Grassroots Coaching

8 key triggers to coach your players to improve running with the ball

Running with the ball is an extremely effective attacking skill. Defenders hate it. It commits the defenders to have to do something. It gets the attack quickly up the pitch and into dangerous areas and it takes players out of the game and causes havoc.

When coaching running with the ball with grassroots football players, the most important consideration is to coach your players to understand and act upon the triggers that enable them to run quickly and effectively with the ball.

The best players recognise and act on these key 8 triggers.

  1. Prior to receiving the ball, players to get their head up and recognise if there is space and where the space is to be able to run with the ball.
  2. Prepare and adjust the body and the feet to receive the ball and have the first touch into the space recognised.
  3. Appropriate touch, be it the 1st or 2nd, out of the feet and into the space available – lots of space – big touch – confined space, smaller touch
  4. Quick, explosive movement after the first touch, get after the ball quickly
  5. Head up, to decide next action – keep running quickly, change direction, pass, cross or shoot
  6. Use the laces – front of the foot to run with the ball, keeping the head up and the ball in front
  7. Understanding of how far to knock the ball with the laces – lots of space, bigger touches, run quickly. Smaller space, smaller touches, be more under control
  8. Head up to make correct decisions – change direction slow down, speed up, pass, shoot cross etc

We have put together this fun run with the ball skill competition that you can organise with your players to help them work on and develop and improve these 8 key triggers. There are also some great game examples of running with the ball.


  • 2 – 6 players, in pairs, each pair have a ball between them
  • 2 or 3 lanes of 20 – 30 x 5 yards
  • Start gates – yellow – 1 – 3 yards wide
  • Receiving cone – blue, 3 – 5 yards in front of start gates
  • First gate – white 10 – 15 yards from the receiving cone – 1 – 2 yards wide
  • Second gate – white 10 – 15 yards from the first gate – 1 – 2 yards wide


  • The player with the ball – defender, passes diagonally from the yellow start gate to player facing them on the blue receiving cone.
  • Receiving player looks to receive the ball side on and to control the ball positively, into the space to run into.
  • As soon as the receiving player has touched the ball, the defender can start to chase.
  • This game is a competition. The player running with the ball gets 1 point for running with the ball through the first set of white gates, without the defender touching the ball.
  • The player running with the ball receives an extra point for running the ball through the second set of white gates, without the defender touching the ball and an extra 3 points if they stop with their foot on the ball within 1 yard of the last gate.
  • Defender receives 1 point if they touch the ball.


  • Make the area bigger or smaller
  • Adjust the chasing distance for the defender, to take into account the different speeds players run at
  • Adjust the competition, so they have to pass the ball through the end gates and collect it on the other side
  • Use more than one pair of players
  • Use a goal with a goalkeeper instead of end gates


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Attacking Sessions FA Level 2 Individual Skill Tips