What’s the difference between an average five-a-side player and a top-class footballing master?

A top-class player cuts out the following basic mistakes in their game.  If you want to become a better player, make sure that you are not committing these five-a-side sins.

  1. Playing when you’re too tired – use the rolling subs rule.  If there are no substitutes available, get yourself in goals until you catch your breath.
  2. Standing still on the pitch – five-a-side football is all about passing, moving and creating space.  If you’re not moving, you’re useless.
  3. Moving slowly between attack and defence – when you have possession, all of your team are involved in the attack; when you lose possession, all your team must defend.  Do not get caught between.
  4. Giving up on the result too early – just because you’re a few goals down does not mean the game is over.  Even a five or six goal deficit can be turned around in minutes – play 100% right to the end.
  5. Not utilising your goalkeeper – use your keeper as your 5th man when in possession of the ball.  Get them involved in distributing the ball and retaining possession.
  6. Over-committing players in attack – during a close game players can  go into hail-Mary mode and focusing on attack only.  This will leave your team completely exposed.  Be patient and maintain your composure.
  7. Not marking opposition players – the opposition will be constantly moving around the pitch, trying to find space, so marking is very dynamic.  If you’re not pulling your weight to pick them up, you should be replaced.
  8. Being over-zealous with your distribution – never bounce the ball out from the GK or defence.  Roll the ball out fast to your team mates’ stronger foot for easier control and quicker play on the harder surface.
  9. Being slow to put the ball back in play – after a stop in play or transition in possession get the ball played out fast to try and catch the opposition on the counter-attack.
  10. Getting distracted and losing concentration – keep your eyes on the ball at all times.  Know where the ball is in relation to your position or to the player that you are marking.
  11. Using only your in-step to control the ball – try to use the sole of your foot to control the ball.  This gives you greater close control and flexibility and makes you less predictable.
  12. Losing your focus and your cool – five-a-side is so fast that there is no time to get upset or sulk.  Get your head back into the game!
  13. Relying on your physical presence alone – five-a-side football and Futsal are quick, skill-based games.  There is little room for hacking and barging.
  14. Specialising in only one position – in five-a-side football, there are no specific positions.  The best players are those ‘utility’ players that can play in attack, defence or on the flanks.
  15. Being selfish and going it alone – you attack as a team and you defend as a team.  Never try to do everything yourself, especially trying to dribble past all four of your opposition players.
  16. ‘When in doubt, put it out’ – this may be acceptable in the 11-a-side game, but if you’re playing without walls or boundary boards don’t be tempted to put the ball out of play to be ‘safe’. You will concede possession and territory to the opposition and besides, where’s the fun in it?!
  17. Floating the ball to your team-mates – with the hard surface, longer balls played at height are more difficult to control on the bounce.  Futsal balls (with their smaller size and heavier bounce) are even harder to control in the air.  Keep the ball on the ground.
  18. Being slow and dwelling on the ball – to be a successful team, you need fast heads and fast feet.  Retain the ball for too long and you will quickly lose any space or time advantage you have.

The most common 5-a-side mistakes


Dene Mitchell (Twitter - @5asidecoach) is the founder and editor of Five-A-Side Football Coach, a blog dedicated to providing effective football training for peak performance for short-sided versions of the game. Download his free 5-A-Side Performance Workout Guide (http://fiveasidefootballcoach.com/performance-workout/) and boost your power, speed and strength in just 6 weeks.