Stuck in the mud

Age group: 3 year olds and over

Objective: To improve your players’ dribbling skills.

Age group: Three years old and upwards.

Number of players: Whole team.

Set up: create a 30×40 yard grid. Every player except one has a ball.

How to play: Select one player who is “it”. Each of the remaining players should be standing in the grid with a ball waiting for the coach to blow a whistle.

On the whistle, the players with a ball dribble round the grid trying to avoid getting tagged.

If a player is tagged, she must pick the football up, hold it over her head and stand with her legs apart.

Frozen players should be encouraged to shout ‘help!’ as loudly as possible.

To release the “frozen” player, an ‘unfrozen’ player must pass her ball through the spread legs of the “frozen player”.

Once the player is “unfrozen”, she resumes dribbling in the grid. If a player dribbles the ball outside of the grid, that player is “frozen”.

Key soccer coaching tip: if the tagger is finding it hard to catch the other players, add another tagger or two.

Coaching points:

Players must dribble and keep close control of their ball.

Players should keep their head up and see where the “tagger” is located.

Players should dribble away from the “tagger” and dribble toward teammates who need to be “unfrozen”.


Shark attack!

I played this game with a group of U6s last week.

They enjoyed it so much, it was hard to get them to anything else!

Shark Attack is simple, easy to explain, every player is involved and it teaches lots of essential skills.

What more could you ask for?

Objective: To improve dribbling skills (especially keeping close control of the ball and playing with the head up), turning with the ball and shielding the ball from pressure.

Set up: Mark a playing circle appropriate to the size of the group. For a group of twelve 10-year-olds, 20 yards across is ideal.

Every player has a ball and goes inside the circle except for two players – the Sharks – who don’t have a ball and stay outside the circle.

How to play: Players dribble around inside the circle and the two Sharks jog around the perimeter.

On your signal, the Sharks have 10 seconds to kick as many balls out the circle as possible.

Any players who lose their ball leave the circle and join the Sharks for the next attack.

The last two players left dribbling are the winners and they become the Sharks at the start of the next game.

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

Rob the bank!

Objective: To practice dribbling and passing skills.

Age range: U5s to U8s.

Number of players: Whole squad.

Equipment required: Some flat cones, one ball for every two players plus some spares.

Set-up: Create a playing area that is big enough for all your players to dribble in comfortably. For 10 five-year-olds, I would use a 20-yard square.

Create two three-yard squares as “jails”, using flat cones or corner flags just outside the playing area.

Place all the spare balls on one side of the playing area. This is the bank.

Pair up your players and give each pair a ball except for one pair of players who are the policemen.

The policemen stand in the middle of the playing area, facing the rest of the players who wait on the end line opposite the bank.

How to play:

Begin with a story “It’s midnight – we are going to rob a bank… ”

Tell your players that the balls in the bank are worth £1,000 each!

  • On your command, one player from each pair tries to run to the bank, capture a ball and take it back to their starting position.
  • If they get tagged by a policeman, they have to run back to their partner to tag them and let them try to get to the bank.
  • If they get the ball back to their partner without being caught “red handed” by a policeman, they have won £1,000 and their partner tries to get another ball.
  • If they are caught in possession of the ball, they put it back in the bank and go to one of the jails at the side of the grid and perform two or three star jumps before going back to their partner.
  • As soon as all the balls are captured, the pair with the most “money” is the winner.
  • Change the policemen and play again.

Coaching notes

When a player captures a ball, he or she has a decision to make: Do I dribble or pass it back to my partner? Ask your players how they come to their decision.

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

Cone hunt

This game is pure fun and it’s so simple that even four and five-year-olds can play it.

And players up to the age of 15 will enjoy playing it too!

Objective: To improve shooting technique, passing and communication.

Set up: Use a circular playing area with a 20-yard diameter.

  • Place a flat cone with a ball balanced on top of it as a target in the middle of the playing area.
  • Mark out a five-yard exclusion zone around the cone.
  • Divide your players into teams of three or four.
  • Use three teams per playing area.

How to play: Each team tries to score a point by hitting the target.

Players cannot enter the exclusion zone.

The first team to hit the target five times wins.


Add a goalkeeper or a defender to work in the exclusion zone protecting the target.

Reduce the number of touches each player is allowed.

Reduce the size of the playing area.

Play with two balls.

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

The playground game

This small-sided game recreates the fun and chaos of the games that children used to play in the street and the school playground.

Games of “chaos” like this are terrific learning environments in which young players can experiment and test themselves without worrying about the consequences – if their team concedes a goal it won’t be long before they score again!

Age group: U6s to U12s.

Number of players: Eight (but can be easily adapted for larger numbers).

Equipment required: Flat cones, training vests (or playing kit) in four different colours, several balls.

Set-up: Create a 30×20 yards playing area with a goal on each sideline.

Divide your players into four teams of two and give them different coloured training vests to wear (e.g. blue, red, white, yellow).

How to play:

  • All four teams play. They can score in any goal.
  • If the ball goes out of play, put another one immediately.
  • Play first to five goals wins then change the teams around and play again.

Progression: While the children are playing, combine the teams so they are playing 4v4. for example, call “red and blue v white and yellow”.


  • Remove the training vests and see how your players cope without a visual means of identifying the teams.
  • Play with two balls.
  • Play with two goalkeepers who can defend any goal.
  • Play with uneven teams. For example: red, yellow and blue v whites.

