Ball control games for all ages

Pig-in-the-Middle

Break the team up into groups of three, with one football to a group. Volunteer one player to be the pig-in-the-middle. The two other players try to pass the ball past the pig without letting her control it. Once the pig traps the ball, one of the other players takes her place. The two outside players must control the ball, or they will have to switch with the pig.

Rapid Fire

Have the team form a circle around a single player. Every player except the middleman should have a ball. Have each team member take turns passing the ball to the player in the centre. This player tries to trap and control the ball, and then passes it back to the original player. Have each team member take a turn as the middleman.

Continue Down the Line

Divide team members into groups of four players with one ball to a group. Select one player to be the server. The three remaining players should line up, side by side, facing the server. The server will take turns serving the ball to each player who must trap and control before returning it to the server. Continue in this fashion, alternating the server.

Flight ball

Divide team into pairs, giving each pair one ball and a grid. One player will be the server, who is to serve the ball in the air to any location in the other player’s half of the grid. This player must move to the ball, trap it, and return it to the server. Alternate roles after every 10 serves.

4 v 1 keep-away

I’ve used this drill many times with great success.

It demands total concentration and good ball control. It also encourages children to look up (not at their feet) otherwise they will run into each other.

Use a square grid about 10 x 10 yards. 4 v 1 with a player at each corner. Play keep away from defender in middle while keeping ball in the square grid. For more advanced players use 3 v 1 or 3 v 2 with one open corner (player must move to support).

Tips: Shorten grid as players get better. Keep score by counting passes. Don’t be too strict in keeping ball in square – let play continue unless blatantly out of square.

Dribble across a square 

This is a good warm-up to start your soccer practice. It is 10 times better than dribbling through cones & is a good way to evaluate dribbling skill.

It teaches general ball control, dribbling, the importance of looking up while dribbling & how to do a “Pullback” & “Hook Turn”.

Players also develop their peripheral vision, practice shielding the ball and that they can speed up if they get in the clear.

  • Use 4 disk cones to make a square about 10 or 12 steps wide (smaller or larger depending on age & number of players)
  • Every player has a ball.
  • Spread players around the square, all facing inward.
  • All players start on “Go” & each player dribbles across & back.

They must do a “Pullback” or a “Hook Turn” to turn. Do a pullback by putting the bottom of the foot on top of ball to stop it & pull it back in the direction you came from. Do a hook turn by pulling the toes up & turning the foot so the outside of the foot can “hook” the ball, stop it & pull it back.

Tell players to look up while they dribble so they don’t run into each other (don’t worry, there won’t be many collisions!).

The first to 12 is the winner (each time he turns is “one”). Tell players to yell “Done” when finished and ask each player her score at the end of the game.

Play 2 or 3 games. For the second game, the first to 10 is the winner and for the third game, the first to 8 is the winner. Play at the start of practice as a warm-up and at the end of practice until dribbling skills improve or your team gets tired of this game.

Coaching points

When in traffic, keep the ball close to your feet so you can protect it; learn how to look up while dribbling by keeping the ball close to your feet so you know where it is.

When you get “open” (out of traffic), you can kick the ball & run to it so you can go faster, but you must still keep it under control so you can turn.