Playing Forwards vs. Backwards Session Plan and Coaching Tips

pLAYING fORWARDS VS. bACKWARDS aNALYTICAL aCTIVITY

INTRODUCTION

One of the key skills to learn in the modern game, particularly for young players, is the art of composure. Many young players have the habit of kicking the ball up the field without looking or thinking that they always have to go forward because that is where the goal is. However, if players can harness the ability to know when the right time is to go forward and when the right time is to keep possession and maybe go backward, their ability as a footballer will skyrocket. Here is an entire session plan all about playing forwards vs. backwards and some coaching tips along the way. Enjoy!

1. WARM UP ACTIVITY – POSITIONAL RONDO – 6V6

Positional Rondo Playing Forwards vs. Backwards

SET-UP

12 players     1 ball     6 bibs    10 cones     30 x 30 area

This warm-up activity locks players into specific zones, allowing each team to have an advantage over the other team. In the zone closest to the goal, the blue team has a 3v1 advantage and as a result they should work to keep possession in their zone and only look to play forward if one of the three central midfielders in front of them becomes an available option. In the other zone, the yellow team has a 5v3 advantage over the blue team and should also look to only play in their striker if the striker has managed to free themselves with elaborate off the movement. This allows lots of opportunities for players to play both forwards and backwards. For example, when the ball is spread wide from the yellow centre back to one of the fullbacks, they might look to play in the striker. However, the striker won’t be able to play forward and might have to go backward to the opposite side fullback or central midfielder. This positional rondo works great for giving players the opportunity to work on keeping possession of the ball and not playing forwards unnecessarily, quickly introducing them to the topic at hand.

Depending on the formation you play and the players you have at your disposal, you can play this rondo however suits your needs. For example, the three blues in the yellow dominant zone, do not necessarily have to be central midfielders. This activity works well with 12 players but could also be adapted with smaller or larger numbers.

RULES

Any time the ball goes out of bounds play will restart with the deepest lying player – the goalkeeper for blue and the centre back for yellow. Players are locked into their zones. In order to get a point, either every player on the team should touch the ball, or a certain amount of passes should have to be made.

KEY COACHING POINTS
  • Short & quick passes
  • Scanning the field
  • Open body shape to play both forwards and backwards (i.e. receiving on the half-turn).
  • 1 and 2 touch play
  • Don’t play into pressure, work to play backwards if you are closed down and can’t advance forwards.
  • Maintain width and when possible create opportunities for switches through using the deepest-lying player (blue goalkeeper and yellow centre back).
  • Make the field big when you have the ball
  • Play backwards when your back is turned to goal with pressure behind you.

2. PROGRESSION – POSITIONAL RONDO WITH GOALS 

Positional Rondo Playing Forwards vs. Backwards with Goals

SET-UP

12 players     1 ball     6 bibs    10 cones    3 goals    30 x 30 area

Once players have been introduced to the activity and started to grasp general concepts about when to play forwards vs. backwards, the activity can be progressed into one with targets for both teams. The yellow team will be scoring on a large goal defended by a goalkeeper, while the blue team will be scoring on two small goals on the outskirts of the field. Now not only will the two teams be working on keeping possession and playing forwards at the right moment, but there’s more of a directional sense to the activity with a method of scoring added into the mix as well. This will allow the players to experience the same concepts but in a more game-realistic setting. At this time, the zones can be kept, taken away or expanded on to allow one player from blue and one player from yellow to switch zones at any time.

KEY COACHING POINTS – WHEN TO PLAY FORWARDS

Players should be looking to play forwards in the following instances…

  • When you have space
  • No pressure is being applied
  • When there are available passing options
  • When the first touch is out of the feet and into space
  • When the team has created an overload up the field
KEY COACHING POINTS – WHEN TO PLAY BACKWARDS

Players should be looking to play backwards in the following instances…

  • There is no space to advance into/you’re being closed down
  • When pressure is applied or when your back is turned to go with pressure behind you.
  • When receiving square on without knowledge of what’s behind you.
  • When there are no viable forward passing options.
OTHER KEY COACHING POINTS 
  • Off-the ball movement to always allow players to have the option of playing forwards or backwards. Players may need to drop in order to create passing options.
  • Scanning the field, particularly before receiving so that you can know where to play
  • Receiving on the half-turn with open body shape to play in both directions.
  • Sideways passes in your own half are more likely to be intercepted than backwards ones, but this may also require the player to drop and create space in behind.

