Through the wall

through the wall

through the wall

Objective: Encourages young players to pass the ball (rather than hold on to it for too long) and create space.

Age range: Six to 10.

Number of players: Eight to 14.

Equipment: Six balls, training vests.

How to play:

  • Divide your squad into two teams and create a 15×10 yards playing area.
  • One team becomes a wall and must link arms with each other facing the attacking team in the centre of the rectangle.
  • Once the attack has touched the ball, the wall can move forwards or sidewards but not backwards.
  • The attackers take their turn to dribble the ball past the wall and the wall has to stop them.
  • The wall is not allowed to break up – players must keep their arms linked.
  • Then the attackers have one ball per pair and must pass their way past the wall.
  • Once again the wall can only move forwards or sidewards and must not break up.

Progression:

Add more players to the wall.

Use three attackers to pass with one ball.

Chain gang races

Objective: To practise running with the ball and working as a team.

Age range: Chain Gang Races is suitable for children from the age of four but I’ve used it with all age groups, even 13-year-olds, and they all loved it!

Set up:

Mark out two lanes about 20 yards long and five yards wide.

Place a large cone or pole at one end of each channel.

The players are divided into two teams and start at the opposite end.

How to play:

The first player dribbles a ball up the channel, around the cone, and back to their team mates.

The starting player then links arms with the second player on their team and they dribble the ball up the channel, around the cone, and back to their team mates.

An extra player joins the chain gang each time, until all the players are in the chain.

The whole team must negotiate the course and the turn without breaking and must keep the ball under control.

If, at any time, the chain breaks, players must start again from the line without adding an extra link.

Play five rounds and see which team wins the most races.

Progression: One or more players in the chain gang must dribble a ball.

Trick or treat?

This simple dribbling drill was suggested by Ivan Mann, a coaching colleague from the soccercoach-l mailing list. It also makes a good warm up exercise for younger children.

Set Up and Execution

Make a square with pretty small sides – players line up on each side. Put an adult in the middle of each side (that means four adults) holding a dozen or so flat cones (you could use anything else similar size and shape). 50 cones or 50 slips of construction paper will do.

On a go signal, players dribble across the square, stop the ball with a foot on it, say “Trick or Treat”, take a cone from an adult, turn the ball, dribble back across, take a cone, etc. When all the cones are gone, who has the most?

This requires dribbling at speed, avoiding the clump in the middle, controlling the ball around an opponent, but minimal coordination holding the cones.After a few rounds dribble across the square, dribble around the coach, and then stop the ball, say “Trick or treat,” etc. Or place the adults randomly in the square, moving at a walking pace. This makes them keep their heads up and look for the target (i.e. the adult)

Games for kindergarten kids

I have had a request about what to do with kindergarten kids. Here are things I’ve done that seem to work.

Rule 1: be nice and have fun.
Rule 2: if things aren’t working give it a minute then move on.
Rule 3: if more than one kid loses focus, change the activity!

Dribbling

Every player with a ball.

Rules

  • Every player must keep moving and not run into anyone else
  • When coach says “one” they must stop and put their right foot on the ball (never mind that most cannot yet tell right from left just tell the lefties to use their other right foot).

Ask what part of your foot you should use when dribbling, get lots of answers. Correct one is all parts (trick question). Show how to pull ball back with sole of foot. Ask them to try it after you say start. When they are dribbling around, say “ONE”; once they are all stopped, tell them that now when you say “TWO” they are to stop and sit on the ball. “START” , “TWO”, Now show some other dribbling technique, for instance cutting the ball across with the inside of the foot. “START”, “ONE”, Tell them to move faster and to keep their heads up. “START”, “TWO”. If they did go faster, they probably had some collisions. Ask them how to avoid them. (Right answer is just like cars on motorway, go slower in traffic, only speed up when no one is around and always pay attention to what the other drivers are doing.)

Tell them when you say “THREE” to stop and put their nose on the ball. “START”, “THREE”, “START”, encourage them to find space on the field, help them say “there’s space over here”, “now its over in the other corner”. etc. Do several of the stops and starts to get them a little silly and maybe introduce another dribbling move.

Try “FOUR” – elbow, “FIVE” -left ear, etc.

Sharks and minnows

Need a moderate space with boundaries (about the dimensions of one long kick for these guys). All but one player (the shark) has a ball. The shark tries to kick the minnows’ balls out of the area. First let the minnows retrieve their ball and continue, then the minnows become sharks after they lose their ball. Continue play until all the balls are gone. Retrieve the balls and repeat.

