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Carl's Keep Away


  • To encourage players from an early age to appreciate the benefits of passing the ball to a teammate.

  • Introduction to opportunistic and incisive defending.


  • To keep the ball for the longest time; for the defender to win the ball as soon as possible.


  • Mark a grid 15 x 15 yards depending on numbers.

  • Assuming there are 10 to 12 players split group in half, say two groups of 6.

  • Use pinnies to distinguish the two groups.

  • One group of 6 goes into the square and just one of the other group also goes into the square. The rest wait in line for their turn.

  • The 6 players try to keep the ball away from the one defender.

  • When the defender wins the ball or forces the ball to be played out of the area he/she changes with the next defender. This goes on until every defender has been through and they then change with the other team.

  • The team that keeps the ball for the longest time (stop watch out) is the winner.

  • If a team is doing so well the defender cannot get the ball after 30 seconds shout, "Change!" and the next defender replaces the one in the middle.

  • The coach keeps a supply of balls handy so after an interception or a ball is kicked out of play he/she kicks or rolls another ball in.



  • Coach must assess whether the playing area is too big or too small and make adjustments if necessary.

  • For the first few minutes allow the players to play in a non-competitive way so that when a mistake is made, the coach can recreate the situation and then ask the player who made the mistake what the alternatives are. Praise him or her for coming up with the answers (as they surely will). If they can see what should be done they will learn more quickly to do it when the ball is in play.

  • After a few minutes go into the stopwatch competition described above without any interventions by the coach other than putting the ball back in play.

  • This practice should be used on a regular basis and progressed when the children are ready. The ways to progress are-

  • Make the space smaller

  • Reduce the numbers attackers, e.g., 5 vs. 1 and then 4 vs.1

  • Or increase the number of defenders, e.g., 6 vs. 2

  • Condition the attackers, e.g., no more then two touches (control and pass).

  • Although the defender is outnumbered encourage them to look for the misplaced or mis controlled pass to pounce on the ball.


U7 Progressions

  • It may take a while for the children to become so good that the game needs “progressing.” When they are ready, use the following methods.

  • Make the square smaller.

  • Reduce the numbers, e.g., from 6 vs. 1 to 5 vs. 1.

  • Limit the number of touches per player, e.g., three touch or two touch.

  • Increase the number of defenders, e.g., 6 vs. 2.

U8 Progressions

  • If you are just starting to use these Lesson Plans refer to Carl’s Keep Away progressions in the U7 Lesson Plans.

  • As they improve adjust the numbers, field size and the player ratios.

U9 Progressions

  • If you are just starting to use these Lesson Plans refer to Carl’s Keep Away progressions in the U7 & U8 Lesson Plans.

  • May still be challenging enough without a progression.

  • Less space/fewer players, e.g., 4 vs. 1 will increase the difficulty.

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