Traffic cones

This game is pure fun and it’s so simple that even four and five-year-olds can play it yet 15-year-olds will get a lot from it too.

Objective: To improve shooting technique, passing and communication.

Set-up: Use a circular or rectangular playing area about 30 yards across.

  • Place a large traffic cone (or a flat cone with a ball balanced on top of it) as a target in the middle of the area.
  • Mark out a circular five-yard exclusion zone round the cone.
  • Divide your players into teams of three of four.
  • Three teams per playing area.

How to play: Each team tries to score a point by hitting the target. Players cannot enter the exclusion zone. First team to five wins.


Make the game easier for very young players by placing a number of targets within the exclusion area.

Make the game harder for older, more experienced players by reducing the size of the playing area.

Add a goalkeeper or a defender to work in the exclusion zone protecting the cone.

Play with two balls.


This fun game was sent in by Gareth Beale, as it’s one of his favourite coaching games.

He has used it with players aged from four to 16, they’ve all had a blast and they’ve sharpened their shooting, defending and passing skills at the same time.

Age group: U7s and upwards.

Set-up: Create a short pitch with a very large goal (at least 15 yards wide) on each end line.

The size of playing area depends on the age of your players and the number in each team. As a guide, eight U7s would need a 20×15 playing area while 10 U10s would need 30×20.

Split your players into two teams. There are no goalkeepers.

Coaching note: If you have more than 10 players, create two playing areas and play two games of Snowball alongside each other.

How to play: The size of the goals, the relatively short pitch and the absence of goalkeepers means it is possible to score from almost anywhere.

  • Start with one player from each team on the field and encourage them to shoot as soon as they have an opportunity.
  • Every time one team scores, the other team adds a player to the field – the idea being to swing the advantage back to the other team.
  • Have players ready to sprint on as soon as a goal is scored and have some extra balls ready to throw in any time the ball goes out of play.
  • The game is won by the team that scores against an opponent that has ALL its players on the field.

Variation: Have three teams. The resting team can play as side support players and the winners can choose to stay on and play again or take a rest break.


A practice plan for very young soccer players

Duration 45 – 60 minutes

Equipment required: one ball for every child


Every player has a ball.  Use the center circle or penalty area, or place cones in a 20 x 30 yard area.

Body Part Dribbling (3-5 min): Place the players in random formations within the space and have them dribble without touching other players.  When you call out a body part (left foot, right foot, thigh, head, etc.) the players must stop the ball with that body part.

Ball Stretching (2-3 min): Have players stand with legs apart and roll their balls with their hands in a figure eight in and out of their legs.  Then, have them place one foot in front of the other and roll the ball around the front foot ten times, then switch.  Have them sit down, legs extended in front, and roll the ball towards and around their feet and return along the other side of the leg.  Have them sit in a V and move the ball in an outline around their bodies, including their backs.  This activity makes the players stretch without realizing it; players at this age tend to just “count” when being led through stretching exercises, they don’t realize what a stretch feels like.  Activities like this warm up their muscles and keep them occupied.

I Can Do Something With the Ball, Can You? (3-5 min): Lead this game first, saying, “I can do something with the ball (dribble with your left foot, kick as far as you can, etc.) can you?” and then the players have to mimic you.  Then call the players up one at a time to the center to lead the activity.

Water Break (3 mins)

Main Activities 

Individual Ball Retrieving (5-7 min): Have the players hand you their balls one at a time.  Toss each ball away, and the players must retrieve their balls as quickly as possible and bring them back any way they want (carry in one hand, both hands, hold on top of head, etc.)  Let them come up with their own ideas.  A variation is to call out a number while the players run away and they must touch the ball that many times on their way back to you.

The Glob (5-7 min): Select one player to be ‘the glob’ with you.  Have the players line up on one side of the goal box and the glob stays at the other side.  The players should start running to the other side and try to avoid being tagged by the glob.  If tagged, the players should practice dribbling behind the goal until the glob has tagged everyone.  Select a new ‘glob’ partner and start over.  Variations are to have the players dribble past you.

Water Break (3 mins)

Off to the Zoo (3-5 min): This drill starts without a ball.  Have the players gather randomly in an area, then call out an animal, and they must walk around mimicking that animal.  After the players get the hang of it, add balls, and they must dribble while being an animal.

Attacking and Defending Gates (5-7 min): Create 6-8 ‘gates’ or small goals with cones in an area of the field.  Place one child in each gate—this is team A.  Another child lines up facing the gate on either side with the ball (Team B) and tries to play the ball through the gate.  If the Team B player wins, the players switch roles.

Water Break (5 min)

Game Time (10-12 min)

Play a small-sided game or two at a time, no more than 4 v. 4 with no goalkeepers.  Have balls available out of bounds to kick in if the ball goes out (kick to players not as active in the game).

Cool-down (3-5 min)

Toes (2-3 min): Have the players sit on the ground legs extended and grab their feet with each hand.  Through all of the following instructions, their hands cannot let go of their feet (this is another creative way to make the kids stretch a bit).

Can you make one leg longer than the other?  Now the other leg?

How wide can you stretch your legs?

How small can you make yourself?

How large can you make yourself?

Can you get your feet higher than your head?

Can you get your feet behind your head?

Can you stand and walk without letting go of your toes?