Coaching players during COVID-19: working in pairs

Guide All Ages

Coaches returning to football activity during COVID-19 must follow Government and FA guidance.

Here are two practices from our ‘safe sessions’ series to help you work safely and effectively with players in pairs and small groups.

Before setting up any of the sessions below, make sure you read our wider guidance, so you're prepared for your return to coaching:

Also keep in mind that it would be ideal if footballs are only recovered or moved round the pitch by using feet, rather than picking them up.

A text graphic outlining guidance around coaching and taking part in grassroots football during COVID-19.

Session 1: shootout

A graphic showing a football session focusing on finishing as two players, who act as both goalkeeper and striker, look to control the ball and score past their opponent.


  • 15x10 yard area split into two halves.
  • Add two safe-zones on the halfway line.
  • Four players.
  • One goalkeeper/striker and one support player per team.

Session information

  • Establish social distancing conditions to ensure no misunderstanding takes place.
  • Goalkeeper/striker can use hands and feet.
  • Goalkeeper/striker scores by controlling and striking or by combining with teammate.
  • First team to three goals wins.
  • Rotate players between positions.

Coaching points

  • Goalkeeper: stay in line, stay tall and get hands behind the ball.
  • Striker: control the ball and shoot away from goalkeeper. Consider striking the ball early with nearest foot or let the ball come across body and strike late.
  • When using the supporting player: pass to feet, time the run onto the pass and aim to shoot away from the goalkeeper.
  • Support player to pass to space for teammate to move on to. 


  • Use cones to mark out goals.
  • Players to stay inside playing areas.
  • Rotate the players in clockwise direction.

Session 2: block, screen and intercept

A graphic showing a block, screen and intercept football session, as two players at one end of the pitch look to get the ball past the defender in the middle to their teammates at the opposite end.


  • Mark out a 25x40 yard area.
  • Four attackers v one defender.
  • 12 footballs.
  • Goals.
  • Attackers must keep the ball below head height.

Session information

  • Establish social distancing conditions to ensure no misunderstanding.
  • Attackers try to pass to each other from end-zone to end-zone.
  • All passes below head height.
  • Defender tries to intercept. If they do, they can shoot at either end.
  • Play starts from one end.
  • Attackers score points for every completed pass. Defender wipes the score if they intercept and score.

Coaching points

  • Read the play and player body language: who is playing forward?
  • Move laterally to block.
  • Block passing lanes, intercept and score if possible.
  • Communication between defenders.


  • Players rotate roles.
  • Attackers have a shot clock to make passes. Groups change if time runs out.
  • Size of area can be adjusted.
  • Amount of touches can be restricted.
  • Goalkeeper can use their hands for distribution.

If you’re back out on the grass and want to find more safe sessions, head to our playlist by clicking here.

The FA’s Diversity & Inclusion team are aware of additional concerns and anxiety that members of the BAME community may have regarding returning to football. We fully support these concerns and care about the welfare of coaches and volunteers when carrying out football related activities. We also recognise that early research and insight in relation to the impact of COVID-19 on the BAME community is complex and still not fully understood.

If you have any health concerns regarding returning to coaching for yourself, your players or parents/carers etc you can contact The FA at D& for advice. We must follow the latest government advice and ensure that we do not feel pressured to return to coaching. You can find some additional support below:

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