Progressive Possession (9v9)

Switching Play POFB

There’s a common saying in football: If you don’t shoot, you don’t score. Well if you don’t keep possession of the ball, you’ll have a lot more difficulty scoring. Many players that I’ve worked with over the years have had the common bad habit of simply just kicking the ball the second they get it. Sometimes even older players have this issue. The assumption for these players is if I can get the ball closer to the net then we as a team will have a better chance of scoring. But more often than not, all this does is present the other team with an opportunity to pick up the ball and go on the attack themselves. Players need to learn how to keep possession of the ball, particularly under pressure, and how to turn that possession into a goal scoring chance. Tiki taka football is nice and all, but possession needs to have a purpose and that is exactly what we are going to explore in this article about coaching Progressive Possession at the young ages.

Progressive possession can be defined as keeping possession with the purpose of creating chances and scoring goals. Some of the key factors involve – creating space, when to pass forwards vs. backwards, creating triangles and diamonds, and receiving on the half-turn.


In possession, constant off-the-ball movement is integral to our ability to keep hold of the ball. Players need to constantly be thinking about how to create space and best support the player on the ball. One such way to do so is through shapes, which will be discussed in the next key factor. But players should be mindful of giving the ball carrier different options and not falling into the same passing lane as another player. If this happens, two players suddenly become only one option and our ability to progress forward slows down.

central midfielder blocking ability to play direct into striker

When playing out from the back in this example, the central midfielder is blocking our ability to play direct into the striker and so we need to have an extra pass in order to find our striker. But we could create additional options if the players created separate passing lanes.

direct passing option


One of the best ways for young players to learn notions of creating space and support in attack is through shapes. Shapes are also extremely valuable in simply providing a team with more passing options. Two of those most valuable and easy to create shapes are the triangle and diamond.

No passing options

In this example, the right fullback is unable to pass out to the centre back because of the positioning of the opposition striker. The centre back is also in the direct passing lane of the left-back, giving the right-back very few options and resulting in what will likely be a desire to kick the ball away rather than keep possession.

Triangle passing at the back

If the centre back can drop and create a triangle, now we have more passing options available. The centre-back’s movement will either create space for the left-back by drawing the striker toward them, or will allow the centre-back to be in a position themselves to gain possession and switch play.

We mentioned in Pressing (9v9) how important diamonds are to pressing from the front, but they are equally important to creating space in attack. 


If we are going to keep purposeful possession, we need to be able to receive the ball into space, away from pressure and on the half-turn.

With all of our touches and our passes, we should be looking to get away from the pressure, rather than going back toward it. Like always, this makes scanning the field and communication very important.

We also need to receive the ball on the half-turn so that we can have the option of playing in any direction, particularly the option of playing forward. If we receive the ball square on (facing the player who just passed us the ball) this limits our options.


Switching Play POFB

In order to be progressive with our possession we are going to look to play forward at nearly every opportunity. However, if we are closed down or the better option is to play backwards, we must do so in order to keep possession and try to go forward again down a different route. We do not want to rush the decision to go forward unnecessarily and lose the ball, when we could have played a safer pass backward.

In general, these are the rough guidelines for playing forwards vs. backwards


  • 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


  • There is no space to advance into/you’re being closed down
  • When pressure is applied or when your back is turned to goal with pressure behind you.
  • When receiving square on without knowledge of what’s behind you.
  • When there are no viable forward passing options.

So there it is! Training young players how to keep possession with a purpose! Without keeping any of the ball, the task of scoring becomes a whole lot more difficult. These tips and tricks should allow your players to keep hold of the ball for longer periods of time and take their game to the next level. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Be sure to check out the rest of this series below…

  1. Pressing From The Front (9v9)
  2. Playing out from the Back (9v9)
  3. Switching Play (9v9)
  4. Defensive Transitions (9v9)
  5. Attacking Transitions (9v9)
  6. Communication in Youth Soccer

You might also like -> Counter Attacking and the Death of Tiki-Taka Football


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