All Ages

Breaking lines

    Pete Sturgess, our early years specialist, shares a practice that provides repetition of passing, improves decision-making and helps players develop their techniques.

    Key objectives

    Players will develop their understanding of:

    • when to solve game problems as an individual
    • when to solve game problems in combination with a teammate
    • the elements that can make a good pass: accuracy, weight, timing and disguise
    • opening passing lines and receiving in a variety of ways and positions.

    Breaking lines

    A session graphic showing a 3v2 game in an area that’s got a halfway line. Two players on the yellow team have the ball in one half and must get it to their teammate in the other. The blue team have one defender that can press and one on the halfway line that can only move side to side. Their job is to stop the yellow team from getting into the other half.

    Session plan

    Want to try this with your team? Download the session plan to your device and give it a go.


    Set up an area appropriate for the age and stage of development of your players. Then, place a halfway line down.

    For this practice, we have a 3v2 – but you can adapt the numbers to suit your players. If you have a large group, set up as many areas as needed.

    How to play

    The aim of the game is simple. To combine with teammates to keep possession.

    In our example above, the yellow team have two players in one half and one in the other. They’re up against the blue team, who have two players. The first is a ‘live’ defender – they can move freely in their half. While the second is a screening player – who moves side to side on the halfway line trying to cut off passing options. Think of Kalvin Phillips screening the back three or four.

    The yellow team have to keep the ball under pressure and get it to their teammate in the other half. They can do this by:

    • simply passing it across
    • dribbling past the screening player
    • one of the two yellows making a run to receive a pass in the other half
    • combining with a one-two wall pass to enter the other half.

    If successful, the yellow team keep working together to maintain possession and move between the two halves.

    Every time the ball is transferred into the other half, one of the yellows joins in to create a 2v1. The screening player then becomes ‘live’, with the other defender changing roles to screen the halfway line.


    It’s important to think carefully about progressions. Learning doesn’t happen straight away, as players will be figuring everything out at first. Constantly changing the game can mean players miss the opportunity to learn. So, give them a chance to have a go at solving the problems they’re facing in this activity.

    After a while, if you feel your players are having consistent success – or need additional support – you could progress the game to alter the difficulty of the challenge.

    Whenever you decide to progress the activity, think about using the STEP framework (Youth Sports Trust, 2002). However you adapt the session, make sure you keep it fun, highly engaging and appropriate for your players.

    If you want to progress the activity, you could try increasing the area size to allow for extra players to join the game. Sticking with the same principles as before, a 4v3 game will create a 3v2 in one half at any one time. This provides the team on the ball with more decisions to consider, as they’ll have an extra passing option but could have to deal with more pressure from the defending team.


    After you have looked at the session above, ask yourself the following questions:

    • How would you adapt or tweak the practice to make it appropriate to your own players?
    • What additional challenges could you set to make the practice easier or harder for individuals or your group?

    If you use this with your team, let us know how you get on by posting in the England Football community forums.

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