Pole to pole vision

This session is about visual awareness, rehearsing players in the idea of looking around and interpreting detail – in essence processing things in their peripheral vision.

It’s important to practise this because every decision in football is based on or influenced by what players see.

Frequently in the Premier League we see players making subtle but intentional visual checks before receiving a pass, so that when the ball does come to them they can switch or develop play immediately, and to devastating effect.

We work this practice for 30 minutes, ending with a 15-minute full-size game.


40×30 yards
Balls, bibs or flags, poles
Number of Players

What do I get the players to do?

A pole is placed in each corner of the area, along with a goal at each end. Poles of one colour are placed at diagonal opposites. On top of these are hung four different coloured flags or bibs.

Each team adopts a 2-3-1 shape (goalkeepers are optional though not used in the example shown). When the reds pass the ball, they must call out the colours of the two flags on the two red poles (1a); and the yellow team likewise the flag colours on the yellow poles (1b). As the game progresses, assistants located around the pitch will swap the flags, so players must stay alert (1c).

The game is fully opposed and each team must make four passes without miscalling a colour before they can score (1d). If a wrong colour is called, possession passes to the other team.


• The passing red player calls out the flag colours on the red poles


• A tackle is made and yellow players call out their own respective colours


• During the session, flag colours are changed randomly. Switching flags means players must stay alert


• The required four passes are made and a goal is scored

What are the key things to look for technically/tactically?

This is a session based almost entirely on visual awareness. Players should adjust their feet and body in order to adopt a good body shape, and so as to avoid having to spin round to see the flags. And they must still pay attention to good ball control and accurate passing between team mates.

There is a lot to take in at first, but players should relax as the session develops, adapting to the requirements and constantly checking flags when both in and out of possession.

How do I progress the session?

To progress the session, we ask players to call out the flag colours on opposition poles when they receive the ball, as well as their own flag colours when passing. This makes the exercise significantly more difficult, though strengthens the link between physical activity and mental agility (2).


• In the progression, the passing player shouts his teams colours and the receiving player must call out the opposition’s colours

How would you put this into a game situation?

We often find it useful to end the session with a standard 11v11 game, with assistants counting looks made by individual players (3).

You should be looking for players to make a similar number of looks out of possession, as they
do in possession.

It is important that players take the principles learnt into the matchday scenario.


• In the 11v11 game, coaches count player looks and glances

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