Use a few cones to make a 10 to 15 yard square. Have all players with ball inside area. Tell them to try and kick each other’s ball out, but to keep their ball in. If their ball is kicked out, they must sprint after it and bring it back inside as quickly as possible. Stop them, ask them to count how many times they can kick someone else’s ball out. Start up again. Stop and ask who had more than 2,4,…. Now ask them to count how many times their ball is kicked out. Start and stop again, forget to ask for total.

Another game is to give 1/2 the players balls and tell the others to take a ball away and try to keep it. Players with a ball after 1 minute win. Repeat 2 or 3 times.

Arrange them in pairs. If you have an odd number, have one play with you. Play 1v1 keepaway for 1 minute. Player in possession after 1 minute is winner. Rearrange the pairs and go again for a total of 3 or 4 times.

Passing

Have them find a partner, one ball per pair. This will take a little while so you might tell them to come back from the break with a partner and a ball before you dismiss them.

First have them pass the ball back and forth while standing about 3 yards apart. They will look hopeless.

Stop them and ask what part of foot to use for short accurate passes on the ground. (Answer is inside of foot, show them what you mean; that part of the foot between the heel and ball of foot.) Have them resume. Point out that a pass is no good if it can’t be received by their team-mate. Ask what that means (answers on ground, within reach, not to hard, not too soft, when it is expected, for example it does no good to pass to a team-mate’s back, or to one picking dandelions)

Stop them ask them how to receive the ball (answer: cushion the ball so it slows and is left in front of you so you can step forward to pass it, Don’t let them stop the ball under their foot, or so close that the ball is stuck between their feet and must be moved before it can be kicked, tell them the ball should be kept moving) Now you will also have to tell them to back up after they pass the ball or else, they will end up too close together. Resume

Stop and tell them to do two-touch passing (you probably will have to ask what Two-touch is and find a correct respondent). Resume

Stop. Tell them that you want to count the number of passes in a minute and to start on your command. Start and time for one minute. Ask each pair how many passes, repeat.

Tell them to do one-touch passing. Time them for one minute while they count. Offer praise, “that’s very good”, That’s better than I though a bunch of 6-year -olds would do”, etc.

Now tell them to pass and move after they pass. Tell them to keep track of their partner, to avoid the other players (It’s harder than it looks), and not to dribble (two- or three -touch).

If you have an even number break them up into equal groups. 2v2 or 3 v3 is good, but 4v4 is confusing and will need a good neutral player or two to work, if you have an odd number pair yourself, or an older sibling with the obviously weakest player.

If you do pairs, have them play keep-away for one minute.

Encourage the player without the ball to move to get open and the defenders to challenge for the ball and to deny passing lanes. Team with the ball after one minute wins. Go again. Go again. Keep reinforcing the idea of getting open on the attack (in a position where your team-mate with the ball can see you, where you are not too close, but close enough and where the other team can’t intercept the pass).

If you do 3v3, consider using a neutral player to help the team with the ball. Again, reinforce the need to move to get open. Point out what happens if you hold the ball too long before passing (you get ganged-up on). Keep such observations very brief and generally make them in the form of a question (to which you will likely get lots of wrong answers, just say “no, that’s not what I’m looking for” or “that’s it!” when you get the right answer) If the neutral player is reasonably talented, have them ask the players to get open whenever there is no good target. The neutral player needs to move to be a good receiving position all the time. The better the neutral player, the more players that can be involved. Tell the players with the ball to make the longest pass they are capable of to a team-mate who is open. (Not the longest kick, but the longest pass to the team-mate farthest away from the other team’s players; Same comments about passes as before, within reach, on ground, not too hard, not too soft).

Shooting

Players love to shoot and score. Almost anything that gets lots of shots in a short time is fine. With 6 or fewer, a simple line taking turns and retrieving the balls works fine. Have them stay out of the way of each others shots.

For more than 6, you need to keep the bystanders occupied in some way. Having them serve a ball to the shooter, then move to the shooting line and the shooters retrieve ball and move to serving line.

Easiest serves are those coming from behind and slightly to the side of the shooter, also ball must be on ground and in front of shooter Shooter should be facing sideways so he can see both the ball coming and the goal at which she will shoot. Next easiest are serves coming from the goal on the ground back to the shooter who is facing the goal; hardest serves are those coming across the field from either side.

If a larger goal is available, a parent as keeper (preferably a totally inept keeper) is lots of fun.

The youngest will be lousy servers and you will have to decide if it is “working” when you have them serve. If not simply change the activity.

