Training for Six

Hi, it’s been a while. Work and life, you know. For those that have been away over summer I have been doing a series, Training For Six, because I am six to death of coaching manuals that only cater to successful clubs with full lists, and of coaches that pretty much give up just because there are small numbers at training, denying those that are there the right to work hard and learn and feel like footballers. Coaches like that aren’t coaches. They are the death of small clubs. As far as football goes, they are the enemy.

So far we have done Training For One. Training for Two, Three, Four and now, the one the series was named after, Training for Six.

The biggest, most important skill any player can have is self motivation. Never, if a team is flat, let it stop you giving your all. Never, if the numbers at training are small, let it stop you being a footballer.

It goes to character. The stuff every-single-other-thing is built around.


Warm up.

Take two balls, work up and down the ground twice, sharing, going half pace, kick to longer options. Straight line at targets. First length and back half pace, just rolling the legs over. Second, 2/3rds pace.

Next. Go up the ground and back where player with ball rolls it in front of another player, who picks it up and handballs to third player. Player who receives, then rolls it. Again, two balls. Warms up different muscles.

Then. Up and back six man weave. Two balls. Just running and handballing, still only half/three quarter pace. Key is, run towards person you’re handballing to. Including three hard steps in their direction upon release. 1. To shepherd. 2. To push through and assert new position. This will involve two-paced running. Give and go.

Tip. If there is someone one meter away from you, and someone ten, always go to the longer option. Practice breaking the play up.

Then. Do rapid sequence of handball drills as shown in previous Training For Six entries. Stationary. High/low, to shifting hand, middle player on the line.

Finally. Do the Yo-Yo kicking drill as seen in Training For Two. Either groups of two if you have three balls, or groups of three.


Okay, each player has touched the ball about 70-100 times. Do first half of stretches.


  1. The Shrink. A great warm-up drill.

Start with everyone inside the 50. One defensive player. The other five will have ample time to get their kicks and handballs right and lay shepherds, get talk going, as they move the ball around.

Swap defensive players and move it all in by ten meters.

Repeat, even closer in. Fresh defender.

Finish in a fifteen meter radius with a fresh defender.

As always, follow the basic team rules.
1. Follow up handball with three hard steps. Shepherd and re-position.
2. You do not stop talking until the person you have given it to had delivered it.
3. No u-turns.

Once numbers improve, do this drill with two defenders.


Second half of stretches.



Tempo is another buzz word these days. Slowing the game down, taking it on. Again, use the 50 meter zone. Coach calls “Fast!”, it’s play on, play on, play on. Lots of handball, and switching and go, go, go. Coach calls “Slow” you take a mark, you go back and look for the best leading options. The surest switch. Kick long or short pass. Only handball if you have waited, and a player runs behind.


Ball Up Release.

Wing. A ruckman and two rovers. A defender/opponent. A release player drifting out back. Sometimes there for the handball, sometimes running wide for the chip – read the play. Be in a position where you can be either. Teach the ball players to look for you. And a CHF.

Defender tries to heard the three on-ballers into using the release player. Sometimes the three will get past and go direct. Sometimes the release player will be needed. Hit the CHF, repeat.

CHF must learn to read the play. If the ball comes direct out of pack, probably best to lead straight at it. If it comes via the release player, the release player, and you, will have more time, so lead up the corridor more.

Centre. 4 on 2. Two ruckmen compete. Or start with ball thrown at opposing player’s ankles. The 4 always have a release player out back. When release player gets it they must use it. The drill doesn’t stop until the ball is in the forward 50, so, at least one of the four must push forward. (but not all of them). This is great for the players in the middle to learn to deliver it to the release player, then take off. Not just think their job is done. Practice fanning. Deliver or run ball into forward line and set up in middle again.

Defence. Do the same drill, but when release player gets it, everybody fan. Look for quick chip sideways. Either then hold ball up for others to run to position, or if you are free, explode down wing. Once free of two defenders, stop and reload. If two defenders get ball, reload.



Player at Fullback with ball. Two players near edge of square. Two on the far side of square, at CHF, and one player at FF. Ball starts with FB. Two players out wide lead. One short, one long and wide. If ball goes short, NO U-TURNS. Go back and look for options. Either full back will run through corridor for switch, or past for handball, or one of the CHFs will take off, leading into middle of ground. This is great practice for turning amateur CHFs in to modern CHFs. They learn to read the play and present up through the middle. And to work with each other. One stays at home, the other goes. No point you both push up to ball and leave the hot spot empty.

If ball had been kicked to wide long option, the short lead turns hard and runs, being that handball or chip to corridor option. Odds are it will then go to the hot spot at CHF. Again, the two CHFs work with each other. As ball is coming from wide on Back Flank, one lead at ball carrier, other lead for longer kick into the centre.

