Running with the Ball

A topic I don't see coaches cover very often is running with the ball. We all spend a good bit of time on dribbling sessions but running with the ball is a different skill. When you're dribbling the idea is to have the ball close to your feet and under tight control. When you're running with the ball you're trying to take space quickly so you get the ball out of your feet and run after it.

A session from the Manchester United Soccer School is great for working on this skill. I came across the session in our book, 'Technical Practices of the Pros'.

I've used this session with teams as young as U10. It's been most effective as a progression from a basic session that covers the technique of running with the ball properly.

Running with the Ball
Play 5 v 2 with the objective of keeping possession.

Pass the ball around and look for good movement off the ball and good communication.

Can you split the defenders and pass through the middle, so taking out two players with one pass?

Can you run the ball through the defenders?

Coaching Points

  • Decision making
  • Be positive
  • Good first touch
  • Accelerate through the middle

Emphasize points of either passing through defenders, or by your movement, encouraging defenders to come close to create space.

Play two 5 v 2 games of keep-away.  Organize the players to make X amount of passes. Once achieved, one player can run the ball across the middle area into zone B and start again.

Work as a team to get players to escape zone A.

Try to make a quick break.  “A” zone players support escaping player by pushing up.  “B” zone players support escape player by spreading and using space.

Escape players need to ensure they carry the ball at speed and be composed to make the right decision when entering zone B.

Now introduce phase of play game.  Play open game waiting for the ball to be fed into GK from wide player A.  As the ball is caught by GK, midfield players move to clear area in front of the defense Defenders spread the width of the field, with wide players prepared to receive, central players also ready to receive.   As the ball comes from the GK’s left, they should bring the right back into action utilizing the entire width of the pitch.

The worst case scenario would be 4 v 3, but normally be 4 v 2.  Fullbacks look to run the ball into space provided by midfield pushing on.  Run with speed and keep head up as practiced in technique and skill sessions.

Coaching Points

  • Work on running with the ball; teammates creating space for their own players
  • Let players play and get the right attitude to run the ball into space
  • Utilizing good technique – ball out of feet, balanced body, at speed, head up, awareness of options
  • Let players gain confidence then talk about decision making when, where, how, why
  • Keep asking open questions to assist the players’ understanding of the situation and develop their skill

Be sure to leave your favorite exercises or games for running with the ball as a comment below this post.

Have a Great Day!


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