"How to teach young players
the counter attack"

The counter attack or break is used to catch a team off balance or numbers down and exposed. The idea is to take as much space, find a pass or dribble to expose the other team, helping to create chances to score goals.

The break is something that kids can pick up if they have good skills, understand how to pass the soccer ball - possession soccer, dribble the soccer ball and shoot and finish well.

The kids should possess a good level of skill and understanding. In saying that the kids like to dribble at this age so counters can happen often. This topic is best for U10 - U12 depending on the skill level.

Coaching tip: If the players can't keep the soccer ball by passing or dribbling, teaching the counter attack won't help...go back to basics.

How does the counter work?

A majority of the time the counter attack starts when a team has been playing in their end of the soccer field and a player intercepts a pass, wins a tackle or a header, which leads to the team breaking the other way. The other team is caught in a numbers down situation. A common occurrence in the game of soccer is a 1 vs 1, 2 vs 1, 3 vs 2  situation.

A break or counter could also occur when a team is trying to pass or dribble the soccer ball out of their half and they give the soccer ball away to a  defending team playing high pressure. The defending team wins the ball, takes advantage and attacks very quickly.

Check out some of the soccer skills that players need for a good counter.

Skills for the counter attack...

The skills that kids will need to be effective on the counter?

  • Dribbling skills - dribbling into space, beating players 1 on 1.
  • Passing skills - The players should be able to play a combination of short passes, longer passes and chips at the higher level.
  • Shooting skills - The players should be able to shoot with the inside of the foot, off the dribble, laces and at a higher level volleys and headers.

The players also have to be game savvy, meaning they have to transition from defense to attack very quickly. This topic can take time to develop. Once the players can control, pass, dribble and strike the soccer ball and have become more savvy in small sided games the coach can teach the break.

Teaching the counter...

Warm ups: There are many warm up games a coach can run for counter attack games. A great way to get the kids ready for fast transition games is playing lots of shooting games. This is great preparation to get the kids ready for lots of shooting and quick transition.

The coach should use fast transition games that help teach players to react quickly like 1v1, 2v1, 3v2 and 4v3 (8v8 or 11v11). numbers up and numbers down are some of the best games for coaches to teach players how to counter or transition.

Game: 1v1, 2v2, 3v3

Equipment: Cones, scrimmage vests and pug goals or Coerver goals.

Field: 20x30 depending on the age, cone goals or goals.

Game: Each team should have 5 players in each team or even numbers if available.

  • A player dribbles from side "A" with the soccer ball and attacks side "B's" player, so the kids are playing 1v1. 
  • The other four players position themselves in a line next to the goal. The first player will have a soccer ball ready to go.
  • Once the attacking player makes or misses a shot a player from the defending side dribbles on with the soccer ball and plays 1v1 with the attacker that just scored or missed. Same applies when a ball that goes out on the side line.

Coaching points:

  • The coach will need to watch out for players not ready to begin the game - they don't have a ball ready to go or they are not paying attention! If this happens too often the coach can deduct points to get their attention.
  • The coach can deduct a point if the players are having issues getting ready...this normally grabs their attention. Some times the coach might need to explain the game once more.
  • The player that has just scored must defend quickly with the attacking player trying to take advantage of the space, attacking quickly - counter attack!
  • Players will have a tendency to chase the shot or ball that has gone out of bounds.

Encourage the players to use their moves and take the attacker on at speed. Move the game to 2v2 or 3v3 so the players now have the option to pass the soccer ball.

The coach can play numbers down if he or she wants to really challenge the players like 2v1 or 3v2 games.

Watch the pros do it!

Now you have all the basics for the counter and a small, fun game that the kids will enjoy playing. The coach can finish the practice with a small sided 4v4 game. Players can apply what they have worked on in the practice. This is a great chance for some free play with little to no coaching.


Return to Coaching Kids Soccer from Counter Attack...

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