Read and react

Reading and reacting to long balls is important in youth soccer and this game will teach your players how to cut them out and stop strikers streaking away.

Why use it

Teams can turn up and launch long balls behind your defenders. This game will get players watching for, and reacting to, the danger of the long ball.

Set up

Set up an area of 50×20 yards split into four zones. The centre two zones should be 15 yards and the outer zones are 10 yards. We’ve used 12 players in the session. You need balls, bibs, cones and two normal goals.

How to play

Split your players into two teams playing 6v6 including goalkeepers. Set up so the end zones have a keeper and an opposition attacker and the middle zones have three defender/midfielders and one opposition midfielder. Players must stay in their zones but one defender can drop into the end zone on the lone striker’s first touch. Play starts with a pass from the keeper to one of the defender/midfielders and the game goes live on their first touch.


Because of the set up in this game the killer pass to the lone striker is the best option, so teams have to react to that and work out how best to cope with it. This is a great session for quick reactions to the ball over the top, with one defender allowed to react and tackle back.

    1. The game starts with a pass from the goalkeeper to a team-mate in the centre zone and the game goes live on the team-mate’s first touch
    2. Players must stay in their zones but when the attacker receives the ball, one defender can react and enter the zone. Here the red defender clears

    3. Here the goalkeeper spots a player in space and passes out quickly
    4. The opposition defenders are taken by surprise and the long ball gets to the attacker without a defender reacting and the move ends in a goal

    5. Some neat passing by the reds but the defender reads the situation and quickly covers the attacker
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