The Numbers Game

  • Author: Ian Knapp
  • Age Group: U7 to U10
  • Time: 15 minutes

This is a popular game that gives your players plenty of opportunities to practice their 1v1 skills, both attacking and defending. It also involves shooting (which of course everyone enjoys) and there is a focus on work rate and effort levels. As well as 1v1, team play in 2v2 and 3v3 situations can also be introduced. It's a fast paced, fun game that your players will enjoy and get lots out of. Just make sure that you keep it flowing so nobody is sat out too much.

  • A small area (size dependent on age), with a goal at each end. Think of it as a mini-pitch. Use poles for goals if no goals available.
  • Coach at the side on the "half way" line with a number of footballs.
  • Between 6 and 10 players, split into 2 teams, each team waiting either side of the coach.
  • Each player in each team is given a number that matches the number of a player on the other team (so in teams of 3 for example, each team has a 1, a 2 and a 3). Make sure the kids know their numbers!!!
  • A cone or pole in each of the two corners on the same side the coach / players are.

Basic Rules:

  • Coach calls a number player (e.g "Two")
  • The player from each team whose number was called runs as fast as they can round the cone in their corner and heads back toward the middle of the pitch (see graphic above).
  • Whilst the players are running, the coach plays a ball into the middle.
  • The first player to reach the ball is attacking, the other player defending (see graphic above).
  • 1v1 situation - the player with the ball tries to score. The defending player tries to win the ball.
  • If defender wins the ball, they can attack and try and score in the other goal.
  • If the ball goes out, the turn is over and it's a draw.
  • If either player scores, they get a point for their team.
  • Coach can introduce a time limit to avoid each turn lasting too long.
  • Once the turn is over, players return and coach calls a new number.
  • Play to a certain score or play for a certain number of turns.

Progressions and Variations:
  • Vary how many player numbers you call out, creating 2v2 and 3v3 situations as well as 1v1s. "One and Threes" for example. Players then have to think about combining with each other.
  • Add goalkeepers. Give 1 point for a shot on target and 3 points for a goal.
  • Throw aerial balls in as well as balls on the ground - mix it up
  • Mix up where you put the ball so as to ensure a particular player gets to attack / defend. You may want certain players to practice certain things more.


Coaching Points (FA's 4 Corners):
  • 1v1 attacking skills - use changes of direction and pace to beat your opponent.
  • Ball control / first touch. Weight and direction of first touch.
  • Encourage using left and right foot.
  • Tricks, feints, fakes and skills to beat opponent.
  • Shooting - technique and direction of shot. Can you get an early shot away?
  • Defensive - body shape, when to try and win the ball and when to stand off and block the route to goal, trying to force opponent to make a mistake.
  • Passing - if 2v2 or 3v3 think about passing direction, weight and type of pass.
  • Communication (players at the side can help their team mates)
  • Decision making - when to dribble, when to try and score. In 2v2 and above, when to pass.
  • Confidence to try again if a mistake is made and to try different things - different types of skill or shot.
  • Desire to get to the ball first.
  • Competitive element - how does this affect the different players? Winning / losing affects confidence.
  • Strength to hold off opposition players.
  • Agility and balance - to beat a player and to defend.
  • Speed - can we play quickly to get our opponent off balance
  • Encouraging others and not being negative
  • Communication
  • Have fun!