Football Coaching Session: Playing through the thirds U9s

As I’ve posted in previous blogs we’ve been doing a bit of work with our U9s to help them pass the ball better and be able to put together a passage of passes in a game so the sessions recently have had a possession theme to them.

I saw a few tweets earlier this week regarding a session which we’re all familiar with and would best be called “Playing through the thirds”. I’d followed the conversation which had focused on the benefits of the session (positional play, build up, approach etc) and the cons of such a session (limiting creativity and freedom) so out of interest I used the session with our boys tonight.

We’d done the warm up and then set up the pitch (probably slightly shorter than a typical 7-a-side pitch) with it split in to thirds, i.e. as the image below.


The boys were informed of the structure and we set about the game, stopping it every few mins to rotate players in the different positions.


  • Remain in your zone
  • Play through each third
  • Progression: One “midfielder” allowed to enter attacking third when striker has ball under control

So, how did it go?


  • Any player in the striker position had to work very hard to find space. Some were capable and did well whilst others struggled but it was useful for making players play facing the game.
  • The players in the middle zone couldn’t always go forward (as I often see in SSGs or matches) so they had to look at options behind or to the side, which I see as a positive. This was also true of defenders who were sometimes having to play sideways.
  • The goalkeeper had to roll it in to the first zone so no long kicks up the pitch and the defenders then needed to look for a player in the middle zone.
  • The quality of passing had to be better and was better than I’ve seen before as players really started to focus on their passes. Especially true when playing in to the forward.
  • The layout provided a good way of playings moving between positions and each position provided a different challenge


  • Very limited action for goalkeepers due to 2v1 in favour of defenders
  • Players restricted to zone, not realistic to match situation
  • Scoring restricted to end zone, not realistic to match situation


A useful activity which I think had benefits from a possession and attacking movement perspective but it’s not something I’d do frequently at this age group because it can be quite rigid and it isn’t at all realistic to a game situation so you could develop habits you don’t wish to develop.

The boys enjoyed it and didn’t get bored or frustrated with it but next week it’ll be back to ball skills and small games which is what we’d normally do.


About Simon
Grassroots Football Coach

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