Tic Tac Toe football – Warm-up drill

by Pablo M15th Aug 2023

Image by Tactics Manager,

Many warm-up drills are boring and don’t involve a ball, but it doesn’t need to be like that. This post describes a fun tic tac toe football game that will prepare your team for the rest of your training session while practising some basic skills with the ball.


This drill is designed for 6 players (3 players per team), but you can practice it with as few as 4 players, so it is ideal for training sessions with low attendance. If you have good attendance at training, divide the players into groups of a minimum of 4 players per drill.

As shown in the picture, you don’t need a football pitch, but enough space to mark the tic tac toe field. In addition, you will need a minimum of 2 balls  (1 per team), bibs and enough cones of multiple colours to mark the zones and use as tiles.


This game is a variation of a popular warm-up drill. It is a relay-style race to win tic-tac-toe with a couple of twists:

  • Divide the players into two teams of 3 players each.
  • Line up each team in a queue behind the cones outside the tic-tac-toe grid.
  • Give each player a cone of the colour of their bib or similar.
  • In each turn, a player runs with the ball to the tic-tac-toe field and leaves their cone in one of the boxes in the grid.
  • Once a player marks a cell with a cone, the player continues running with the ball in control to the opposite side of the field before returning to the queue.
  • Before returning to the queue and to allow a teammate to have a turn, the player must pass the ball.
  • The ball must be always in control, so a cone can only be left in a cell if the ball is in the same square.
  • Players take turns until one of the teams aligns 3 cones in a row, a column or diagonally, like in a tic-tac-toe game.
  • Teams don’t need to wait for each other to set a cone in a square like in a real tic-tac-toe game, so speed and quick decision-making are crucial.
  • The best team of 5 rounds is the winner.


Aside from warming up, this drill focuses on improving ball control and decision-making. Additionally, your team will improve:

  • Fitness. This game is physically demanding. Players must execute this drill fast and continuously to beat the opposition team. However, they do have a short rest while waiting in the queue for the next turn. So, the drill works like a HIIT workout.
  • Ball control at speed. Players must keep the ball close to their feet while moving fast, improving ball control. This skill is helpful in real-game situations such as counterattacks.
  • Quick decision-making. Players must read the “board” and make quick decisions to beat their opponents. Effectively improving a player’s ability to understand and read the game.
  • Passing. Players must improve their passing technique to ensure the receiving player can easily control the ball and move quickly.

I hope you find this drill helpful. If you like this post, please share it with your friends. Also, if you know about other exercises or have questions, comment on our Facebook page.