Repeat no u-turns, if ball goes short, one of the two back flankers runs by. If it goes to longer CHF option, the other CHF turns and goes. The one with the ball decides whether to give/reward, or go back and get it to hard leading FF or shot on goal.

Kick goal.

Now FF becomes FB. Set up to go from that end.


Handball Game 1

Thirty meter pitch, cone at each end. Hit a cone, goal.

4 on 2 with four having release player out back.

First half. Handball = a mark. Set up. Play to it.

Second half. No marks, play on at all times. Always 4 vs 2. Give you a chance to practice your set ups/what you will do when you have numbers to the ball.

Go hard for a few two minute games, then.


Handball Game 2

3 on 3. Same rules. Set up with one release player, who then doubles as a last line defender. Two halves. One game paying handball marks, another game using only play-on.


Handball Game 3 (With Kicking.)

Set up, three on three. Both teams with two attacking and one release player. Instead of one cone to aim for, put goals either side of your forty meter playing area. Have three balls. One in play, and one by one team’s goal post, one by the other. It is all about

Winning the hard ball

Flicking it out back.

Snapping goals.

LOTS of goals.

The player who snapped the shot gets the ball while the spare ball is grabbed from beside the goal and you are away again. The team that kicked the goal is down a player until the player who had the shot gets their ball and replaces the one now in play by putting their ball beside the goals. This way 1. they must be quick about it, and 2. One team will not dominate, as, the more shots they have, the more times they will be outnumbered. 3. The drill will flow. There will be no break for anyone.

This drill works for Training For Eight even better. 50 meter pitch. Each team with three around ball-up/contest, and one out back. Handball out back and snap. 3 on 4 until shot maker gets back into play.



No science. Pick a partner, each pair faces off and wrestles for a minute. As soon as one of pair is down, up you both get and go again, and again. Nothing wrong with learning how to use your body, keep your feet, and exerting all muscles. Better than the gym. Pairs wrestle during the same minute. Coach gives you all 30 seconds breather, and go again.

If you want to add football element, each pair has a footy beside them. Wrestle. Whoever gets free first have a shot (while knackered). If it is a goal, the loser has to get the ball. If it is a point, the kicker gets it. Bring it back, set up and go again. First to three goals wins.


Defending Bounce. (love this one)

As said previously. So often marking practice at training involves two players flat-footed, slugging it out. Yet, unless you’re Tony Locket in the goal square, this rarely happens in a game. In a game, forwards lead, running onto the ball, or ruckmen lead for a kick-out. So…

Three cones. One for the kicker. One 40 meters away, that the kicker will be landing the ball on top of. The other 50 meters away, so the forward and the defender can JOG towards the hot spot and contest the mark. This will help you heaps with learning real game body positioning.

Other three players ORGANISE themselves, using voice, to surround the contest. And/or simply use common sense. “Right, Player A has the front/fall of the ball, so Ill go out back.” Etc…


One of my pet peevs is, in marking practice, everybody pairs up against someone their own height. Fine for us tall blokes. But shorter and mid-sized players never get to practice countering/negating, or beating someone bigger. Why? What happens in a game. “Nah, I let him take an uncontested mark because he was too big for me.” Bullshit.


Mark contested. If marked by one of players, other contester becomes man on mark. Other three spread. Run behind, over the top, wide for the chip. Then all five of you work it back to the kicker, using two or three possessions.

If ball is not marked, all five of you spread and run and work it back to the kicker. No u-turns. Don’t be afraid to sweep behind and chip out wide. Whatever. Again, two or three possessions and a chip to the kicker.

Either way, as soon as the ball is chipped back to the kicker, all players push back for next contest. The closest two to the furthest cone take the next mark, no matter how short or tall they are. Nominate. “I’ll take it!” or “Me and Peter to mark!” whatever. The others, again, organise themselves to crumb. Kicker kicks ball in high again.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

The drill should have a flow of up and back.

You are practicing marking, crumbing. Organising/positioning. Fanning. Turning chaos into order. Running to attack and pushing back.

Once you have the drill down pat, say, half way through year, add third player up. If one player is marking it all the time, or if it is a tall against a small, practice the third player up. Third player up does a decisive punch. Again, the other two crumbers will have to compensate. Shifting from three of you surrounding the contest to being one back one forward. All five players run it back to kicker.

As always, follow team rules.

Run AT player you are delivering to.

Three hard steps upon release of ball.

Do not stop talking until the player you have delivered it to has delivered it.

No u-turns.

As said before. There are a thousand things to learn about becoming a better footballer. But a coach will lose his players if the coach is constantly giving new rules each week. Or, on the other hand, will find no improvement without three or four defined team rules to build your club around, making your players predictable to each other.

