Session 5 - 11 12 - 16

In possession: developing receiving skills

    Sarah Lowden, FA coach development officer (diversity and inclusion), looks at ways to develop receiving skills using a games-based approach.

    Key objectives

    Players will develop their understanding of:

    • when and how to receive the ball
    • encouraging players to use space to play forward 
    • combining with and linking with teammates in possession.

    Warm-up skill practice

    A session plan graphic showing a group of players on a pitch with cones acting as 'gates'.

    How to play:

    • Players work in pairs at first with the aim to receive the ball through the gate (like a moving turn or zero-touch turn).
    • Then change it to a game blue team v red team (one team in possession and one defending).
    • The red team must stop a moving turn through the gate and try to win the ball. There should be three footballs in play at one time. If a ball goes off the pitch, they can get another from the side to continue the game.
    • Add goalkeepers to dive at feet to increase the difficulty. 

    What to look for when coaching: 

    • Players recognising where the space is and what opportunities are available. 
    • Can the players recognise when they need to receive to go forwards or backwards?
    • Good pass detail from the player in possession – the weight of pass, smoothness and accuracy. 
    • What techniques are the players are using – do they have eyes on the ball, can they judge the speed well? 
    • Do they know when to shield the ball due to a defender and when to receive to play forward through the gate?

    Game one

    A session plan graphic showing a pitch cut into four vertical sections with footballs lined up around the edge of the pitch. The two end sections have a keeper in goal, with the two middle sections having a player on the outside of the pitch passing a ball into teammates before joining to create a 3v2 situation.

    How to play:

    • Set up a pitch (relative to the players you work with, e.g. age) as a small-sided game with two goals at the end. The aim is to make a thin and narrow pitch to encourage receiving and forward play.
    • Look at how the pitch is then split into two halves. If you’re coaching alone, position yourself in the middle and to one side so you can see both groups, or if you’re working as a pair, stand facing one group each. 
    • Start with a 3v2 with the red team attacking the goal from various restart points at the side of the pitch (see where footballs are positioned on the outside). This gives the opportunity to receive from different angles. 
    • The challenge for the blue team is to win the ball back and travel to the halfway line to score. They can use the goalkeeper to make a 3v3 in transition after winning the ball back.
    • The red team aims to score via playing into the strikers. If the red team can receive the ball and enter the box on a zero or one-touch, and score, they get three points. 
    • Continue to play this game and rotate the players so they get a chance to defend and attack. 

    What to look for when coaching: 

    • Check that players are looking, planning their movement and have the right technique to control or move the ball when receiving, e.g. surfaces. 
    • Pass detail - can the person on the ball give good detail in their pass to allow the receiver to play forward, e.g. weight of pass, smoothness of pass and does it arrive at the back or front foot of the receiver? 
    • If there’s no space and the striker's job is to receive and shield the ball to allow a third man run, how might you coach this example? 
    • Defenders – ensure an offside line is included in the game. If the spare player in possession decides to shoot due to no pressure, what might the defending team have to do? 
    • What progressions could you put in place to either make this more difficult/easy?

    Game two

    A session plan graphic showing a pitch cut into four vertical sections with footballs lined up around the edge of the pitch. The two end sections have a keeper in goal, while five blues and four reds occupy the middle two sections, waiting for another red player to pass the ball in from the side.

    How to play:

    • Keeping the same pitch dimensions, we progress this practice to a bigger small-sided game in a simple red team v blue team. 
    • The same principles are applied around receiving to play forward when possible. You can start the game by a dribble, a pass, a throw-in or from the keeper. This gives lots of varied practice. Offside applies to keep the realism of the game. 
    • Can players identify when to hold the ball up and link teammates in? 
    • Can players think forward, play forward and receive forward? 

    What to look for when coaching: 

    • Pass detail – does it allow players to receive and play forward? 
    • Is space created enough? 
    • If players have no space behind them, can they make a double movement and get into a half-turn position by the time they receive the ball? How will the passer know to look for this? 
    • Encourage blocks of five or six minutes playtime with a one-minute reflection break to allow the players to discuss the above and problem solve. 
    • As an extra challenge, ask players if they can break the lines of defence by creating space to receive forward.


    After you have looked at the graphics 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?

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