Front Third Possession Progression

By Steven Smith

This session is designed to move through a sequence toward emphasizing possession in the front third. The coach must focus his or her attention on the act of possession as feedback is given in each activity. Safety in controlling and owning the ball is of highest priority. The final activity will be functionally in the front third and must take place in the full field location.

Activity 1: Warm-up with Dutch Squares

Setup:
Three square grids are set up with 10-yard by 10 yard dimensions with barrier space between each grid. At least one person is placed on each cone and preferably at least one cone in each grid should have two players positioned.

Execution:
Passing occurs in various patterns as determined by the coach. Each pattern is initiated by passing to the right first and after a determined time the initial pass goes to the left. Coaches must emphasize receiving the ball with the front foot on all activities that involve the ball moving forward. Back passes should be received with the back foot and the body turned sideways on. If there is an extra person on a cone, the extra should apply a little defensive pressure and the attacker should push the defender away with the body and slightly check toward the ball or hold the defender off.

Patterns:
• Pass and go to front foot only
• Pass to next cone, receive back, send to first player again on other side of cone
• Pass to next cone, that player sends on diagonal across the grid and moves to next cone
• Pass, hold, overlap for full cycle, then next player does the same

Variations:
Add a second ball to the passing sequence.
For all passes, the players should look over their shoulder before receiving the pass.
For all passes, the passer must call out the pass with one of three terms:
• Back
• Turn
• Hold

Activity 2: 4 v 4 plus 1

Main phase

Setup:
Short field of 28 yards by 25 yards wide. Two field set up with space between and full-size goals on both fields.

Execution:
Players compete 5 vs. 5 or 4 vs. 4 plus one neutral all time attacker. Switch competition every three minutes with an incentive for the winner each game.

Activity 3: Four vs. Four Endless

Main phase

Setup:
One grid is set up in the front third of the field using a full half field. The grid is set with the width of the 18-yard box making the width of the grid 44 yards.

Execution:
Four players come from the midfield stripe or a bit closer as shown in the diagram and attack a group of four defenders who are positioned deep in the field in a zonal defense shape.

If the attacking team is successful in getting a shot off either on goal, over the end line or to the keeper’s hands, the attacking group becomes the defending group and a new group of four come from the midfield stripe to attack the newly appointed defenders.

However, if the defending group is successful in cutting out the attacking group and gaining possession, the defensive group attempts to score on any of the three small goals at the opposite end. If they are successful in scoring on the small goals then the defensive group gets to stay on the field and defend again. If they are not successful in scoring they come off the field and the initial attackers become the defenders.

Variations:
Coach should have all waiting players with pinnies in their hands as the new attacking group entering should contrast in color with the defending group.

Coach can have the defending group stay on for 3-4 runs of attack prior to making any switches changing the game from an endless game to a predetermined number of attack before the switch.

Activity 4: Functional Possession in Front Third

Main phase

Setup:
Using half of the field with two goals. One just 18 yards beyond the midfield strip facing the far goal. Team is set up with a full 11 players on one side and a double zonal defense on the other side (two lines of four).

Execution:
Play is started by a shot at the goal keeper near the midfield stripe. The keeper collects the ball and immediately serves to an outside back. The back then serves as deeply as possible to the front third and the mids load for the pass back to the CM. CM then sprays ball to flank. Free flow from that point forward attempting to get between and behind defenders.

Variations:
Coach sets various patterns to be repeated until the system is understood and penetration can take place.

By Steven Smith Head Coach at Hope College, Holland, MI

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