Maintaining possession should be looked at in two different areas, individually and collectively. In order for individuals to maintain possession of the ball they will need to display the ability to receive, protect and outplay their opponents whilst using a wide range of different techniques. Individuals that are able to maintain possession in tight areas or under pressure will have a stronger ability to create space for themselves or their team mates. In order for teams to be able to maintain possession effectively; the more emphasis there will be on individuals that are able to maintain possession upon a regain, against a press or even when trying to beat a low block. Therefore, to support your team in how they maintain possession coaches should look to provide coaching sessions that can best equip players to be able to individually maintain possession in: different pitches sizes, areas, numbers and game situations to best prepare them for the game as well as team based practices too.

So what do individuals need to be able to do to maintain possession?

Individual players that are effective at maintaining possession will need the ability to receive, protect and outplay their opponents. In order to develop this in your players, here are some of attributes that you may want to focus on when developing your players through your coaching and games programme:

  • Can play with their eyes up whilst in possession of the ball.
  • Are comfortable at receiving the ball in tight spaces.
  • Can scan and recognise where pressure is coming from i.e. side, behind or in front.
  • Can twist/turn to help evade opponents on both sides.
  • Can use both feet to help them to protect the ball.
  • Have a variety of 1v1 moves for different situations to create space and evade their opponent.
  • Continually aware of their surroundings.
  • Confident and risk adverse whilst in possession of the ball.
  • Excellent balance, co-ordination and a range of movement skills.

Now, whilst this is a long list of attributes which may appear daunting; as a coach you can draw upon this list to help you to consider how you can create experiences for your players to develop these attributes. For players to be able to receive, protect and outplay their opponents coaches will need to put players in situations which are chaotic, creating problems for them to solve through how they use their ball to outplay their opponents. Therefore, when considering the type of practices that you may wish to use for developing individuals ability to maintain possession you should look to include the following into your training sessions:

Game Based Practices: These will enable individuals to be able to explore how will learn to play the game and therefore develop their ‘game intelligence’. Coaches should provide players with different experiences through game based practices whether it’s through: formats, pitch size, level of opposition, competition format, playing surfaces; which are all variables that can be altered in how you provide game based practices for your players. Game based practices which provide players with plenty of opportunities to experience being in possession of the ball individually as well as challenge them to make decisions on how they will keep possession with other team mates will support them in building the skills that they implicitly. To watch over 60 possession practices, click here:

Multi – Directional, Multi – Movement Games: Multi-directional, goal and movement games are great way of challenging players physically but also technically too. Exposing players to games which provide multiple outcomes as well as traffic which forces them to twist and turn but also to continually receive under pressure forcing them to protect the ball and outplay their opponents will be beneficial to them. Coaches should explore games which create chaos, which will help players to develop their scanning and playing with their eyes up to help them to identify their surroundings but also look for solutions to the problems that they face.

Creating Chaos; Causing Problems: Often coaches can be drawn into finding solutions for players in their practices, giving them the answers to help them to understand how they will succeed in the game that they’re playing. Coaches should look at how they can create chaos in their sessions, providing players with multiple outcomes whilst they are with and without the ball and challenge them find solutions to the problems ahead. Therefore, coaches should not solve the problems for the players or be afraid of sessions that look messy.

Coach The Player, Not The Practice: Whilst the above stipulates that chaotic games will help players to develop the skills that they need to maintain possession, it’s important that coaches don’t feel they need to come up with complicated and confusing games for their players which leads onto them spending more time coaching the practice; and less time coaching the players. Simple core games can be a great way of getting players into practices that they know and understand, with the problems being in the game and not necessarily in constraints or challenges that we have set them. As highlighted above, a simple challenge or constraint will provoke problems; likewise, simply adjusting the size of the pitch, playing surfaces, area or numbers can equally create problems for your players to find.

Provide Outcomes: Players that are looking to maintain possession will need to be provided with outcomes which may be for example: scoring in a goal, finding team mates, playing between opponents etc. It’s important that coaches provide players with practices and games that provide players with outcomes, so whilst they’re maintaining possession they have decisions to make and solutions to find.

Lastly, the skill to be able to maintain possession is a difficult one. Players will need to be exposed to playing under pressure and find ways of protecting and outplaying their opponents. Therefore, coaches shouldn’t be afraid of placing their players in situations where they’re underloaded or in tight areas which may lead onto mistakes and them finding it difficult. The more we can expose our players to these challenges, the better that they will be at maintaining possession.