Turning to play forward


Up to 40x20 yards


Balls, cones, goals

No. of players

Up to 7v7

Session time

90-second bursts for 4-6mins

This session aims to encourage turning to open the opportunity to play forward rather than sending the ball sideways or backwards.

Within this, it allows players to put the ball ‘at risk’. We all know that keeping possession is very important, but it has to be productive, and coaching players to be brave in possession is very important. Turning under pressure then looking to play forward puts opponents on the back foot so encouraging players to put the ball at risk also helps them along the way to playing with freedom.

This is a generic session that can be used to teach individual players or to enhance teams’ productivity and, from that, the team’s ability to penetrate the opposition. It can also be used for football fitness, if and when appropriate.

What do I get the players to do?

Possession groups

The session starts simply and in small groups. Setting up as shown (1), each team in possession looks to play with the outside reds in order to switch the play by turning under pressure, while the aim of team mates is to lose their marker and rotate, then receive from the reds.


1. The target man begins the practice
2. The ball is received and passed on
3. Playing on the turn, this man opens up his body to receive the ball whilst protecting it from his blue marker
4. The other opposite target man receives the pass and a point is scored
5. The move immediately restarts with an attack towards the other end
6. A third grey waits on the outside so we can quickly rotate teams at the end of each 90-second burst

We would start this all-in. Then, as players progress (up to first team level), we can adapt it to be three-touch. Each time a team plays from one end to the other, whilst incorporating a turn, a point is scored.

We will rotate the three teams in 90-second bursts. 

How do I progress the session?

To take the practice forward we can increase the size of the playing area and add a mini-goal (or mini-goals) at each end, as shown on a 40×20-yard area (2).


• In the first progression, mini-goals are added at each end to provide a goalscoring incentive for players to play on the turn

We can also look at changing player numbers or splitting the practice area into definitive areas, as shown (3). For instance, overloading the middle section – even in a 50×30-yard area – so it is tight, with players having to work hard to be technically bright in finding space, is always a useful step forward. We would recommend leaving 3v2 in favour of the defender to allow the first pass into midfield, ensuring that the drill can start with quality.


• In the second progression, we change the practice area to introduce definitive zones, which pressures players into responding and reacting to the challenges in tighter areas and with designated markers

To further progress, one of the attacking players can move into the next zone, but only once a player has turned in the middle area.

It should be noted, the sizes of the areas are adaptable to the standard of players. These drills are in ‘tight areas’ due to the quality of our players but if working with less technical or younger players we then adjust the size to suit accordingly.

What are the key things to look out for?

Technically we are looking for players to check over their shoulders before receiving. We also want to see receiving on the back foot and a soft touch on the ball.

Tactically it’s all about the importance of how turning affects opponents, and in those turns, opening up ‘the picture’.

Typical mistakes include not checking over the shoulder, and from that, players finding themselves being dispossessed. We also want to rule out poor technique, so concentration and application levels must be high, and players not willing to try ‘risk football’ should be picked up on the fact they are playing too safe.

How do I put this into a game situation?

By removing the flat discs and sections of the pitch we can turn this into a generic small-sided game, but with the ruling that it’s only one-touch to play sideways and backwards, but four touches if a player turns and play forwards.


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