Identifying and Using Space with the Ball

By Sean Reed - 

The focus of this session is to encourage players to identify and use space when in possession of the ball.

Objective: Session 1

Ball work with the players before a possession and can be used within a warm-up. Looking for the player in possession to recognize and exploit the free space (gates). When, where and how.


Set Up

  • The shape and dimension of the area is for the coach to decide, which will be dependent on the number of players and challenging the players. Include 4 - 5 gates using small cones; again the distance between cones is dependent on the coach
  • 4 ball (2 with each group) passing and moving the ball playing to your own team. Player in possession needs to run the ball through an open gate then play the ball off
  • A player cannot go through the same gate as someone else, they must turn away then look to find another opening
  • You can make it competitive by working for a period of time and counting the number of gates each team goes through
  • The game can also be used as a warm-up using hands, change of pace traveling through the gate traveling with the ball


  • Players can travel through the gates in different ways.
  • A player from the one team can play a pass to the opposite team and get the ball back immediately
  • Have a number of red gates and a number of white gates. Players need to travel through two gates, but can't be of the same colour

Coaching Points

  • Playing with your head up
  • Awareness in possession of the ball
  • Distance of ball from feet when moving (keeping the ball under control)
  • Good 1st touch and chase the 2nd touch (change of pace)
  • Be positive
  • Supporting the ball

Objective: Session 2

The session is the same as session 1, but the player must receive the ball outside the square, for their first touch to take them into the square. Then the player will then pass from in the square. Using the space to take their first touch into.


Set Up

  • The set up is the same as above, depending on how the players are being challenged, change the size of area, distance between the cones or the number of gates.
  • When the players are looking to travel through the gate, can they perform a turn back through the same gate they have just traveled through?


  • As above using different coloured gates, the first gate they dribble through the second gate they dribble and turn through that gate
  • Dribble through a gate, then play a ½ with a player from the opposite team when receiving the ball allow the ball to run across the body and return through the same gate

Coaching Points

  • As with the previous session
  • Awareness of space infront and behind when traveling through the gate
  • Body shape when changing direction within the gate
  • Decision-making where to travel and when to turn
  • Body shape when receiving the ball
  • Support the player on the ball
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Objective: Session 3

The next progression is to take this into possession game. Within the game the objective is for a player to score by traveling through a gate. With the player in possession recognizing and using the free space (the gate) to travel through


Set Up

  • Going into a possession game. For example, to use the numbers displayed in the diagram 6v6 with 5 squares.
  • Unlimited touches
  • For a team to score they must travel through a gate that is unoccupied. They must complete a pass for the goal to count. To encourage the opposition to apply pressure on the ball the team in possession can also score by making 8 passes
  • The number of passes continues even if a goal has been scored through the gate
  • Can used as a hand-ball game - especially as a warm-up game


  • To score the player must dribble and turn back through the same gate

Coaching Points

  • Refer to the ball work part of the session
  • Tempo of passing
  • Patient in possession - identifying when to exploit the space
  • Be positive with a change of pace when traveling into space with the ball
  • Supporting the player in possession

By Sean Reed
Former First Team Coach of Championship side Fulham FC. Sean is a UEFA A Coach with a Masters in Sport Coaching. He has over 15 years of experience working in professional football from Academy through to First team in the Premiership and Championship.

Linkedin -
Twitter - @SeanJReed

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