It’s very important that young players get their bodies quickly into line with an approaching ball, especially if it is in the air. If they don’t, they either stick out a hopeful foot and get half a touch on the ball or they miss it entirely.

Volleyball will help your players practice this essential skill. And it’s great fun too!

Age group: U8s to U14s.

Number of players: Eight is the ideal number but volleyball works with as few as four players or as many as 16.

Set-up: Create a 20-yard square with a double line of cones across the middle to mark the “net”. Alternatively, you can use a rope stretched between two poles, a ladder on it’s side or a line of ball bags.

Divide your players into equal teams.

How to play: One player bounces the ball then serves it across the net with a half volley or by chipping it with the side of their foot.

The receiving team must play it back across the net, effectively using each player’s body as a tennis racquet.

They can use their feet, chest or head to control the ball before passing it back across the net.

I allow very young players two, three or four bounces before the ball must be returned. Older players get one.

Keep score as in a tennis match: 15-0, 30-15, etc. First team to win two sets wins the match.

Tip: Encourage your players to juggle the ball before returning it and let them try to pass it to each other in the air.

Coaching note: If you need to leave some players out of a small-sided game or other activity, set up a volleyball game for them to play while they’re waiting.

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.

Three team keepaway

Objectives: To practice support play, ball control and ‘vision’.

Age group: U10s and upwards.

Set up: Create a 25-yard square with goals on two of the four sides.

Divide your squad into three teams.

How to play:

  • Two teams play keepaway in the area.
  • The third team is positioned around the sides of the square.
  • These players act as side supports, receiving and returning passes to the team in possession.
  • They cannot be tackled but should be restricted to two or three touches of the ball or have a time limit of four seconds to pass it back.
  • The team that puts together four or five passes (depending on the skill of your players) can shoot at either goal.

You can award one point for the required number of passes and additional points for scoring a goal. Play to a set score then bring the side supports on. The losing team becomes the new side supports.

Coaching note: Young players may have difficulty keeping the ball way from the other team, even for one or two passes. If they are getting frustrated, reduce the number of players on one team or make the playing area bigger.

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.

Six goal game

This is a classic coaching game that I use several times a season with players aged from six to 15.

It works on several key skills – attacking, defending, communicating, making decisions, passing, shooting. In fact, just about everything your players need!

Set-up: Mark out a 40×30-yard area with three evenly spaced goals at each end.

Create two evenly matched teams of four or five players. No goalkeepers.

How to play: Each team defends its three goals and tries to score in the opponent’s three goals. The team with the most goals at the end of the game wins.

You can play for a set time or until one team scores a certain number of goals.


  • Play three or two-touch.
  • Goals must be scored with a player’s first touch.
  • Dribble through the goals instead of shooting.

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.

Steal that ball

steal the ball

Objectives: To improve dribbling and passing skills, teamwork, decision making.

Age range: U5s to U8s.

Number of players: Minimum of eight but can be the whole squad.

Set-up: Create a 25×20 yards playing area with a three-yard home base in each corner.

  • Divide your players equally into four teams.
  • Each team is allocated a home base.
  • Place at least 12 balls in the centre of the playing area.

steal the ball

How to play:

On your command, the first player from each team runs to the centre of the playing area and dribbles a ball back to their home base.

When the first player gets back, the second player goes.

When all the balls have been captured, allow each team 30 seconds to steal balls from the other teams’ home bases.

Note: Balls that are in the home bases must not be guarded!

At the end of the 30 seconds, the team with the most balls in their home base is the winner.


Ask your players if there is a quicker way to get balls back to their base. Let them think about this for a few seconds.

Now play the game again with no restrictions.

See which team realises that the way to get the most balls back to their base is for all the players to run to the middle of the grid at the same time.

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.


This game is one of my “back pocket” games. It’s simple, competitive, suitable for all ages, any number of players and it teaches good defending and ball control skills.

Age group: U5s to U11s.

Set up: Create a playing area big enough for all your players to dribble around in.

Every player has a ball except one – the Gladiator.

How to play: Players dribble their ball and try to protect it from the Gladiator who tries to kick the other players’ balls out of the playing area.

Players who have their ball kicked out – or allow their ball to leave the playing area – become Gladiators.

The winner is the last player still dribbling.


Ask your players to dribble with their “wrong” foot only.

Make the playing area smaller.


Set up two playing areas.

  • Start the game with everyone in one playing area.
  • Players who have their ball kicked out go to the second playing area where a new game begins.
  • Once both games are in progress, there is a continual movement of players from one playing area to the other.
  • Play for a set time. The player who moves between playing areas the least number of times is the winner.

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.

The Fabregas game

Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas is probably one of the best holding midfielders in the game – he just doesn’t give the ball away.

This game will help your players learn how to look after the ball, just like Cesc!

Age group: U9s and upwards.

Set-up: Play 4v4 (or 5v5 with goalkeepers) on a 30×20 yards pitch with a goal at both ends.

How to play: Play “normal” football with the condition that a goal is worth two points.

  • Occasionally when you see a player win possession of the ball in midfield, call out “Fabregas!”
  • That player has to hold the ball for a minimum of 10 seconds. He is not allowed to pass or shoot. He must keep the ball by shielding it or dribbling.
  • If he succeeds, his team is awarded one point.

Coaching points

Before the game starts, demonstrate the technique of shielding the ball.


The game can be adapted for younger players by placing two or three safe zones in the playing area. Instead of shouting “Fabregas”, (they won’t know who he is!), call out “keep it”.

The player in possession now has 10 seconds to hold off his opponents or dribble into one of the safe zones.

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.

Long crossing technique

It is important to stress to all your players that when they are going for distance, or want a high-crossing ball, they must always kick a moving ball, never practise kicking a stationary (dead) ball — only do this for practising corners and free kicks.

The technique you need to teach your players for long kicking starts with them pushing the ball to the side, slightly in front of the body.

Kick through the ball

If your player is right-footed get him to place the left foot alongside the ball, keep his head down looking at the ball and kick through the centre of the ball. He should be trying to get his toe under the ball and with a tight ankle joint, his body leaning slightly back, kick through the ball.

Make sure your players only lift their head after contact.

Practise this soccer drill with three players A, B and C. B passes into A who kicks long to C. C back to B. Each player swaps places with the person they passed to.

Through the gate

This simple game works on your players’ ball control skills.

It’s particularly good for players of intermediate ability. But players of all ages and skill levels enjoy the competitive nature of the game.

When it’s played correctly, and well, it looks very impressive.

Set up:

Divide your players into teams of two or three. Create a 20 yards by 20 yards playing area for each two teams. Place a cone ‘gate’ in the middle of each playing area.

How to play :

Two teams play in each grid. Each team passes to the other team through the gate.

The rules:

Every player on a team has to touch the ball before it is passed through the gate.

The ball must not stop moving.

Players must use side foot passes only.


Each team starts with five ‘lives’. They lose a life for each infringement of the rules.


Players pass with their ‘wrong’ foot only.

They have two touches only.

They have one touch only.