Target Ball!

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Target BallApplicability: I have used this as a fun warm-up game, as well as a stand-alone activity in the middle of a practice. It is effective because there are multiple targets, it gets everyone moving, and it is game-like!  

Ages: U12 and up.

Area: 40 x 50 yards (W x L) – make as big as possible!

Activity: Put a cone in each corner of the field, then 2 or 3 others (equally distributed) along each end line (see diagram). Balance a ball on top of each cone on the end line.  Divide players into 2 teams. The objective is to successfully knock a ball off the cone (with the game ball). Team A defends their side and attempts to score on the other end (vice versa for Team B). If a player shoots and misses, (s)he must run to retrieve the ball, while the defending team can take the ball off the cone that the attacker missed (meaning that they will be temporarily “numbers up”). Play first team to 3 goals, then review the guided discovery questions and move through progressions.

Regressions: If defenders are just standing by cones, say that 5 consecutive passes equals a goal. This should entice the defending team to come out and play.

Guided Discovery Questions for the Attacking Team:

  • Do you want to make the field bigger or smaller when you have the ball? How can you do this? Why should you do this?
  • What is the first question you should ask yourself when you have the ball? (Can I pass knock a ball off?!)
  • Given that you have multiple goals in which to score, what are the opportunities and implications for attacking? For team shape?
  • Because you are aiming to serve a penetrating pass to a specific end zone, what implications does this have for your team shape?
  • If you miss the target, what should you immediately do? Why?
  • What types of communications will be most effective in this game? When and Why?

Guided Discovery Questions for the Defending Team:

  • Do you want to make the field bigger or smaller when the other team has the ball? How can you do this? Why should you do this?
  • What type of team shape should you have in this activity? Why?
  • How does pressure, cover, and balance come into play here because of the five target goals?
  • How important is good communication in this activity? What types of examples are there?
  • Is it possible to transition immediately from defense to offense in this activity? How so?

Progressions:

  • Add a neutral(s), so that the attacking team is always at an advantage
  • Put all players on a touch restriction (e.g. 3 touch max)
  • Add a halfway line and mandate that to score, all of the attacking team’s players must be in the attacking half
  • Mandate a certain number of passes (e.g. 5 before a team can attempt to score)
  • Play transition (whereby once a team scores at one end, they then go and try and score at the other end).
  • Finally, mandate that “goals” must be first time (e.g. players must knock the ball off the cone with their first touch!)

Guided Discovery Questions after you have added the Progressions:

  • How does the addition of a neutral(s) change the game? Why? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?
  • How do the touch limitations for the players change the game? Does this it make it easier or more difficult to score? Why?
  • How is the game changed by the rule mandating all attacking players must be over the halfway line to score? Why? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?
  • How does the addition of “transition” change this game? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?
  • How does mandating a certain number of passes before you can score change the game? Does it make it easier or harder to score? Why? What can you do to counter this?
  • How does the “first time finish” rule change the game? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?

Additional Notes: There are a number of progressions you can run through that legitimately make this activity significantly different each time, so you can easily spend 30-40 minutes on it (including water breaks) and keep the players engaged.

Numbers considerations: Depending on your numbers (e.g. if you have 16 or more), you may want to go for two smaller fields in order to maximize players’ touches on the ball and exposure to learning situations. It is best to experiment and see what works best for your group.

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