Session review: the stadium game

Guide All Ages

Want to know how to maximise opportunities for skill in your coaching? We look at how one of our activities, ‘the stadium game’, does this.


This game has been extremely popular with coaches at all levels, and it certainly supports our message of staying on the ball.

It’s a great example of an activity that can help players develop their individual ability in possession while having fun and being creative.

So, let’s take a closer look at the session.

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The stadium game

ENGAGEMENT First things first, you start with a proper game of football. And who doesn’t love starting training with a game? Immediately, you’ll have your players eager to take part.

Then, when a goal is scored, you move into the 1v1 activity where teams have their own ‘stadiums’. This allows players to use their imaginations to play the game wherever they want. They can pretend to be running around Manchester United’s Old Trafford, Barcelona’s Camp Nou or wherever they dream of playing.

Entering their world of imagination and playfulness is a great way to increase engagement and enjoyment. This is a must if you’re coaching young children.

It’s also a handy activity if you want to theme your session around a tournament. It helps to tap into the excitement and interest the players have for the competition.

INDIVIDUAL SKILL So, you have your players’ attention. But how does this activity provide an opportunity for skill development?

Well, it challenges players to hide and manoeuvre the ball to keep it away from their opponent.

Once a goal has been scored in a normal game, each player is put into a 1v1 scenario, with one of them starting with a ball.

The player in possession has the aim of protecting the ball to keep it in their ‘home stadium’ – in other words, their own half. While their opponent needs to win the ball and take it into their own half.

This fast-paced game will ultimately help players develop their decision-making skills, confidence and ability on the ball – as they aim to keep it in their half until the clock runs down. If more players from the scoring team have the ball in their half, the goal is allowed to stand and then the normal game continues. When another goal is scored, the stadium game starts again.

ON THE BALL The rules of this game are quite simple, but there’s a lot going on under the surface. By being challenged to keep possession of the ball and play 1v1 when a goal is scored, the following things will happen:

  • The player in possession must hide and manoeuvre the ball away from the pressure of their opponent.
  • The player must look for spaces to travel into to stay away from their opponent. This provides opportunities to change speed and direction and to randomly stop and start to shake off their opponent.
  • Players will play when they’re tired as this is very physically challenging.
  • With each goal scored, players are asked to play against a different opponent when they enter the stadium game.

OFF THE BALL For the opponent starting without the ball, they must:

  • avoid kicking the ball out
  • be patient and wait for the best time to win the ball
  • use their body effectively to dominate the 1v1 scenario
  • stick to their opponent like glue in this duel
  • travel quickly into their own stadium once they have the ball.

SUMMARY The design of the game provides plenty of returns, and the emphasis can be placed on either in-possession or out-of-possession aims. For example, the scoring side could start with the ball and have to keep it. But it could be switched, so the scoring side have to win the ball back and then keep it to be given their goal.

The activity also allows for players to experience a small-number game that leads to individual 1v1 battles when a goal is scored. This flexibility can help to meet individual player needs.

Thinking carefully about the design of your practices is important for the development of your team. Plus, it will allow you to relax, and the players can become engrossed as they play in a challenging, enjoyable and engaging activity.


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