Session 5 - 11

Stay on the ball

    Looking to introduce turning to your primary-age players? Here’s a simple activity that encourages lots of it and helps them improve their ability on the ball.

    Key objectives

    Players will develop their understanding of:

    • how to turn with the ball
    • staying on the ball under pressure
    • how to hide and manoeuvre the ball.

    Stay on the ball

    A session plan graphic showing four players and a small area. The players are split into two teams of two. A player from each team goes into the middle of the area to play 1v1, with the aim of keeping possession of the ball. Their teammates are positioned outside the area waiting to be passed to if needed.

    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 ability of your players.

    This activity requires four players – two teams of two. So, if you have a large group, set up as many areas as needed.

    Give each pair of teams one ball. Then, organise a 1v1 in the middle of their area – with the other two players standing just outside of it and on opposite sides.

    How to play

    Let one team start with the ball. In our example, the red team have it. The aim of the game is simply to stay on the ball for as long as possible in a 1v1 scenario.

    The blue team have the same objective but have to win the ball first.

    No matter which team are on the ball, if a player feels they’re in danger of losing it, they can pass it out to their teammate in order to keep possession.

    Depending on what you or your players decide, the following two things can happen in this situation:

    • The player that passes the ball switches with their teammate who enters the area with the ball to take on the same opponent.
    • The pass out brings their teammate into the area, and the two players try to keep the ball for a set number of passes or amount of time.

    This activity tests players’ scanning, technique and movement skills. They must spot their opponents’ positioning and use their ability to turn away from pressure and continue to hide and manoeuvre the ball.

    Timing and decision-making skills are also tested. Particularly when out of possession and looking to get the ball back.


    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.

    But, after a while, if you feel your players have cracked it – or that they’re struggling – 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. And however you adapt the session, make sure you keep it fun, highly engaging and appropriate for your players.

    If you’re looking for ideas, here’s an additional progression to the two mentioned above. If the ball is passed out to a teammate to create a 2v1 scenario, challenge them to combine to get it to one end line and then the other as many times as possible.


    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 FA Community forums.

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