The full-field, 11-a-side version of soccer always contains within it a series of three-versus-three games, where the main ball handler and her two closest teammates, usually in a triangle shape, play the nearest defenders. Thus 3v3 soccer drills as they are called in soccer parlance help you better understand your options with the ball at your feet during the game. The drills also help you realize the importance of running into empty space where you can receive the ball or how to snag a pass sent to the space rather than to your feet.
This drill “forces you to look for the open player and forces players to look for you,” says Wes Harvey, former coach of the men’s soccer team at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. It can serve as one of the most fundamental drills for full-team soccer or help you prepare for summer tournaments in the 3v3 format. Set up a marked small field with cones, perhaps 20 by 40 yards, with two small portable goals or goals demarcated by paired cones at each end. Set up a red and a yellow team wearing colored practice vests or pinnies. Play a scrimmage where you are allowed to touch the ball only two times before passing it away. If you are coaching, blow a whistle and give the ball to the other team if a player touches the ball a third time.
“If you run alongside the ball without touching it, you have time to prepare your next move,” Harvey advises. “And if you trap the ball, you have to look up for your open players. You also learn where to be when you are off the ball waiting to receive it, versus standing around waiting.”
On the same small field, have players practice corner kicks, whereby one player stands at the corner and serves the ball into a teammate in a position to try to score on the goal. Since one person is taking the corner kick, that leaves her team of two receiving players with the challenge of trying to score on three defenders. This drill forces the players to make smart runs into the goal and work on headers, quick shots and savvy passes to break down the defense.
Playing the Ball In
3v3 tournaments, held nationwide each summer, require players to inbound the ball with a kick instead of a thrown-in. “Playing the ball in” is one of the most important drills to work on prior to the tournament. Have one player stand just outside the touch line, in American football called the sideline, of the small marked field. He places the ball on the ground and tries to pass it inbound to one of two teammates, again marked by three defenders. Tournament 3v3 rules require the defenders to stay at least five yards from the person playing the ball in. Teach your players to patiently practice asking for this amount of space to be enforced by the referee. Have players receiving the ball focus on never turning their back to the inbounder.
3v3 in the 18
The online drills site Soccer Xpert recommends using the 18-yard box in front of the goal on a regulation field for this drill. Players in red and yellow pinnies play a game within the box. Six players also split between the yellow and red teams stand just outside the box. The team in possession must play the ball to a teammate outside the box. The receiving teammate joins the 3v3 game inside the ball and is free to shoot on goal, while the player inside the box moves outside it. The game must be dynamic, with players switching roles constantly, working on their attacking and shooting skills.