing to the safe side of the player (the side away from opponent)

5. Communication – This is important for teammates to understand each others positioning i.e., “time”, “turn”, “space”.


  1. See SSG 3

Encouraging movement of the ball – Small Sided Game 3 (20 mins)


8 v 8 with 5 gates. 1 gate is positioned in the centre of the playing area. 8 consecutive passes results in a goal with a 3 touch condition. An additional goal is also allocated for passing to a teammate through any of the 5 gates. Players can also run through the centre gate with the ball which counts as either a point or a goal. 1 team plays in 1 direction then change after a period of time.

Coaching Points

1. Be patient and don’t force it.

2. Open body on half-turn as mentioned above.

3. Use all the space behind goal as well.

4. Encourage players to express themselves.


  1. All touch

When practicing in small-sided games, it is always best to promote coaching points and address issue’s that are game related. If the topic as above is to encourage movement of the ball, then mention to the players before the session that this is the topic. Whether you are playing a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 formation, you are always looking for players to find space in areas that are vacant. By encouraging your players to participate in small-sided games, it provides a realistic view of producing game related scenarios. Every coach has limited knowledge, and in Pakistan it is probably the case as in most other places. However, you can simply be a football lover that paints pictures in their head of what they would like to say but cannot address. As a coach, this is the hardest part as nobody can see what you are thinking. So as a coach, inform the players what you are looking for out of the session. As already mentioned, it is no problem to stop the session with the players stood still and address a concern. This shows the players what they should be doing and how to put it right. We cannot stop an actual game, but we can stop a training session.

Rehan Mirza is a British-Pakistani football coach. He is a UEFA B licence coach at the Centre of Excellence of Notts County FC (Football League One) in England.

He is currently pursuing his UEFA A licence. He is a true Pakistani and has always helped the FPDC to provide help to local coaches.