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3v1 Open Play


Field Setup: Create a large grid and divide it into smaller, equal-sized halves or quadrants, each serving as a separate playing area for a group of four players. If there are more players, create additional grids accordingly. The size of each grid should be such that it allows for quick passing but also provides a challenge for players to keep possession under pressure.

Teams: Divide players into groups of four, with three players on one team working together to maintain possession and one player acting as the defender. Each group of four is assigned to their own half of the grid.

Activity: The trio’s objective is to keep the ball away from the single defender in their grid. They must use quick passing, movement, and spatial awareness to retain possession. The game is played for two minutes before rotating the defender. Points are awarded to the defender for every interception or blocked pass, and the team of three earns a point for every sequence of three successful passes.

Coaching Principles

The focus of the ‘3v1 Open Play’ activity is on support play. It highlights the importance of players offering constant options for the teammate with the ball, encouraging movement, communication, and spatial awareness. The drill reinforces the concept of support by requiring players to work in close proximity, offering angles and options to retain possession under pressure, and reinforcing the idea that supporting teammates is crucial for effective ball retention and successful play building.

Coaching Points

Encourage the two supporting players without the ball to position themselves on either side of the player in possession, effectively creating a triangle around the defender. This shape is dynamic and should shift as the ball moves, always allowing for two viable passing options. The ideal positioning is roughly at a 45-degree angle to the ball carrier, which maximizes the passing angles and makes it more difficult for the single defender to intercept.

Teach the off-ball players the concept of ‘getting open’ for the player with the ball. This involves moving into a position where they are not only visible to the ball carrier but also in a space where receiving a pass is possible without immediate pressure from the defender. Getting open can involve checking to the ball (moving towards the ball carrier) or checking away (moving away and then quickly towards the ball carrier) to create space. It also means recognizing when to stay still to maintain a useful position if the defender is drawn away.

Encourage constant movement from the off-ball players, using runs into space to draw the defender away and create passing opportunities. These runs should be made with purpose; for example, a sharp movement away from the ball can drag the defender out of position, opening up space for a penetrating pass to the newly opened player. Instruct players to use changes of pace and direction to unbalance the defender, creating confusion and opportunities to maintain possession.

Variations & Progressions

After successfully completing three passes, the group of three can transfer their play to an adjacent grid, continuing their passing sequence. This variation introduces the challenge of spatial adaptation and the need to quickly assess new defensive challenges.

Eliminate the dividing lines between grids, allowing all groups to play in one large zone. Players must now maintain possession while navigating through more traffic, increasing the difficulty and simulating a more realistic, crowded midfield scenario.