Principles of Play |Coaches Manual

Principles of Play for Coaches, Players, and Teams


  • Possession games are a means to improve both the technique and tactical understanding of the players.
  • Opposition will be encouraged to increase the competitiveness of the players.
  • High-intensity games based on speed and agility. Short but intense working-periods.


  • 1, 2 or 3 touch maximum: Minimizing the number of touches improves the speed of play OR, you can choose to employ a 2 or 3 touch minimum to encourage a positive first touch, good vision and awareness and the ability to absorb and evade pressure.
  • Keep the game simple: Do not force situations, over-dribble or be careless with the ball.
  • Keep the ball on the ground: A ball on the ground is easier to control and can be moved more efficiently by the team.
  • Accuracy and quality of the pass: Passing must be firm and accurate, with the proper weight.
  • First touch: Make a clean, controlled first touch without stopping the ball. Take the touch away from pressure and into free space.
  • Perception and awareness: All players with or without the ball should constantly scan the field.
  • 1v1 situations: Encourage determination to regain control of the ball in defense and keep it simple in attack by taking a touch to the side, at speed, to beat the defender.
  • Individual transition: Players must react quickly when possession change from offense to defense and vice-versa. 9. Shooting: Always keep an eye on the goal. All players are encouraged to shoot.
  • Take risks: Soccer is an error prone sport and mistakes are part of the game and learning process. Players are encouraged to take risks in training session to increase the speed of play.


  • All players’ attack and all players defend: All players must be involved in the game as a unit.
  • Numerical advantage: Soccer is a game of numbers where we try to create a numerical advantage in attack and avoid being in a numerical disadvantage in defense.
  • Flow of the ball: The ball should flow from inside (of the space) to outside and outside to inside. Balls out wide are more secure and the ball in the middle increases the options of play.
  • Triangle principle and passing options: The player in possession of the ball must receive constant support and have at least two passing options.
  • Speed of play: Quick movement of the ball creates 2v1 situations.
  • Movement off the ball: Find the best available space to create passing options for the player in possession of the ball.
  • Pressure as a unit: Organized pressure forces the opponents to commit errors.
  • Transition: Improve transition by reducing the number of passes needed to arrive at the target area or the opponent’s goal.
  • Direction of the game: The game flows in two directions. Keep the essence of the game in the majority of your practices.
  • Take initiative during the game: Team breakdowns will occur. The team must be capable of adapting to new situations and imposing its own style of play during the game.

Principles of Attack

Score Goals: The reason to play – score goals!

Penetration: Advancing the ball toward the goal we are attacking by playing it past an opponent or group of opponents. Dribbling, passing and shooting can be penetration. We penetrate to create opportunities to score goals. Support – Provide proper angles and distances of support to the player in possession (reaction) or the player about to be in possession (anticipation and reading the game). The player in ball must have options to their left, right and in front of them. This support must exist as your teammate receives the ball (timing).

Width: Providing wide support of the ball to the right and left. Stretches opposing defenders, creating gaps between opposing players that we can penetrate.

Mobility: Movement off the ball to drag defenders out of position (unbalance defense). Make defenders change their position in reaction. Make defenders make decisions.

Depth/Height: Support in front of, and behind, our teammate in possession of the ball. Getting length and depth allows us to spread our opponent and create gaps to connect to teammates and penetrate.

Improvisation: Creativity and unexpected play (1v1 or combining); flair!

Principles of Defense

The main goal of defending is to get the ball back so we can score! If we cannot recover the ball, we want to stop penetration (first principle of attack!) and then provide good defensive shape to recover the ball.

Recovery: Recover possession of the ball immediately; the best time to get the ball back is right after we give it away.

Pressure: Pressure on the ball denies Penetration. Keep your body between the ball and your goal. If we don’t get pressure to the ball, our opponent can play a greater number of passes, especially long balls.

Cover: Supporting players nearest the ball taking up good angles and distance of support to deny penetrating passes (splits).

Balance: Players further away are providing good team shape and balance so that we can stop further penetration if our pressure is broken.

Compactness: Getting close enough to close any gaps to deny penetration.

Patience: Not getting beaten by being overly anxious to win the ball when it isn’t winnable. Do not foul when we have good shape and pressure to the ball. Read the following cues of when, where and to whom your opponent will play the ball: -Their Eyes – where and to whom they look is often where the ball goes -Their Body Mechanics – a big long step is a long ball, a short step is a short ball -Their plant foot – it typically points to where and to whom the ball will go.