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Session Example: Using a '3rd Man' in Possession

Last night I ran a session with my FC Boston Bolts 2002 Team (U15, 8th-9th graders) and the focus was on, what I described to the players, as "using a third man when possessing". I was excited to run the session because I thought the exercises where creative and challenging and the progressions were logical, but I did run into some problems when delivering the session.

The first was this concept of finding and playing to a "3rd man" is actually pretty new and probably too challenging for a 15 year old player. Therefor I had to adjust my language. Originally I was using the term "3rd man" but then I changed it to the "new man". I let them know that after two players combined, they then had to find a new man. That explanation seemed to work best. Second challenge was that the organization and flow to these exercises where lengthy and complicated to explain. 15 years olds don't have longest attention span but to be fair, the exercises were too complicated for 15 years old because there are too many intricate and detailed parts to remember. After explaining the exercises I became frustrated with players not getting into the flow right away but then I realized that the exercises where too high-level and I should have planned and ran something more basic and more technique focused. Live and learn. It is what coaching is all about I suppose.

The other challenges that I face most weeks are that 1.) players let me know last second if they can come or not, so often it is hard to plan a session around a certain number of players I can use. 2.) the gym we use is very small, so space is limited. It is really only conducive for 3 vs. 3 or 4 vs. 4, so it is impossible to do anything with large numbers. When you add defenders, it noticeably becomes even more congested.

Despite the frustration with the session not going as smooth as I hoped, I thought I would post it anyway and share the ideas behind my thinking. The concept behind the session is moving off the ball in order to support the man on the ball and to try and play into the 3rd man, who would be free by moving off the ball to get into open space.

The coaching points therefor would be on:

-quality technique of passing and layoffs (ie. preparing the ball for the next pass)... one bad pass effects the next pass

-timing and movement off the ball to support ... don't be standing still, waiting for a pass... time it so you are running into the ball

-movement off the ball to keep good shape... keep a triangle (if 3 men) so that receiver can have multiple options

-thinking ahead of receiving the ball, so you have an idea of where to play the ball... 3 touches kills speed of play

-tactical awareness to find the 3rd man (new man) when combining... head-up/scanning

Session here and progressions below:

Progression 1:

Progression 2:

Progression 3:

Progression 4:


I am a youth and college soccer coach who is passionate about making coaching my career and helping assist players in their development. I am always trying to learn from the game and always willing to share with others the insights I have made from the game. If you have coaching tips or materials you would like to share, just contact me.

See social media links on the 'Contact' page.

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