Please feel free to forward your thoughts to me regarding various drills / games / exercises. Many of the drills below should be credited to other coaches in the program. I've used all of these drills with both my Senior Clinic teams and my County teams. I've tried to qualify each of these to give you a feel for how / when to use them. My goal at practice is to have all the kids touch the ball as much as possible. I avoid having kids stand in a line for any games or drills. As a coach, you should attempt to have the ball at their feet the whole practice. This takes a bit of creativity on your part, but hopefully some of the ideas below can facilitate this approach. With that said, you'll note that there are only one or two drills below where kids stand in a line to "wait their turn". Each of those drills serve a purpose and the "wait in line" can not be helped. If you have questions, you're always welcome to call or email:
WARM UP DRILLS:
Soccer Dance I -- On soccer help this is also called Tick Tock, the purpose is to shift the ball back and forth while standing in place between their feet. Using the top part of the inside of the players foot, knees bent, and with a slight hopping motion, they move the ball back and forth.
Soccer Dance II -- Instead of passing the ball between the left foot and right foot of the player, the player hops from one foot to the other placing alternating feet on the ball. This is also known as "Taps". This is good for ball control and stamina.
Soccer Dance III -- This is a modified version of Soccer Dance II, where the player now moves around the ball in a circle while tapping the top of the ball.
Outside / Outside - This is another small drill that I combine with the Soccer Dances. A player will position themselves to one side of the ball. The player will use the top portion of the outside foot to push the ball softly to the side. They will move their whole body to the opposite side of the ball and do the exact same thing with the opposite foot. They will continue back and forth, initially at a slow pace; then pick up speed. VARIATIONS: To keep kids interested, I’ll time them to see how many touches they can make in 30 seconds or a minute.
Touch With Every Step - - For younger players, I’ll start having them walk and touch the ball with every step they take, utilizing the inside of their foot. As they become accustomed to the feel, they will jog a bit touching the ball with every step. Ultimately, you want them to get comfortable enough that they can lightly run touching it with every step.
Backward Race / Pull Back Race -- The players all start on a line facing backwards. They use the bottom of their foot to pull the ball backwards and take two steps backward and stop the ball. They continue to do this until they reach the end line. For some, this will be a difficult drill, however it is an excellent drill to conduct at each and every practice. It doesn't take long and it teaches them to pull the ball back away when in close quarters. A side note, please have them alternate feet. VARIATIONS: 1. A slight variation would be to pull the ball back and turn with the ball. I often make my players take two touches before resetting. 2. Rather than conducting a "race", if you are working on foot skills only, you can work on something I call a "V". A "V" is done when a player pulls the ball back toward their body using the bottom of your foot and they push it away with the outside of the same foot .
Running the Z -- A warm up drill - On a field, I have my players jog along the goal line dribbling the ball. They should keep the ball very close at this point. When they get to the corner flag, they are to sprint diagonal across to midfield. When they sprint while dribbling, they should push the ball further ahead of themselves. Their body should also be positioned to run. They should use their arms to help propell and their upper body should be leaning forward (hips over knees, knees over feet). As they come across midfield, they should cut and return to jogging while dribbling, keeping the ball close. I then have them move back to the line again and begin again. I have my players do this 4 or 5 times. It moves pretty quickly.
Coach Says -- This is very much like the game "Red Light Green Light", however this takes place in the dribbling grid / circle. The kids dribble until the coach says a body part or a type of dribbling skill. For instance, the coach may say "Coach says, pull the ball back". Kids would then try to pull the ball back. Or "Coach says, put your ear on the ball." The kids would drop down and put their ear on the ball. To resume dribbling, "Coach says, dribble." I'll often have my players work on their cuts or step overs in this drill as well.
Stuck In the Mud--Great for dribbling and ball control.
All players dribble within a defined area. The size of the area will depend on the # of kids. 1 player is "it". All the players dribble around the area and try to stay away from the player who is "it". Meanwhile, the "it" player dribbles around and tries to hit the other players (below the knees) with their ball. Once hit, that player picks up his ball and holds it over his head and yells "Stuck in the mud". The other players then try to unfreeze them by dribbling their ball between their legs. VARIATIONS: 1. The "it" player plays without a ball and simply tags the players to be stuck in the mud. 2. The "it" player must have a solid touch on the opposing players ball for them to be stuck in the mud.
