Grassroots Coaching

5 ways to coach your players to play with their heads up

The best players make the best decisions. To make and execute the best decisions, players have to play with their heads up, to be spatially aware and to be able to see what their options are at all times.

We have designed a great passing and support game, that will require the players to play with their heads up and be aware of where space is. Teams have to “wave” up and down the pitch, passing into the target players, getting it back and “waving” to the other end target player. The game features relevant challenges and progressions, with the ultimate challenging progression of 4 teams all playing at the same time, which will really test players “head up” skills.

The 5 ways in which you can coach your players to develop and improve their head up skills.

  1. Be on the move – create and find space – space is a players friend
  2. Keep the body and shoulders open, don’t always face the ball
  3. Before receiving the ball, look around and see what the next passing options are. Think, not where the ball is, but where it is going!
  4. Before passing, get the head up and “picture” the pass
  5. Communicate – call clearly for the ball and use body language, hand gestures, pointing etc to communicate where and how the player wants to receive the pass


  • Suggested area size: 20 – 25 yards long x 15 – 20 yards wide, but adjust the size to suit the age, numbers and ability of the players.
  • Target goals 5 – 8 yards wide.
  • Initially, two teams of 4 players, 3 on the pitch and one as a target player behind each target goal
  • Footballs always start with each target player


  • Initially start the practice with only one team playing.
  • To start do this slowly so all the players understand the pattern of the practice.
  • The ball starts with the target player of each team.
  • The team spread out wide and long to make the pitch big.
  • All the players must pass the ball, the team progress down the pitch using short passing, before passing in to the opposite target player.
  • The target players need to be mobile and look to create space to receive the ball, they are effectively sweeper Goalkeepers.

Both teams playing at the same time

  • Both teams playing at the same time – 2 footballs.
  • If there is a break, then both target player’s start with the footballs.
  • The teams receive the ball and progress in opposite directions, using short passing to progress down the pitch and passing into the opposite target player, to receive the ball back and progress to the opposite end.
  • The practice continues in this “wave” like pattern with both teams playing at the same time.
  • If the ball goes out, then restart with the ball at each target player.

Creating space

  • As soon as the ball is passed into the target player encourage the teams to spread out, providing width and length to make the pitch big.
  • Encourage the player furthest away from the target player to make the pitch long.
  • This creation of space will help the players pass the ball more effectively and realistically

Rotating the target player with an outfield player

  • When the ball goes into the target player of the same team, the passer takes the place of the target player and the target player runs the ball out through the target gates and becomes an outfield player.


  • Once the coach is satisfied that the players are performing well technically, the coach can now introduce some challenges.
  • A simple challenge can be a timed challenge, for example which team can pass into the most target players in one minute.
  • During this challenge, the coach has an opportunity to observe and analyse the players’ performance.
  • It is important that the coach adopts a position where they can observe the practice easily.
  • At the end of each challenge the coach can ask the players what they think they did well and what they think they can improve upon. This encourages participation and self-learning from the players.

Progression 1

  • Introduce 1 or 2 defenders who can defend against one or both teams
  • The defenders try and win either of the footballs.
  • They can’t win the ball from a target player

Progression 2

  • Four teams playing at the same time.
  • 2 teams play across the pitch
  • 2 teams play up and down the pitch

Progression 3

  • Four teams playing at the same time.
  • 2 teams play across the pitch
  • 2 teams play up and down the pitch
  • Introduce 1, 2 3 or 4 defenders.

Note: Only introduce the progressions once the players have shown they can master the initial practices.



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