The stepover

It’s important to teach your players new soccer skills and let them try them out in matches.

Simple moves like the stepover, also known as the scissors, intrigue children and they love learning them.

And it’s really easy to teach. Go through the following sequence slowly, give lots of praise and allow your players plenty of time to practise.

1. Start dribbling slowly.

2. The left foot circles the ball – without touching it – in an anti-clockwise direction.

3. Dip the left shoulder so that it looks as though you will move that way.

4. Now take the ball past your opponent with the outside of your right foot.

Soccer coaching tip: Left-footed players should start with their right foot circling the ball in a clockwise direction.

Receiving the ball

“If you keep the ball… the other team cannot score.”

A player who is not confident in his ability to receive a ball and use possession productively is about as effective as a basketball player who cannot catch!

So if you’re coaching young players, you need to plan regular coaching sessions, in which the focus is on improving their first touch and ball control.

Unfortunately, too many coaches show their players the basics of receiving once or twice then move on to more advanced skills without allowing them the time and opportunity to consolidate this crucial skill.

Receiving the ball… the key elements

1. Take a mental photo – what are you going to do when you receive the ball? Are you going to shoot, dribble, pass, hold or run with the ball?

2. Anticipate the flight of the ball – is the ball coming straight at you or do you have to move to get your body behind it?

Note: Not anticipating and reacting to the flight of the ball is a very common fault with young players. When you see children:Sticking a leg out in the hope they will make contact.

Missing the ball completely.

Allowing the ball to bounce off them as though their foot was made of concrete.

You can correct these faults quickly and easily by showing them the importance of getting their bodies behind the ball more quickly.

3. Choose the correct receiving surface – while it’s pretty obvious that the foot is the correct part of the body to use if the ball is being passed along the ground, your players need to decide which part of the foot should be used.

If the ball is in the air will the thigh, chest or head be used to control the ball?

4. Softly, softly – whichever part of the body makes contact with the ball, it’s essential that your players’ first touch takes the pace off the pass.

The foot, head, thigh or chest should be withdrawn as contact is made, allowing the ball to drop to the ground lightly. I tell my players that they have to be like a sponge and soak up the speed of the ball.

5. First touch should be out of feet and away from pressure – as contact is made, the ball should be directed away from the receiving player’s feet in the direction they want to dribble, pass, shoot or run. If the ball is “trapped” close to the player’s body, he won’t be able to get his head up to see what is going on around him.

How to practice and improve receiving skills

  • Numbers Passing

Tell your players to give themselves a number.

As they jog round in the playing area, they pass a ball to one another in sequence, i.e., one to two to three, etc.

After a minute or two, add a second ball or reverse the numerical order.

Tip: If your players find this easy, limit them to two touches of the ball or make the playing area smaller.

Ask: How can you make it easy for the player with the ball?

  • Ping Pong

Players work in groups of four.

Three players (the servers) stand in a semi-circle facing the fourth (target) player. The three servers share two balls between them.

The target player receives a pass from a server and has two touches to control the pass and return it to one of the players facing him. He can’t return it to the server who made the pass.

Rotate the players so that everyone gets a turn as target player.

Make it competitive – which group can deal with 20 serves with fewest errors?

Progression: Servers throw the ball in the air and the target player calls out the surface he is going to use before the ball gets to him.

What to watch for:

  • Getting into line with the pass.
  • Choosing the right surface to receive.
  • First touch soft and out of feet.
  • If you see any errors, step in and coach the player(s) in question. Remember that a good demonstration is worth a thousand words!

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


Objective: To improve ball control skills, tackling and passing.

Age group: U6s and upwards.

Number of players: 10 players divided into two teams of five. If you have more than 10 players, create extra playing areas and play two games (with smaller teams if necessary) alongside each other.

Set-up: Create two 15-yard square playing areas with a five-yard gap between them.

  • Divide your players into two teams, one team per playing area.
  • Each player has a number.
  • One ball per team.

How to play: The game begins with both teams moving and passing to each other in their playing area.

After a few seconds, shout a number and the corresponding player runs into the other team’s square and tries to win the ball.

If they win the ball and kick it out of the playing area, they get one point for their team. If they can win the ball and take it back into their playing area, they get three points.

Allow 30 seconds for a steal to take place. If the defending team can keep the ball away from the attacking player for that length of time, they get a point.

Progression: Call more than one number.

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

Back to the castle

This is a fun way to teach your players how to dribble with their heads up and work as a team.

Age range: U5s to U8s.

Difficulty: Easy.

Number of players: Use your whole squad.

Equipment: Four sets of coloured training vests, some flat cones and at least 12 balls.

Set-up: Divide your players into four teams and give them different coloured training vests to wear. If you don’t have four different colours, base the teams on the colour shirts that the players are wearing. If you have four players wearing red shirts, for example, they are the red team.

Create a 30-yard square playing area. Use flat cones to mark out a three-yard square safe zone in each corner.

Each team is allocated one corner, which is that team’s “castle”.

The coach stands just outside the playing area with at least 12 balls. The more balls, the better.

How to play:

  • The objective of the game is for each team to get as many balls in their safe zone (or castle) as possible.
  • Start the game by throwing two or three balls into the playing area.
  • All the players are free to get possession of a ball and dribble it back to their castle.
  • Keep throwing balls in. Soon you will have lots of 1v1 and 1v2 mini games going on.
  • The game is over when all the balls are in the castles.