3. BREAKING THE LINES – ANALYTICAL ACTIVITY

pLAYING fORWARDS VS. bACKWARDS aNALYTICAL aCTIVITY

SET-UP

14 players     1 ball     8 bibs (ex: 4 pink, 4 blue)    14 cones    40 x 50 area

In this activity, the blue and the yellow team are working together to keep possession, play forwards at the right moments and connect with both goalkeepers at opposite ends to earn a point. The pink team meanwhile are attempting to score on either net should they regain possession. The game is set up in an 8 + 2 v 4 format, with 8 players working together at a time to connect with 2 goalkeepers and 4 players working together at a time to score on the goalkeepers. The teams are set up with a 4v2 advantage in each end that becomes a 5v2 if you count the goalkeeper. All restarts begin with the goalkeeper and they can become a vital player in terms of giving players an option to play backwards. Due to the size of the area being a little bit smaller and narrower, there isn’t lots of room to play wide. This should hopefully encourage players to think quickly with regards to whether they should play forwards or backwards. The defending team should switch multiple times and should not just remain the same for the entire activity. For example after every goal they can switch with the team that got scored on and the game can restart right away. This will help keep the game flowing, while also giving players a chance to experience different roles.

Note that this activity also works great with larger numbers, but the size of the area should change with anything less than 11 players. This activity would work well with even 8 players, but it would have to be a 2v1 in each end with 2 goalkeepers and so the field would need to be made a lot smaller. This activity also works great for other topics such as Running with the Ball, Pressing and Playing Under Pressure, so more on that to follow.

RULES

The blue team and two pink players are locked into one side of the orange, as the yellow team and two pink players are locked into the other side of the orange. The blue line at either end is not a restriction, however in this diagram it is in place to help paint more of a visual picture for the players on the concept of breaking a line.

KEY COACHING POINTS – WHEN TO PLAY FORWARDS

Players should be looking to play forwards in the following instances…

  • When you have space
  • No pressure is being applied
  • When there are available passing options
  • When the first touch is out of the feet and into space
  • When the team has created an overload up the field
KEY COACHING POINTS – WHEN TO PLAY BACKWARDS

Players should be looking to play backwards in the following instances…

  • There is no space to advance into/you’re being closed down
  • When pressure is applied or when your back is turned to go with pressure behind you
  • When receiving square on without knowledge of what’s behind you
  • When there are no viable forward passing options
OTHER KEY COACHING POINTS 
  • Off-the ball movement to always allow players to have the option of playing forwards or backwards. Players may need to drop in order to create passing options
  • Scanning the field, particularly before receiving so that you can know where to play
  • Receiving on the half-turn with open body shape to play in both directions
  • Sideways passes in your own half are more likely to be intercepted than backwards ones, but this may also require the player to drop and create space in behind
PROGRESSION

As the activity progresses and the players comprehend more about the topic at hand, the field can be expanded to a 50×50 area, allowing players more room to play wide and giving them that more game-realistic space to play in.

4. FINAL GAME – 7V7

Playing Forwards vs. Backwards Small Sided Game

 

SET-UP

14 players     1 ball     7 bibs    44 x 50 area

As always this progressive session ends with a final game. The teams will set up a in a 2-1-2-1 shape and normal FIFA rules apply. Coaching should be kept to a minimum in this final game, especially if your session is only an hour long as this is probably approaching the last 10-15 minutes. The key coaching points of the day can be re-emphasized prior to the activity and players can even be asked prior to the beginning of the game to rate themselves on a scale of 1-10 on how well they performed on the topic and then be asked to take it to the next level and go one point higher in the final game. To spice it up a bit, you can subtly abandon the “normal FIFA rules apply” and penalize any unnecessary forward pass with a free kick or penalty kick for the other team. Otherwise, the normal rules of the game (ex: throw-in’s, corner kicks, etc.) should apply.

CONCLUSION 

This session plan will help players learn the art of composure and understand when it is appropriate to play forwards versus when it is better to go backwards and try to rebuild. The session involves a warm-up activity, analytical activity and final game all emphasizing the player’s ability to read situations on the field and decide within seconds on the best course of action – playing forwards or backwards. Be sure to check out more session plans from The Mastermind Site and all of our Coaching articles right here. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

You might also like -> Playing Out From The Back – Full Session Plan. 

 

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