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3v3 flying changes cone goals

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3v3 flying changes cone goals



The game starts with two teams of 3 facing each other, with at least one player behind each of the first groups of players. The activity begins with a pass across to the opposing team of 3 – both teams enter the grid. Each team tries to play the ball through the opposing line to one of the three cone goals where an opponent is waiting.

If the pass is completed, the defending team of 3 leaves the field, and a new team of 3 immediately enters, trying to pass through their opponents to the waiting players at the cone goals.

If the defending team gains possession, the roles are switched, and the team on the ball tries to complete their pass through the opponents to continue the game.

Initially, there are no restrictions on the number of passes a team may take before completing a through pass.

If the ball goes out of play, the team that lost the ball leaves the field, and a new team enters with the ball, with the remaining team taking the defending role.


Each team scores 1 point for each completed pass through their opponents to a cone goal.


Limit the number of touches per player before they must pass

Limit the number of passes in possession before a team must successfully pass to a cone goal

Allow one (or more) back passes to a teammate as part of the buildup to score

What we like about this game

The activity incorporates a variety of situations that lend themselves to coaching points in both attacking and defending roles and during positive and negative moments of transition. Ideally, the game is high-tempo, with work and rest intervals based on the number of players. When implemented as a 3v3, the game expresses concepts of width and depth with the actions of the 3rd player in and out of possession, which is a valuable learning experience. Scanning, anticipation, pass quality, and first touch with intent are ingredients to success.

Relationship to the game

At first glance, the activity seems counterintuitive – why encourage and reward a team for passing to their opponents?
In the attacking phase, we use the opposing cone goals to represent our team’s next block in the game – for example, from back line to midfield or from midfield to forward. The opponents on the cone goals represent (for the purpose of this phase) teammates higher up the field. The opponents within the grid represent the opposition. The objective within the grid is to utilize feints, passes, and other actions to create a window through which we can progress the ball.
In the defending phase, we are trying to prevent the opponents from passing through our line by delaying, closing off options, isolating the ball, and attempting to gain possession. In a full-size game, this might be our attempts to high press in the attacking third or sit deeper and prevent through balls and/or shots on goal.
The moment the ball is played through to the cone goals represents a transition for both teams. The new attacking team’s objective is to score as quickly as possible while the opponent is disorganized. In this sense, the activity relates to the full-size game in which we would like to counterattack if possible to get numbers-up to goal or quickly get a shot on goal if we regain the ball in the final third.
In a transition, the defending team’s objective is to quickly close off any through ball, delay, press the ball immediately, and win it back if possible. All of these tactics can relate to the full-size game.

Coaching points

As noted above, there are various possible coaching points based on the moments of the game (in/out of possession and positive/negative transition). The coach utilizing this activity may want to consider identifying a specific game model topic (for example, breaking defensive lines) rather than trying to respond in real-time to every error through stoppages.

Another coaching strategy is to develop the activity in layers. First, identify coaching points to encourage success in the attacking role. Once the attackers have figured things out, identify coaching points for the defenders to improve their quality, making the attacking role more challenging. In this model, the coach can develop a recognition of the responsibilities of the players both with and without the ball and provide an overall more game-like experience.
Key points in possession
  • The first option on receiving the ball at a cone goal to start possession or on winning the ball from the opponents in the grid is – if possible – break lines and get a ball to the opposite cone goal
  • For the 2nd (or 3rd) attacker, continually scan to find positions on the field to receive the ball
  • Recognize pressure on the 1st attacker and be prepared to drop to support
  • Be willing to play the ball backward to advance the ball if forward options are closed off
  • If possible, maintain an open body shape to play a ball through lines quickly.
  • Use your body to shield in possession and ensure that 1st touch is under control
  • Be creative in using on-ball feints to create windows to pass through to target cones.
  • If you make a penetrating run (for example, in a 1-2 situation) and you do not receive the ball, recycle the run – don’t stop
Key points out of possession
  • As soon as the ball is played to the opposite cone goal and a new team enters, the nearest player must try to quickly engage, close off options, and get the opponent’s attention on the ball rather than having time and space to scan the field
  • The 2nd and 3rd defenders will take the pressure/cover roles based on the ball position and movement, recognizing the presence of the other two attacking players
  • As soon as the ball is played to the opposite cone goal and a new team enters, the nearest player must try to quickly engage, close off options, and get the opponent’s attention on the ball rather than having time and space to scan the field
  • The 2nd and 3rd defenders will take the pressure/cover roles based on the ball position and movement, recognizing the presence of the other two attacking players
  • Defenders should be continually scanning and aware of the threats of through balls
  • Communication (verbal and non-verbal) between the defenders to identify roles and threats as the ball moves between opponents is a key coaching point

Adjust for numbers

The size of the grid must provide challenges for both teams. If the grid is too large, the attacking team can easily pass through their opponent’s line. If the grid is too small, the defending team can prevent any through ball and trap their opponent close to the cone goals. It may take trial and error to determine what will make sense for teams of different ages and abilities. A grid of about 20 yards wide by 25 yards long can be a good starting point for an Under-16 age team – consider starting the activity and making adjustments based on observation and their success in both attacking and defending roles.
Shown here as a 3v3, the activity can be made smaller (2v2) or larger (4v4) based on the number of players. An activity larger than 4v4 is a challenge to manage players and spaces and is less reflective of the actual game, in which it is unusual to see a flat line of 5 players in possession.
A 2v2 game will result in a higher work rate for the individual players, which will require management of the work/rest ratios.
In general, there should be at least two players per cone goal. So, if the game is 3v3, a minimum of 12 players will be required for the activity. If there is an odd number (for example, 14), distribute the extra players at the end of the waiting groups – this will result in a shuffling of the teams on the field as the odd number will create different combinations in each interval of the game.
A similar effect can be created with the back pass progression described above – allowing 1 (or more) back passes per possession to teammates waiting on “our” cone goal. This progression potentially creates a 6v3 in possession.
An alternative to this game is to use wide neutrals, resulting in (for example) a 3v3+2. This video shows the game with neutrals.
A key feature is that the game now becomes 5v3 in possession, which creates more challenges for the defenders.


The 3v3 flying changes cone goals activity embeds challenges for players in each of the moments of the game – attacking, defending, positive and negative transitions. When working with 3-a-side, basic concepts of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd attacking and defending roles can be presented. The activity demands quality first touch, passing, off-ball movements, scanning, anticipation, and reactions as play proceeds. The game can be adjusted based on more or fewer numbers and lends itself to various coaching topics and strategies.