Reactions in the box


Use of half-pitch


Balls, cones, goals

No. of players


Session time


This session is about improving penalty box anticipation and reactions, for both defensive and offensive players. Obviously this is crucially important because every game is decided by penalty box behaviour.

We will run this practice once per week – subject to periodisation of training – based on game-load. And it would be best to set this up the day before a game given that it combines low level physical demands with a requirement for high mental alertness.

Overall it’s a simple session and the premise is very much on the coaches to let natural game play develop, because really anything can happen in the course of players using the space. But what is certain is players will find it enjoyable, and it will put them in the right mindset for the challenges that follow on match day.

What do I get the players to do?

We set up as shown (1), using three goals positioned around a penalty box. It’s three teams of seven – six and a keeper in each – with the instruction of defending your own allocated goal whilst looking to score in either of the other two.


• The game sees 7v7v7 with three goals placed around the penalty box

The nature of this set-up means players will have to be alert to many different threats and opportunities going on around them. We will also point out ‘anticipation areas’ – for instance back-post positions and the centre of the penalty area, where key match events will develop.

We run this for three periods of 5mins, each time changing the goal to be defended so that, after three phases, each team has rotated around the area and we reach an accumulated score.

What are the key things to look out for?

We are looking for players to display excellent reactions based on their positions. For offensive players this must involve being courageous and able to work quick technical adjustment to opportunities, preferably one-touch. For defensive players, we want to see solid defensive blocks and protection of the keeper.

Poor or slow mental reactions are ultimately what will cost teams goals, or prevent them from taking the chances that come their way, while being able to execute technical tasks under pressure is also a must if players are to fulfil the potential that this multi-angled practice offers.

How do I progress the session?

A simple progression is to transfer the practice into small directional games in penalty box-sized areas, with players taking forward the idea of threats and opportunities being present all around them.


  • Ball movementBall movement
  • Player movementPlayer movement
  • DribbleDribble
  • Optional movementOptional movement