Passing circles

This training session is about retaining possession and finding players in key positions – important for teams that have the lion’s share of possession in games yet find the opposition denying them space in the final third.

Why use it

To make the most of possession and gain the advantage in the final third.

Set up

You need balls, bibs and cones. Create an area 60×40 yards. We used 12 players in the session

How to do it

Split your players into a team of eight attackers and a team of four defenders. Inside the area mark out two target circles measuring 10 yards across that only attackers can enter. Play an 8v4 game where defenders must prevent attackers from passing to a team mate inside the target circle. Attackers score two points for a received pass, and to prevent defenders from just shielding the circle, they also score a point by making six consecutive passes anywhere in the area. Defenders also score a point by winning possession. Play restarts after every point scored. Play this in three-minute sets before rotating defenders Adapt the 8v4 practice to offer a new option for the attackers, we swap the circles for a five-yard wide scoring zone across the area. All players can cross the zone but only attackers can wait in it.


Attackers must move the ball quickly and stretch the defending team, always with the aim of playing into the circle. They must show good judgement of when to pass safe and when to risk a ball into the circle. Defenders must communicate and cover space quickly and effectively.

Passing circles

1. Having two areas for the attackers to drop into makes it much harder for the defenders – cut it down to one area if they are struggling
2. Here an attacker enters the area to receive the ball and score two points
3. Play should be at a high tempo with lots of attempts at scoring a point in the circles

Score in the area

4. You can progress it by replacing the circles with a scoring zone to create a game.
5. In the game the attackers are looking for width rather than a designated target now. Here the attackers score 2 points with a pass into the zone

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