Session Plan – Spatial Awareness & Switching Play

Recently I have heard much in the way of what I would classify as “misinformation” regarding the readiness of youth players to learn tactical concepts like switching play. Switching play as a tactical concept ultimately comes down to recognizing space and making decisions based on that spatial awareness. Switching play doesn’t mean crossing a long-ball forty/fifty yards from one side of the field to the other. It is about recognizing the space to see the opportunity of when space is condensed, versus when space is available and what to do in both of those situations. It is therefore an essential concept that can be taught to players of just about any age. Here is a session plan and key coaching points to match, all about spatial awareness and switching play!


Setup/Execution: Separate players into groups of no smaller than three players. Players pass and move around the area, attempting to pass into the central square and then back out to a teammate different from the one who passed to them, ideally in a new direction. Players continue to pass and move, timing run into central square for pass back out at the right moment. Timing is important as only one player per team can occupy the central box at a time. You can progress to turn it into a 4v4 game with a pass into the central box and back out on a switch of play to score a point for older players.

Coaching Points:
– Timing of movement into central square.
– Once in square, quickly switch play to teammate in a new direction.
– Receive on the half-turn to find teammate.

activity: 4 SQUARES TO SCORE

Setup/Execution: Game with four squares to score. Coach decides how players score – either only through receiving in square, running with the ball into square or both. After scoring, players keep possession and look to score again. For added fun, a rule can be that the first team to have all four players score a goal, wins the game automatically.

Coaching Points:
– Occupy all areas of the field to utilize switches, several passing options, and score in any direction.
– Receive ball with open body shape (half-turn) to advance into space rather than only back the way you came.
– Timing of the pass into the square. Don’t just wait in the square for the ball to come but advance at the right moment.
– When to pass vs. when to dribble into space by assessing space, teammates and opposition.

activity: switch to score

Setup/Execution: Regular game except goals are in middle of pitch, facing out toward the touchline. After winning the ball from the opposition, the team must switch play before the halfway line to the other side before scoring. Now the team can score on either side depending on their perceptions of space, opposition, teammates and ball. For added fun, a goal within ten seconds after winning the ball can be worth three points.

Coaching Points:
– Scanning of the field to see space, opposition, teammates and ball.
– Don’t force play to one side. Turn/change direction, switch play.
– Receive on the half-turn to play in both directions.
– Activate speed after switches of play to take full advantage and score.
– Avoid multiple players in same passing lane to increase speed of switches

game: four goal switching play

Setup/Execution: Directional game with four goals (two per team). Field size has more width than depth to allow for switching play and awareness of space. Have balls ready at the edge of the field to play in whenever possible.

Progress to Rewards: Normal goal = 1 point. Goal after a switch of play before the halfway dot = 2 points.

Coaching Points:
– If the space to advance toward goal is full, turn and look to switch play to the other side.
– Don’t chase the ball around. Have players on both sides to switch play.
– If majority of their players are on one side, switch to the other. 
– Activate speed after a switch of play.
– Contextual cues about when to advance down one side vs. the other based on space, teammates, opposition and positioning of the ball.

So there it is! A session plan all about spatial awareness and switching play for youth players. Be sure to check out more session plans and share your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

You might also enjoy…
-> Playing Out From The Back – Session Plan & Coaching Points
-> Switching Play – Session Plan & Coaching Points
-> Small Group Training Session – Spatial Awareness & Scanning


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