My four are the four above. Repeated until the players are sick of them. And repeated more, every drill, until they become your players reflex action. And they become predictable to each other.

To repeat..

Run AT player you are delivering to.

Three hard steps upon release of ball.

Do not stop talking until the player you have delivered it to has delivered it.

No u-turns.

As numbers improve, say. Training For Ten, simply set up the same at both ends. Last possession from group down one end is a chip up to group down other. Then your group must push back hard and set up before ball returns.


Straight Defence.

Six players. That’s a backline. Set out six cones for players as if ball is bombed into the hotspot. Not a perfect coach’s board back six. Say, a cluster of three around the ball, one deep, one out at half forward, and one on edge of centre square, leaving the fat side relatively empty. This is the way it happens in a game. The ball comes in from one wing, the other side is empty.

Player on edge of square kicks ball to any one of the other five, high. A real rainmaker. The nearest player to the one under the ball runs across and holds/wraps them up when they take the mark, becoming the defending forward. When marker takes ball, they push back on mark, looking for options. The other four adapt. And run the ball out. One or two breaking to the empty side. The fan, the spread, the chip wide, switch long wide. The chip over and receive back. Whatever. Stop when you get the ball to the attacking position from the wing and set up again. All the while the defending forward is trying to stop them.

Straight Defence Variation.

Set up five cones. Same drill, but the 6th player is now down at CHF. Finish the drill. Run it out of defence the same. If the CHF is leading up the ground, follow up, get it back by hands or from chip over the top, now that you have run on to be in goal kicking position. If the CHF has lead deep in the forward line kick long to them, let them go back for a shot. Finish each go with a shot on goal.

CHF must be smart, reading play. Sometimes presenting up through middle of the ground, sometimes leading a bit wider to player running up back flank/wing. Sometimes holding lead, staying deep. When they get the ball, pushing back as if man is on mark, giving teammates time to run forward for chip over top. Or, sometimes, if ball is kicked wide to them, playing on, curving wide towards goal. But, team rules, no u-turns.

Will involve lots of running. The cornerstone of modern football.

If a player has run the full length of the ground to receive chip over top from CHF and have their shot, they, when they retrieve the ball, can now be CHF, while the CHF pushes back to be one of the defenders.

Again, good habits. Players don’t then walk back to cones, they encourage each other to get back as quick as they can. Group has a quick breather ONCE PLAYERS ARE BACK IN THEIR POSITIONS. Leader/person with ball decides how long to recover, then “Righto…” Drill is away again.


It is another pet peev. So many drills finish with you having a shot at goal then walking, or shuffling back to your positions. Your team gets into really, really bad defensive routines. You are teaching them to get the ball, then not give a shit when they have delivered it. Then it is you that gets mad with them when they don’t push back in a game, when it is your fault entirely. SPRINTS COME IN TWOS. A great team rule. You sprint to get/deliver the ball, you sprint back to your opponent/cone/start of drill/next position. Then, you rest.

So often, players from back half will not push off their man because they are worried about the fitness of running back if it is a turnover. If you practice running two ways, or that SPRINTS COME IN TWOS, they will be much, much more inclined to go for those runs. It is self-perpetuating.  


Five to One.

Pair up, a ball each pair, and do Five to One drill from Training For Two


Get in threes and do any of the three goal kicking drills in Training for Three.



There are about ten other Training for Six drills I can think of, some of which are beauties, but this is enough for now. I’ll do them another time. My point is, almost all of these drills I have invented. As long as you have your basic team rules, which, for me, are

Run AT player you are delivering to.

Three hard steps upon release of ball.

Do not stop talking until the player you have delivered it to has delivered it.

No u-turns.

But they are my rules. Have your own. Whatev. As long as you have some form of structure.
Absorb and invent. Watch AFL training. Watch Div 1 Amateur training, any standard higher than yours. And adapt to your club, your needs, your numbers, your football philosophies. You are a coach, or, if this is summer work, a senior player, or, simply a leader. It is your responsibility to do these things right. To be thorough. If you take on leadership, you must get out of your comfort zone, you must work to earn it. A part of that is to keep learning. What worked for you is not good enough on its own. Always be adding, looking for more. Push yourself, as well as your teammates forward.


As I have said, and will repeat, I believe in…

Work and Reward. Working very hard does not put players off. If it becomes the norm, they actually feel better about themselves, more like footballers. As long as there is also reward. Fun nights, bowling, games at training. Praise.

Chaos. I despise cone to cone to cone drills. Every drill should involve, at some stage, making options. As a game does. Choosing options. Turning chaos into order.

Adaptation. Having 2/3 the same drills all year, so players can get into good habits through them, but adapting as you go. Starting them simple, then throwing in another leg, another defender, another element as the year, and your team, progresses. And 1/3 new drills, to keep it fresh. Sometimes, if a new drill works, replace one of the staler regular drills with it.