Coaching notes:

Players should be encouraged to steal any ball that is not stationary inside a castle.

Balls in a castle are safe and can’t be stolen.

Throw the balls in different ways – high, rolling, bouncing, fast, slow.

If a ball leaves the playing area, it is dead. Players should leave it where it is and return to the game. Have an assistant or two gather the dead balls up and return them to you.

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

Three ways to score

Objective: To improve dribbling skills, ball control and shooting.

Age group: U10s and upwards.

Difficulty: Medium.

Set-up: Set up a 30 yards long by 20 yards wide playing area with a goal at each end.

Place two gates (use flat cones placed about two yards apart) on each side of the playing area and 2ft in from the sidelines.

How to play:

Divide your players into teams of four plus goalkeepers.

Points are scored in three ways:

  1. By passing the ball through a gate to a team mate.
  2. By making a set number of passes.
  3. Scoring a goal.

Coaching points:

Adjust the number of passes required to score according to the age and skill of your players but make sure the target is achievable.

With young players, I suggest you start with two or three passes and gradually increase the number. It’s important to let young players achieve success.

The number of points awarded can also be adjusted according to your main objective.

You may wish to emphasise passing. If so, award two points for a pass through a gate.

If you want to encourage possession play, give two points for keeping the ball for a set number of passes.

But always give the most points for scoring a goal. That’s what football is all about!

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

Running with the ball

Running with the ball may seem like something you don’t have to teach.

But it is a skill just like shooting or tackling. While all children may make an effort to shoot, tackle or run with the ball, your job as coach is to show them the best way to do it. And knowing when to run with the ball and when to pass doesn’t come naturally to young players, it requires practice and encouragement.

Tip: you can tell which player doesn’t have the confidence to carry the ball. They are the ones who often just kick the ball away when it comes to them or make a pass that is clearly not the best one available.

At U6 – U9 age groups it’s common to see a player standing in the way of a team-mate who has acres of space to run into.

So we need to coach how and when to run with the ball and, at the same time, help our players see the best way to support the player on the ball (and that’s not by standing in front of him!).

Key coaching point: running with the ball is not to be confused with dribbling. Dribbling requires close control and relatively small steps. Running with the ball involves taking bigger touches and taking longer strides.

How to coach running with the ball

Start by making sure the basics are understood. You can do this in a fun, competitive way by dividing your players into small groups and playing a few relay races.

Set up pairs of cones (a starting cone and a target cone) about 20 yards apart. Each team stands by a cone facing their target cone. One ball per team.

Player 1 from each team carries the ball to the target cone, turns and brings the ball back. Have your players stop the ball by the starting cone for the next player.

First team to get all their players round the cone and back is the winner.

Ask your players what is the quickest way to get the ball to the turning cone and back – should they kick it long or keep it close? The answer you’re looking for is to kick the ball long, but not so long so that it goes past the turning cone or past the starting cone on the way back.

Once the basic technique is understood, play a small sided game and watch for the players who run with the ball at the right time and congratulate them.

Also watch for the following:

Basic: players who run with the ball with their head down – they can’t run into space they can’t see! They need to look up regularly, perhaps every stride or two.

Advanced: players making a good decision regarding when to run with the ball and when to pass. If your players are old enough, stop the play when you see a good or bad decision and ask your players what they think – was the decision correct?

Basic: is the ball carrier starting his run with a big first touch to get the ball out from under his feet?

Advanced: if a defender is making the run, are other players dropping in behind him to cover?

Advanced: is the ball being played with the foot furthest from any pressure? The ball carrier should be shielding the ball while running.

Basic: is there an end product? Is the player ending their run with a shot or pass or is he running out of space before he can decide what he wants to do with the ball?

Note: the ‘basic’ coaching points should be understood by all players. The ‘advanced’ points will only be understood by players who are sufficiently mature, probably at least nine/ten years old.


This is a great game for improving your players’ ball control and ‘vision’.

Experience: any.

Set-up: two teams of six (four plus two “bumpers” wearing bibs) play football in an area 30 yards long by 20 yards wide.

How to play: the bumpers are target players and can be placed on the sidelines, by a goal or allowed to move anywhere inside the playing area.

Game 1: teams earn a point for a successful pass to one of their bumpers.

Game 2: teams earn a point if they can score a goal after passing to a bumper.

Game 3: teams earn a point for passing the ball from one bumper to the other without the other team getting a touch on the ball.

Game 4: a regular game of football but only bumpers can score. Change the bumpers after each goal.

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

Six surface shooting

This soccer coaching game is good for practising kicking the ball with all six parts of the foot – the toes, sole, laces, inside, outside and heel – and showing your young players which ways of kicking are the most accurate and powerful.

Younger players will find it difficult to shoot with their heels and outside of their feet, but it’s good practice to let them try. Older players should be able to use all parts of their feet to kick the ball.

Set up:

Place a row of flat cones across the middle of a square playing area. Balance a ball on top of each one. Divide your players into two teams and line them up on opposite sides of the cones.

The distance from the players to the cones is determined by the age and skill of the players. The players on one of the teams have a ball each.

How to play:

The object of the game is to knock the balls off the cones by using different parts of the foot to strike the ball.

The team with the balls shoot first. Count the number of balls they knock off the cones. The balls are then reset and the second team shoots.

Each team’s players have five attempts at knocking the balls off the cones with each of the six surfaces of their feet (30 shots in total).

The team that scores the most ‘hits’ wins the game.