Monster Defense -- Drill - Have two lines; one player at a time will dribble the ball toward the goal. From an angle, a defender will attempt to sweep in and kick the ball away. The object is to have the defenders anticipate the the movement to the goal and to place their body between the ball and the goal. This teaches the kids not to be linear when approaching a player on a breakaway. Most kids will not cut off the angle.
Terminator--Great for dribbling and ball control.
One player is the terminator and has a ball. All other balls are placed in the corner of your defined area. The terminator must dribble around and hit the other players with the ball below the knees. Once hit, the other players run to the corner to get their ball and become another terminator. Keep playing until everyone is a terminator.
Tickle Me Elmo -- In a confined space (usually a circle), I place a bunch of rings on the ground. The players have to dribble in the space and not dribble through a ring. You can do the same drill with a bunch of cones. If a girl touches a ring or cone then they have to raise their arms and say, "Tickle Me Elmo - Tee Hee Hee". It is goofy, but the players really get a kick out of it. VARIATIONS: 1. Have the players dribble with just one foot and then switch to another. 2. To add increased difficulty, have them dribble with just the outside of their feet. 3. Again, with increased difficulty, have them touch the ball with every step. 4. Finally, challenge the players by making the space even smaller.
Sharks and Minnows -- Okay, this game is just like the one you play at the pool. One person is the shark. They don't have a ball in the middle of the field. All other players have a ball and attempt to run from one side of the field to the other without having their ball kicked or taken away. If a players ball is kicked hard enough, or taken away, then they too become a shark until there are no minnows remaining.
Red Light Green Light -- I use a modified version of this to have kids practice their dribbling and listening skills. Instead of stop and go, I call out a body part (i.e. ear, knee, elbow, foot, etc.) and they have to stop and put that body part on the ball. It teaches them to listen, get up off the ground quickly, and it is a lot of fun for the kids. They get a big giggle from this drill.
Fire The Cannons -- Every player has a ball in a grid or circle. They dribble until the coach says, "drop your anchors". At this the kids trap the ball. The coach says, "Take Aim". The players look for another player in the ring to target. When the coach says "Fire", then the players with a passing motion or a shooting motion try to hit the player on the foot or below the knees. So, everyone is trying to hit everyone.
King of the Ring (Knockout) --Great for dribbling, shielding and ball control.
Players are once again in a defined area. Everyone has a ball and the object is to try to knock the other players ball outside of the area. Instead of having the players sit and watch when their ball gets kicked out, have them come back in and keep playing. The player that knocks out the most balls is the "King".
Superstar -- This is very similar to "King of the Ring". One person is it (they have no ball) and in a certain time limit, they try to kick as many balls as they can. The players try to shield their ball from the individual who is it. If their ball is kicked, they have to jump up three times yelling, "I'm a superstar."
Tiger by the tail--Great for dribbling and conditioning. All players have a ball. Have about half of the kids with a sock, string, etc. hanging out from the back of their shorts. The players without the sock / penny / string / etc. must dribble their ball to find a tiger and take their tail. If a player gets a tail, they get a moment to get it set in their shorts. Then they try to keep it as long as they can. I typically time the session and who ever ends up with the tails gets a big "way to go". VARIATIONS: 1. Sometimes I'll let tigers get as many tails as possible. 2. Rather than seeing who has the tail at the end of the time limit, I may ask how many times did someone steal a tigers tail.
Lifeguard versus Sharks -- In a small circle, you have your lifeguards. They must protect the beach. The sharks will circle the beach until the coach says, "storm the beach". The lifeguards will try to clear the balls off the beach. The object though, is to have the sharks use their body to shield the ball. They can dribble on the beach, but the beach area is somewhat small. So, they do what they can to keep the lifeguards from getting to their ball. After about 1 or 2 minutes I typically count down. Whoever is still on the beach gets a point. If this drill is run three or four times, we see who had the most points.
Soccer Mini Golf -- Players or parents stand with their legs open and team runs through the course dribbling through the parents legs in as few touches as possible. If you decide to use the players in the drill, don't stand them in a straight row...make them spread out and use a large part of the field to have them practice dribbling and passing the ball through the players legs. You'll definitely need assistance with this drill.
Duck Duck Goose -- A super drill for ball control for youth players (Junior and younger Senior Clinic). All players sit in a ring with their balls in front of them. The person who is it, goes around the circle doing duck, duck, goose while dribbling their ball. Once they select a goose, they have to dribble around the whole circle without being tagged. Both the person who is it and the goose have to dribble the ball around the circle. This is very hard to do because they have to keep the ball close to their body when they dribble. Otherwise they loose control and go way out of play.