One version of the setup: Line in front of goal about 15 yards out. First player in line has no ball. Second player in line pushes the ball from behind to in front of the first player so that the ball is rolling towards the goal. The first player catches up to the ball and takes a first time shot. First player retrieves ball and goes to end of line, second player moves to front of line … (You will have to instruct them about passing the ball slowly enough that the first player can reach it, but hard enough that it does get in front of him. One way to begin this is to have the first player facing the goal with his legs spread and the second player passes between the first players legs. That at least puts the ball between the player and the goal and as long as the pass is not too hard, the first player should be able to get a shot off.)

Other

1v1: Have the players find someone of comparable ability. Use two pairs. Have one pair serve as “goals” standing with their legs spread apart and the other two compete to score. Tell them the goals must be scored by shooting on the ground. After one minute goals and players switch.

If you have an odd number of pairs, use parents as “goals” .

Small sided game

Encourage the team with the ball (attackers) to spread out and to move to get open. Encourage the defenders (team without ball) to get between the ball and the goal (goal-side) (or between an attacker who is “up front” and the goal).

Don’t worry about the finer points of throw-ins, offsides, etc. Do prohibit sliding tackles, encourage the attackers to shoot, defenders to get back as soon as they lose the ball.

Defenders are everyone on the team that doesn’t have the ball. Attackers are everyone on the team that does have the ball. When no one has the ball, deciding whether you should act like a defender or an attacker is hard to determine, but the team that gets it right most often usually wins the game.

The scrimmage will likely look like a swarm around the ball. If the coach must engage in some tactical instruction, have one player play behind the swarm to collect any balls coming to him and play the ball forward to space in front of and to the side of the swarm. Later introduce players to the sides of the swarm to collect any balls to the side or passes from behind and then dribble forward and shoot or pass to the middle. Finally, add a player in front of the swarm to serve as a target. Now with 4 players outside the swarm, the remaining few players are just midfielders, the others are just in good supporting positions. Encourage the swarm to pass to any team-mate outside the swarm, yes a pass back is good and should be tolerated, even if it is a bit risky for K-3 s. The players outside the swarm should be rotated frequently.

It will take K’s all fall to get to the point where more than a couple will play outside the swarm. (except, for those who are really not playing at all and just standing with no clue as to what is going on, encourage those to get into the swarm. and get involved)

Do not relegate the only kid with a booming kick to stay back all the time. The point here is to learn and not to restrict the chances to learn in an effort to win or avoid an embarrassing loss.

Of course, there are lots of variations on all of these and you probably have your own favourite. With these guys silly games are not a bad idea. Just remember these little ones have trouble staying focussed on one activity for too long, so make lots of changes. If something isn’t working, change after a very short time, especially if you don’t have a clear way to make it easier or more fun to do.

Multi purpose games for very young players (part 3)

Red light

An easy warm up for under 6s

While dribbling the football with their feet, have the players stop the ball with various parts of the body (by calling out ‘foot’, ‘back’, ‘tummy’ etc.) while the ball is on the ground.

Keep your yard clean

This game is simple, fun, and easy to adapt to account for various team sizes and experience.

THE GAME:

  • Create a ‘neutral area’ between the two teams where no player is allowed. This area can be as small as one yard and as big as 10 yards wide. The width is determined by how far the players can kick the ball.
  • Each player starts with a ball at her or her feet.
  • On command, each team tries to keep their side of the game zone free of balls by kicking their ball over to the other team’s side.
  • After an appropriate amount of time (when the balls become too scattered, or the players are losing focus), stop the game and count which side has the most balls on their side.
  • Distribute the balls evenly for another try if the players are still interested.

After players have found some success with this basic game, try these variations:

  • Players can only use their left foot.
  • They can throw the ball back.
  • They must dribble the ball around a cone that has been set up in the middle of their “yard” and then kick it back.

Red light, Green light

Red lightThis should be familiar to most U6’s. Again, the game is fun, simple to set up, and has direct application to the game of soccer. It is particularly good for reinforcing dribbling and ball control skills.

THE GAME

Each player has a ball, except the one player that is designated as the “light”.

Lines from start to finish should be approximately 20 – 30 yards.

Players start from the line opposite the “light”.

The “light” then turns away from the group shouting out “GREEN LIGHT”.

At this signal, the players start to dribble towards the “light”.

When the “light” turns round, calling “RED LIGHT”, players must freeze and stop their ball.

If the “light” catches players or a ball still moving that player must take 5 steps back.

The first player to cross the line where the “light” is standing is the winner and becomes the new “light”.

You can start the game without using balls for younger players, then have them roll the ball with their hands, then use their feet.

