This drill was adapted from a game in The Ultimate Football Warm-Ups Manual.
Objective: To practice passing and receiving skills.
Set-up: Put your players into pairs. One ball per pair.
Place three flat cones in a short line.
How to play:
One player is a server and his partner works round the cones.
The player working must go forward to receive a pass then back-pedal up and around the cones in order to receive another pass on the opposite side.
The players work for 30 seconds on the following:
1. First-time pass back with left foot.
2. First-time pass back with right foot.
3. Bouncing serve and a half-volley return with left foot.
4. Bouncing serve and a half-volley return with right foot.
5. Aerial serve and a volley return with left foot.
6. Aerial serve and a volley return with right foot.
7. Aerial serve and head the ball back.
When the sequence is complete, swap the players round.
Coaching notes: Players should work at speed but accuracy is also important.
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Walking the Dog is a great way to introduce ball control and dribbling to very young football players.
It also encourages the development of spatial awareness and soccer vision.
Even children as young as two or three will learn how to keep the ball close to them while running and I’ve used this game with children as “old” as 10!
Set up: Scatter lots of flat cones in two different colours in a large playing area. In this example, I’ve used green and white cones.
Every player has a ball.
How to play: Tell your players their ball is a dog.
Now ask them to give their dog a name. Have some fun with this! Who can think of the silliest name for a dog?
Now it’s time to take the “dogs” for a walk.
Tell your players the white cones are lamp posts and the green cones are trees.
To begin with, the dogs want to sniff every lamp post. This means players have to run with the ball and pause beside every white cone.
Then: “It’s raining! Get your dog under the ‘trees’!”
Now the players run with their ball to the green cones.
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Two equal teams.
Select two players to become the “moving goal”.
These players take the ends of a pole, rope or towel and stretch it out as they move around the space.
The other players play a game trying to score in the moving goal.
Try These Variations:
By Ihor Chyzowych
That’s what I hear at every U-8 youth soccer coaching course I teach. My reply is always the same: “That’s OK!”
Then I get the puzzled looks from nearly every coach or coach-to-be.
The kids know what they’re doing, it’s the parents and the new coaches who are confused.
Adults see the bunch of players as unorganized — not as a team. That’s the first problem. Because, at this point, it’s really not a team.
The players at this age don’t understand what being a “team” means. At their age, they are selfish in their game. Me, my ball, my game. Most kids can’t even remember the name of their team or their coach. They won’t even practice with any one else’s ball! How can you expect them to understand or embrace teamwork or fixed positions?
The ball is their magnet, so let them try to get it. In doing so, they’re actually building good instincts that they’ll use in the game when they are older and “team” actually begins to mean something.
For example, many good coaches struggle to “re-teach” 14 to 17 year olds the working concept of zonal defending and zonal pressure defense. Two concepts that they knew instinctively when they were 5. What happened? It was drilled out of them by a youth coach who kept telling them to spread out.
When they’re 5-plus years old, they already have a natural instinct for this kind of defending. They’re already figured out that five of us versus one of them means that we’ll probably get the ball.
To parents, this is a mess on the field. They want the kids to spread out — so that the one player with any skill can have the space to dribble around every one else like cones. Not a very good defense.
A good coach will definitely have to adjust these players’ instincts as they get older, but surprisingly not much. The game itself makes them smarter as they continue to play more and more.
Another reason why “bunching up” is OK for young players: the kid in the center of that bunch is learning early on how to play in tight spaces and not to be afraid of traffic or contact — invaluable skills that will be second-nature to him by the time he’s older and able to play in fixed positions.
So, as hard as it is for parents to believe, young players learn how to solve problems and be creative while bunched up. These skills actually help them with their game when they’re older and that game is more structured.
As a coach, I’ll want on my older team the youth player who consistently came out of the pack with the ball. He might be my striker because he’s not afraid of crowds in the box, or of being marked by two players. He’s been getting through the traffic and scoring in those situations since he was 5. Playing in “the bunch” has made him tough, technical and smart.
My advice to new youth coaches and to parents is to stop worrying about the kids being bunched up. At U-8, just let them play.
You’re role at this point is to teach them some basic ball touches, point them in the right direction and let them go!
