A 3 v 3 Festival of Fun: Creating a Game Like Playing Environment

The following post is an excerpt from The Ultimate Youth Coaches Training Guide; A Complete 6 to 10 Year Old Developmental Coaching and Training Program.

This 750 page program is perfect for youth coaches wanting practices to start their soccer coaching education and it is also for those more advanced and experienced coaches wanting to train their players as best they can at these wonderful open minded ages for development and education of both the mind and body. Our plan is to help all coaches at whatever level of experience they are at. Find Out More


Encouraging competitiveness in players in a small sided game environment and developing the best features of youth soccer as it used to be played in the parks, streets and back alleyways around the world, into the more formalized structure of the modern club soccer training program. It is about the technical and skills development of the younger player. These features include:

  1. Lots of individual touches on the ball.
  2. Trying new skills without fear of ridicule or recrimination.
  3. Taking players on and challenging defenders.
  4. Little or NO pressure from significant others (parents, coaches).
  5. A vibrant creative and fun environment.

Parents need to be briefed as to the aims and the underlying philosophy of the small sided game concept.

PROGRAM - The format is easily adapted and can accommodate many players, including goalkeepers, at very short notice.

TEAMS - No player sits out a game unless there are substitutes due to hot weather conditions for example or total numbers dictate substitutes are needed.

SUBSTITUTES - If a team has more than 3 players, then substitutes are brought into the game on a “strict” rotational basis.

GAME DURATION / REFEREES - Each game lasts for 8 minutes and there are no referees. By refereeing the game themselves, player’s co-operation is fostered and the young players consistently learn to take more responsibility for their own actions.

SCORING / GOALS - Because so many goals are scored in the conditioned 4 v 4 games, scoring itself is de-emphasized and no scores are held. Except for the Goalkeepers Game, the use of cones instead of real goals and nets redirects the emphasis of the game back onto build – up play and technical execution.

PLAYING TIME - Each player plays a minimum of 6 games and there is a minimum 2-minute break period between games for rest, re-hydration and games organization. This exercise-to-rest ratio increases energy levels and mental awareness during competitive play.

COACHING - There is very little overt coaching performed during competitive matches – no raised voices, no disciplining, and no “playing – the – game – for - the – players” commentary from the sidelines. Instead, consistent encouragement and praise are given to players of both teams for brave attempts and creative decision making. Players are repeatedly encouraged to make their own decisions in the games.

CONCLUSION - It is our responsibility to provide the players with a secure, vibrant and challenging soccer environment for them to learn their technical skills.
Consistent practice in this small sided game format will go a long way to helping them develop these skills to their fullest potential.

As well as this type of festival, “All” regular training sessions should include at least one third of the time the session lasts, playing small sided competitive games where they “just play”!



3 v 3 Training Program

3 v 3 training program
  1. Mini soccer in three’s is a great way for young players to learn how to play the game. Coaches try to teach the game where players support in triangles and in a team of three a natural triangle forms.
  2. This is especially important to play this at the U8 and U9 age groups but is also important at ALL age groups.
  3. It guarantees lots and lots of touches for each player and in the formative years especially it is vital for the players to work on their technical ability. Many opportunities for each player to pass, dribble, shoot, turn, tackle, only one ball between six players.
  4. This is a great medium to start this development but also within a game situation.
  5. When the player is on the ball they should always have two options of a pass.
  6. One player can be the goalkeeper and the last defender and can pick up the ball anywhere within the 5-yard line. You must encourage this player to move up and out of this zone to support their two team mates during the game when they gain possession. Or just play without goal keepers.