The following games will be enjoyed by all children, especially (but not exclusively) the very young. 

The blind leading the blind

Group your players into equal sized, even numbered teams and put the players in each team into pairs.

Position each team about 5 yards apart, all facing forwards in their pairs.

Place 3 gates in front of each team about 5 yards apart. Each gate is 2 cones on the ground, about three feet apart.

One player in each pair covers the eyes of their partner with a sweatshirt tied with sleeves behind the head. They then place a ball between their partner’s feet.

When the race starts the sighted partner works as a guide, talking the blindfolded partner through the gates by voice. The guide can not touch the ball or the blindfolded partner.

When the pair has navigated the 3 gates, they quickly change roles, navigating the 3 gates in the reverse direction, returning the ball to their line.

When the first pair returns to the line, the second pair takes their turn.

Lines compete to be first to return both pairs and the ball to the line after navigating the gates in both directions.

Shorten the distance between gates for younger ages and stagger the gates left and right for older ages to make it more difficult. The objective is to encourage communication, so don’t make anybody feel like a loser – it’s just for fun!

Dribble Relay

The basic game is Team ‘A’ racing team ‘B’ by dribbling through a series of gates. If a player loses control and misses a gate they have to regain control and go through the gate.

One variation is to have a small ‘square’ at the end. The children have to stop the ball in the square, then sprint back and high-five the next player before he/she can start. Another variation is to have several parents positioned at different places along the ‘course’ and have a different one hold up a number of fingers at random times during the race – and award points to the player that sees it and correctly yells out the number first. This encourages the children to play with their heads up.

Freeze Tag

Set up a large rectangle with cones and have the players dribble in the rectangle. After a short time, take the ball away from one or two players who then become “it.” Any player whose ball is touched by an “it” player becomes frozen and has to stop dribbling, spread her legs apart, and hold her ball above her head. He is frozen in this position until another player dribbles her ball between the frozen player’s legs. Switch the “it” players often and make it a contest to see who can freeze the most at one time. 

Follow the leader

Pick a leader and have her dribble anywhere on the field, encouraging her to make lots of turns, changing speed, etc. All other players have to follow the leader and do whatever that player does. Switch leaders often.

Last Man Out

Play in a large grid. All the players stand at a cone about 20 feet from a group of balls. There is one less ball than the number of players. On the coach’s command, the players run to the balls, get one and begin dribbling. The player who didn’t get a ball tries to steal one from the others. The coach keeps time and after a preset period has passed, the coach stops the game. The player who doesn’t have a ball has to perform a minor penalty (such as running round the grid) before re-joining the game.

Tag

Very simple and surprisingly effective. Mark off a grid or circle. Everybody has a ball. Whoever is “it” must dribble to another player and tag her. The other players avoid being tagged by dribbling away from “it.” If the player being chased loses her ball outside the grid, dribbles out of the grid, or is tagged, he is “it” and the game continues.

Ball Tag

Just as simple as ‘Tag’ and just as useful! Everyone has a ball and dribbles in a confined area. The player who is “it” must pass her ball so that it hits another player’s ball. The player whose ball was hit then becomes “it.”

Egg Hunt

Have more balls than players. Have the players line-up across one end of the field. Take their balls and spread them out around the field, these are the eggs. If you have an unusual coloured ball –make it the Golden Egg or something similar). At the other end of the field is a goal. I use a portable goal and call it the “basket.” Blow a whistle and turn them loose. The object of the game is to get the “eggs” in the basket as quickly as possible. They are all on the same team, and aren’t allowed to take a ball away from another player. Time them with a stopwatch.

Snake

Players are grouped into threes. First player is the “head” of the snake, and does not have a ball. She’s essentially the leader in a follow-the-leader game. Second player has a ball at her feet, and must follow the head of the snake, dribbling wherever she goes. Third player is the “rattle”. No ball, just following. Emphasise to the “heads” to vary their lead — some fast, some slow, some sideways, some stopping, etc. I let one lead for about 20 seconds or so. Then, on a whistle from a coach, 2 drops the ball to 3 and becomes the head of the snake. The rattle (3) becomes the dribbler and the former head circles around to become the rattle. 

Coloured circles

Set up a 20×40 yard grid, make a centre circle, and split players into to teams that can be identified by a colour. Have all the kids dribble their balls in the centre circle. Call out a colour. That team dribbles toward their goal. The other team leaves their ball and runs to slow the attackers down. Encourage the defenders to push the attackers wide and make sure they don’t dive in. If the defenders can keep the attackers outside of the penalty area for 10 seconds they get a point. Attackers get 1 point every time they dribble the ball into the box. Play to 10 points.

