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As a youth football coach, it is necessary to vary your practice sessions by using unique and fresh training drills. 

The football tic-tac-toe drill is one of the best examples of a fun warm-up drill that is based on the classic tic-tac-toe game.

This paper-and-pencil game has been around for more than 3000 years and still remains popular. By using that concept in this football drill, you can get the players to enhance their football skills.

How to Set up the Football Drill 

The football tic tac toe drill can be set up in a few simple steps listed below.

  • Place two cones on the playing field to mark the starting point for the players. Divide the players into two groups of equal numbers. The two teams should stand in a line behind the cones.
  • Give the first three players in the first team a red bib or a red football training pinnie. The players on the other team get three pinnies of a different color. This will help in identifying the pinnies from each group on the grid.
  • Set up the tic tac grid consisting of 9 squares using the cones at a distance of around 10 yards from the starting point. Ideally, the cones in the grid should be 3 yards apart from each other.
  • soccer tic tac toe game

Performing the Drill

Once you signal, the first players from each team will run toward the tic-tac-toe board. After placing the pinnies on the grid, they race back to the line and tag the next player. The next players will then move toward the grid. 

As per the game, the goal is to get three pinnies in a row. The first team to complete the task wins. However, a team cannot connect the 3 rows that are the closest to their position. 

If none of the rows are connected after three attempts, the 4th player can move without carrying a pinnie. This player can move an existing pinnie on the grid to a new location.

In another format of the drill, instead of running to the game board, the players can also use a football ball and dribble toward it. They can stop the ball beside the grid, place the bib and turn back to pass the ball to the next player.


In a football game, players need to make constant decisions for both offense and defense, even if they are not in possession of the ball. The main coaching point of the football tic tac toe drill is to improve the decision-making skills of the players under pressure. 

Each pinnie not only needs to be placed quickly but also in the right strategic position to make it count. At the same time, the players can also have a lot of fun while playing this game.

This drill is also an effectivewarm-up drill and can help to improve fitness and give the players some sprinting practice. 

Coaching Tips

To make the drill more challenging you can make the players run backwards to the board. Another way to make it a more effective ball control drill is to set up a line of cones between the starting point and the grid. 

The players will have to dribble the ball through these cones to reach the tic-tac-toe grid. 

The goal and rebounder helps keep the ball in play and prevents it from rolling into the woods or into nearby roadways. 

Final Thoughts

The football tic tac toe drill ensures a fun practice session for the kids and also gives their brains a good workout. If the players in your football academy are looking for something beyond the usual dribbling and passing drills, this is a great game to try out.