If your young soccer players lack good ball control then even the best tactics and formations in the world won't win you any games. Being able to control and pass the ball is fundamental to a team's success.
I suggest that from U6 to U10 you should be spending 90 per cent of your soccer drill sessions on activities that will improve your players' first touch and passing skills.
Group games are good but you should also take the time to talk to your players individually about their ball skills.
Five minutes spent discussing ball control skills with an individual player after a soccer training session will pay massive dividends.
Not only will this help improve their skills but their self-esteem will also get a big boost. And players with high self-esteem will win matches for you.
So watch your players and make notes.
- Do your players get in line with the ball quickly or do they tend to let the ball run past them?
- Is a player's first touch of the ball hard (the ball runs away from them) or is it correct (the ball is pushed a little way in front or to the side and in a good position to make a pass or to shoot)? The ball very rarely needs to be stopped dead.
- As the ball approaches, do your players get their head up and get a picture of where their team mates are?
Work on this with simple games such as Through the gate:
How to play Through the gate
Mark out small (20x10 yard) grids, one for each group of four players in your squad, with a centre line dividing the grid into two halves.
Place a small gate (about 2 yards wide) in the middle of the centre line.
The object of the game is for each pair of players to pass the ball through the gate to the other pair.
The rules: both players must touch the ball before it is passed through the gate and the ball must never stop.
If the ball does stop, or the players fail to control it before it leaves their side of the grid, a point is awarded to the other team.
Play to a specific target (for example, first to ten wins) or challenge your players to play for a set time without making a mistake.
Key coaching tip: To stop players trying to blast the ball through their opponents' half of the grid, insist on side-foot passes only.
Progression: When your players are comfortable with the basic game, allow them one or two touches only to control the ball before passing.