Speed. One drill to another. Bang, bang, bang. Have your night planned out. Your year planned out. Players can smell these things, and rise to them. “That coach is organised, decisive. He knows his shit!” If you ever heisted between drills, or deviate from your team rules, just watch the player’s confidence in you drain out of them.

And Competitiveness. Aussie Rules is a contest sport. Coaches, I believe, who will not do competitive work at training for fear of losing a few soldiers, breed soft footballers who do not know how to make decisions in competitive situations. Players ARE competitive by nature. It’s why we play. All the theory in the world falls down unless it is steeled for the heat of battle. We enjoy competing. Competing against each other forms bonds, too. It makes us closer as a unit. And far, far more predictable to each other on game day. We know, up close, how each of us will react in any given situation.

So yeah, I have ten more drills, but come up with your own, based on what you see at higher levels, or you think of. As a leader, it is your responsibility to do so. Your duty.

If you think you are too good to learn, or improve on what you know, you are no leader.


To finish…

Goal Elimination.

So basic. Six players thirty meters out from goal. Coach kicks ball out to them. (if coach is playing, just throw the ball up) And, it’s six on six! Whoever gets the goal can lazily start getting in the cones and drink bottles and footies, then start their stretches. If the goal is missed, all players go back to 30 meters out and repeat until goal is kicked. Then, its five against each other. Repeat down to two players.

Or, if even in this you want to practice teamwork, do three teams of two. Your team gets the goal, both of you can drop out. It becomes 2 x 3, then 2 vs 2, then the last pair compete, 1 vs 1. If you do this the drill will go quick, so do it a few times.


Warm Down.

Random Handball.

Make a thirty meter area, two balls, and, half place, randomly handball to each other following team rules of talk, direction, and only slight burst now on release. A lazy, far more apt version of five star handball. This way you work on chaos and options theories, even when warming down.



Again, I am sick of bush and suburban clubs talking modern AFL lingo, but doing stretches so old their grandparents parents did them. Go watch an AFL club train, look it up on line, watch the highest standard club you can, whatever, but you are a coach. Make the effort for just one arvo in your career. It is your responsibility to not ever go through the motions. Stretching, even for six, hell, stretching for one, is vital, and must be done right. Use modern methods. Learn and share. Even in warm down have your charges feeling like modern footballers.

If there is a player who fancies themselves as a leader, get them to prove it. At the end of the night you say, in front of the group. “Joff, I want you to research some modern stretching, and take the warm down next week.” See if they really are a leader, or just someone who likes the limelight.

Same with warm-ups.



Note. I always ant to do extra. That is me. One of the reason’s I am about to play my 34th year of senior footy. But it is not for everybody, which is fine. If you are a coach, and players want to do extra, my advice is, excuse them from team stretches. They are a cool down. Also a momentum stopper. Shots at goal are not extra, cooling down a bit will not affect them. Those players must stretch with group. But there are things that are extra, and players can/must be allowed to do the warm downs after they have done their extra. But they must be made to do warm down stretches. They are for their own good. No getting out of them.   

 If there are two of you, or three, doing extra, nothing, ever, beats the simplicity of kick to kick. Lead for each other all over the place. Wide, short, long. To have a spell, regain your breath doing 30 meter spot kicking, then go again.

If there are two of you… After a while take your kick to kick to goal line. Follow Training For Two guidelines of, player on goal line works as hard, or harder than player having shots. Mark/gather ball, run through goal square hard, turn, face direction of lead, chip in front, then run back to goal line and set up for kick in. Goal kicker has shot, then leads long and hard for next kick, sometimes playing on, straightening and having a shot, sometimes going back for kick. Always, always kicking real goals, that go over the fullback’s head, never to them. Remember, of a fullback can touch it before it crosses the line, it is no goal. You have practiced nothing.

If there are three… follow any on a number of Training For Three Goal Kicking drills.

Finish with a few games of Two Drop as seen in Training For Two.

If it is just you, there are about 10 things you can do, using the ball from Training for One.

Personally, I do the Kick straight up, mark high, take off hard, running, handball into ground, gather awkwardly bouncing ball, take off hard, running, kick straight up, repeating continuously for five goes. Have a breather, then do it for four kicks, breather, three, etc down to one.

Then/or finish with Figure Eight goals. (See Training for One)



Carb and sugar energy replacements (Sports drink, banana/two minute noodles) Showers.

Beer. (Well earned)

Next/last, in Training for Six: Training for Ten, Training for Twelve.


  1. Richard 6% smith says

    Great project! In the nineties I trained for a team that never got more than four out to practice, but out list hade more than 20. The coach got discouraged and we never had a game

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