Let the game teach them for now. Let them teach themselves. And most of all, let them enjoy the game. Seems simple? It is. But that’s OK, too. That’s the beauty of soccer.
About the author:
Ihor Chyzowych — Director, Custom Soccer Coaching
— USSF ‘A’ License
— National Youth Instructor’s License
— NSCAA Advanced National Diploma
— ODP Region II Staff Coach
— OSYSA State Staff Coach and Licensed Clinician
The word “soccer” actually comes from England, where the modern version of the game originated.
In England, there were two types of football: rugby football and association football.
The slang term for rugby football was “rugger,” and the slang for association football was “assoc.” The word “assoc” gradually evolved into “soccer,” which was much easier to say.
When association football was introduced to North America, gridiron football (the type played by the NFL and in the Super Bowl) was already well established. To avoid confusion, Americans adopted the British nickname “soccer” for the new sport.
What is soccer?
Soccer is a game. The children are involved in an activity that pits them against an opponent. It is, in most cases, about winning and losing, competition and cooperation. It is also a leisure activity. The children are there because they want to be there. They want to play a game.
children playing footballTo play a game of soccer you first need a ball. Then an opponent. Add a field, a couple of goals across from each other, mix in a few soccer rules and you have a game of 1v1. But this is hard work and you can’t play it for very long. So you get some teammates, and to keep it fair, a few more opponents. With these elements you can play soccer all day.
These are the elements of soccer. They make the game what it is. If you remove a key element such as the ball or opponent it can’t be soccer. Likewise, to change an element too much you can move too far from the game. Playing with two balls or three teams might be fun and a game, but is it soccer? To pass a ball across a grid and run to a corner involves kicking techniques, but is it soccer?
Soccer also involves the element “chaos.” Opponents, team mates and the ball are all moving in different directions. Players, parents and coaches are shouting different instructions and information. Bringing “order out of chaos” is an important skill in learning how to play the game.
A soccer coach coaches soccer, not something else.
If you want to keep your children motivated, interested and wanting to learn you must first understand why they wanted to play soccer in the first place.
Some textbooks suggest that the main reason that children want to play soccer is to learn so-called ‘socialisation skills’ – how to work together in a group, achieve group goals, (e.g. to win as a soccer team), learn sportsmanship and how to deal with success and failure.
Certainly, learning to work together in a group and striving to achieve group goals are potentially important to our children. Learning about and practicing sportsmanship is also a worthwhile goal, as is understanding how to deal with success and failure – winning and losing.
But is this what our children expect to get out of our soccer practices and games?
Numerous research studies over the last 20 years have asked children why they decided to participate in organised sports. Although there is some variation in the ranked order of the reasons that children give, (depending on the particular sport they are playing), the top reasons are very consistent:
Children play soccer because they:
1. Expect to have FUN,
2. Learn SKILLS,
3. Develop FITNESS,
4. And because they enjoy COMPETITION
This last point is interesting because many ‘authorities’ suggest that competition in youth sports is a ‘bad thing’.
In NO CONTEST: The Case Against Competition, for example, author Alfie Kohn insists that competition in sports should be avoided at all costs. Kohn goes on to say that “children, especially, are motivated to see what’s enjoyable about an activity.” Nothing, he says, encourages excellence as much as finding a task fun. Artificial incentives such as trophies, gold stars, and (presumably) the results of assessments can kill what is known as “intrinsic motivation” or internal rewards.
Others, (myself included), believe that competition is good for children if appropriate feedback is provided and equal weight given to the importance of values such as sportsmanship and fair play. In fact, competition teaches young people not only to cope with sport, but also helps them to deal with the inevitable ups and downs of life itself.
The studies also reveal that socialisation related reasons are typically near the bottom of the list of reasons children give for playing soccer while sportsmanship comes somewhere in the middle.
It may be a surprise to learn that winning and receiving awards (medals, trophies, etc) do not appear at all among the main reasons.
It would appear that most children want to play soccer so that they can participate in competitive sport (but not necessarily win) and to develop the skills and fitness that will allow them to play and compete as effectively as possible.
We can be sure, however, that all children play soccer because they want to have fun.