REWARD GAMES / DRILLS
Hit the Coach (The Farm Yard Game) -- Another excellent drill for ball control, dribbling and shooting. All players dribble the ball around the coach. The coach jogs slowly allowing players to try to hit the coach with the ball below the knees. After being hit 3 times, a player gets to choose what animal noise the coach should make. Then start again.
Shrek -- (For Youth Players - Junior Clinic and Senior Clinic) Great for dribbling, ball control, and a fun closing game. Line up pennies (or rags or balls) around the coach. Players must dribble to the coach (when using pennies or rags) and pick up a penny (or rag). If you are using the balls, they simply run from a starting line toward the balls. If the ogre wakes, the players must freeze. All balls / rags must be retrieved. The kids love this game because they have to be sneaky and it forces them to run quickly with the ball.
Three Balls -- As a reward drill, I'll have the players get in two lines. This drill moves quite fast. It is good to have your assistant coach and a parent help. Each player gets served three balls. The first is rolled to them and they must run on the ball and fire. The second is a choppy ball, directly after the first that they continue to run on and shoot. The third is a ball in the air (as if it were a deflection) and the player comes right into the mouth of the goal and put their head or body on the ball. These balls are all served one immediately after another. The two lines gets the kids moving much faster through.
Paint the Field -- This drill is for passing and ball control. Two players would work in a 10 x 10 area. The object is to move in the space and have their ball act like a paint brush. In one minute or two, the players must do their best to pass the ball over the whole grid. Good passing and trapping is a must. Movement is also key. When they don't have the ball, they must move to a space they haven't covered. Players can be creative on how to manage this and they must communicate in the game. Later in the drill, introduce one touch passing. This is more difficult, so be prepared to chase balls.
Triangle Tag (1v1) - Great for conditioning and ball control. Two players will stand on opposite sides of a triangle. Each will have a ball. One player will be "it" and they will try to dribble their ball to attempt to tag the opposing player. The object for the players is to learn to cut and change direction quickly. The only way the player who is "it" will catch the other player is to attempt to misdirect them. This could be done by using a pull back or a quick turn / cut in the opposite direction. Once the person tags the opposing player, they reset and switch roles.
3 v 1 or 4 v 2 -- At practice I like the players to work on shape (i.e. triangles and diamonds). In 3 v 1, there should always be players flanking to the right and left of the individual with the ball. If you don't have the ball, you should always be moving to space to receive the ball. I like the players to have some level of success. I don't want the defensive person putting too much pressure initially, as this is a passing drill. If the defense gets the ball, then they give it right back and proceed to play. In 4 v 2, while you still have two players flanking the ball, you'll have the 4th player positioning themselves for the split. The split is where the ball is passed between the two defenders. Again, if a player doesn't have the ball, they must move to the space to receive the ball. In 4 v 2, give points for a split pass.
5 v 5 With No Goal -- This is a bit more challenging. The objects of this drill are the three P's - Passing, Positioning and Possession. I'll give points to a team that has 3 passes in a row. For 4 passes I'll give two points. There should be a lot of movement to get open and for positioning relative to space. There should also be movement to the open field. Players must communicate during this drill.
Numbers & Letters -- This game is focused on ball control and aggressiveness - There are three goals (one in the center, one to the right and one to the left). I have two sets of players to either side of me facing the center goal. On one side I have my numbers and the other I have my letters. I'll call out a number and a letter and I'll put a ball into the center of these goals. The kids must run around the goal either the right side or left side (depending on where they are positioned) and run through the center goal. Once they approach the ball, the player who gets their first becomes the offensive player and the other player becomes the defender. The offensive player can shoot on any goal. I will sometimes require that they have at least two touches on the ball prior to shooting. If the defender wins the ball, then they become the offensive player. Play continues until the coach either calls time (which would be a draw) or until a player scores. Each team roots for their players. PLEASE NOTE: If I have 12 kids on my team, I'll have my assistant coach take half of the team and conduct the same drill.
Channeling (1v1) – This drill is recommended for older players. In a grid, about 20 feet wide by 40 feet long, two players will go head to head. The role of the defensive player is to channel the offensive player by positioning their body to direct them either to the right or the left. The role of the offensive player is to be creative and make cuts to progress the ball down the field. The defensive player should not touch the ball in this drill. They are simply there to contain the opposing player by positioning and repositioning their body. Once the offensive player works the ball to the touch line, they change roles.