Deck hands

Ged Hall challenges players to be effective in finding space and passing, either on their feet or from the ground (the deck!). Good for fitness as well as decision-making.

Deck hands is seemingly a very simple game to play, but beneath its simple exterior is a game that challenges players physically, mentally, tactically and technically.

The game focuses on attacking go forward, scanning for space and choosing the best options to keep hold of the ball.


Split your team into equal numbers and work in up to a 20m x 20m box – reducing the size if working with fewer numbers or younger players.

Players can run and pass in any direction.

The defence can only get the ball back via intercept or if the ball hits the ground. Encourage the ball carrier to be moving at all times to develop carrying and evasion skills.

The game is split into three levels.

Level One

  1. The aim for level one is to complete ten passes in a row. Each time a player passes the ball, they must perform a ‘down-up’ (chest to the ground, then straight back up). This replicates the need to get straight back up after a tackle and to scan for the next space to attack, as well as being physically exerting!
  2. Turn the ball over if a player does not perform a down-up. Look for players attacking space and looking for easy passes through because the support players are moving effectively.

Level Two

  1. We start to add a few more tactical elements to the game at level two. This time the way to score is to complete 10 pops off the ground, whether from the chest, back, or side.
  2. However, these don’t need to be completed in a row – so a player can pop off the ground to a teammate, but this teammate can pass the ball or run if they want.
  3. There is also no need for the player to go down after completing a conventional pass.
  4. Players should be working out when the best opportunities for a pop off the ground are (space, support, momentum).
  5. Turn the ball over if a player doesn’t go down correctly or holds on to the ball too long on the ground.
  6. In this level, we are really working on technique and tactical awareness.

Level Three

  1. The final level combines elements of both of the previous levels – the way to score is still through pops off the ground, but this time, after every pass, the player that passes has to do a down-up.
  2. The challenge here will mainly be physical as players get back to their feet constantly, but also decision-making skills and the mental components of players – can they cope?


  • Players explore two key concepts of going forward – running with the ball and passing.
  • Despite the lack of tackling in this game, space is important – passing or popping the ball in an area with defenders is likely to lead to a turnover.
  • This game can be tough, and there might be a gap in sessions between moving levels.


If the ball goes down or is knocked down – I’d turn it over. We want passes going to hand and made where a defender can’t get their hands on it. If it’s been slapped down, we’ve passed to someone who wasn’t in good enough space.

But I would say that for some age groups, the need to allow for drops and regathers may be important. Likewise, slapdowns might be discouraged, so coaches need to be clear on the rules they use around this and why.

Players are attacking space as they need to be able to identify pockets of the pitch where there are no defenders to interfere with the pass or offload as the game progresses. It’s easier to play the ball off the ground when we’ve got space to do it in.

With the ball, we want attackers running into spaces and running to draw defenders to create space to pass into.

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