Sharks and Minnows

Play in a large grid. Half the players have balls and are the Minnows. The rest don’t have a ball and are the Sharks.

The Minnows start at one end of the grid. The Sharks stand on the opposite line. The Minnows must try to cross the Shark’s line without losing possession of their ball. The Sharks defend their line, trying to kick the Minnows’ balls out of the defined area. Minnows who successfully dribble across the Shark’s line go back for round two. Each Minnow who loses their ball join the Sharks. The last Minnow left in is the winner.

Death Square

Everyone dribbles around trying to keep their own ball and kick out everyone else’s ball. If a player’s ball is kicked out, he must retrieve it, then dance on the ball for 10 touches before getting back in. A player gets a point for every ball he kicks out (so if you spend time outside dancing on your ball, you have less time to win points).

Under Pressure

Get all the kids dribbling around in a grid then remove one, two, or three balls depending on how much pressure is needed. Then announce that whoever has possession of a ball after 1 minute is a winner. If they can chase someone out of bounds they automatically win that ball. Count down the last 10 seconds out loud to increase the pressure. The children who finish without a ball have to perform a token penalty – a couple of pushups, run a lap of the grid, etc.

1v1 to goal

Divide players into two teams. Play in a large grid with a goal on one edge and a supply of balls. Station each team on a goal post, standing off but facing the field. Place a GK in goal facing the field. Coach/assistant stands behind the centre of the goal with a supply of balls. Coach tosses a ball over the crossbar to about the penalty spot. A player from each team both sprint to the ball and attempt to control it, turn, and get a shot off. The second to the ball defends (if he then wins the ball, then he tries to shoot). When there is a score, save, or ball goes out of play, restart the same way with a different pair of players.

The Name Game

Players stand in a circle and pass the ball to one another, but they must call out the name of the person they are passing to. This is great at the beginning of the season, so they (and you!) learn everyone’s names. If the players are doing well and you have enough players, add additional balls.

Multi purpose games for very young players (part 2)

Warm-ups don’t have to be soccer related. All they need to do is to provide some gentle physical exercise and – most importantly – be a lot of fun. Play tag games, Simon Says, etc.
Anatomy dribbling and Red Light Green Light are excellent warm ups that make use of a football.

Remember that the kids aren’t showing up to play soccer, they’re showing up to have fun. Have fun with them!

Wee ones love the idea of a “new” game ‚ so it is a good idea the change the rules of the game or chance the game every 10 minutes to keep interest. Instructions have to be broken into little steps and kept very brief. If you can not do it and show it in about 20 seconds, then do it in stages, demo part 1, then expand to part 2 etc.

The key to little kids soccer drills is for every player to have a ball and a variety of ‘games’, and drills that include every player. After playing soccer related games, pick one aspect of the game (dribbling, or shooting, or passing) and build the rest of your practice session around that.

Numbers

The exercise is good for 1 vs 1 dribbling skills. It is especially good on a hot day as the kids defending can rest a bit. Divide the kids into 2 groups. If you have ten kids, say, assign each kid a number between one and five. So each team has a number one, a number two, etc. Try to make sure the kids with the same number are evenly matched. Set up two very wide “goals” with pylons. Spread the five kids on each side across each goal line. Call out one or more numbers, and those kids come out to play 1 vs 1, 2 vs 2, etc. and the rest of the kids stay spread across the goal line as defenders. Throw a ball from the sideline into the centre and let them play it until a goal is scored, the defenders stop it, or it goes out of bounds.

Variation: Colours. Use two each of different coloured bibs, armbands, or stickers to place on shirts, as younger kids will have trouble remembering numbers.

Monkey in the Middle

All players form a circle and choose someone (the “Monkey”) to be in its centre. The players forming the circle pass one ball among them while the person in the centre tries to gain control of the ball. When this happens, the person in the circle who last touched the ball goes to the centre. Some level of competitiveness develops but never on an individual basis and the “losers” quickly gets a chance to redeem themselves.

Ice Monster

Mark off an area for the game to be played and select one kid to be the “Monster”. Have the rest of the kids (each with a ball) dribble around within the area. The “Ice Monster” attempts to touch each player’s ball, at which point that player “freezes” with their foot on the ball. If a player’s ball goes out of bounds, they also freeze. The last remaining unfrozen player gets to be the new Ice Monster for the next round.

Cops and Robbers

Have the kids (each with a ball) line up on one side of the field. These guys are the “Robbers”. Have two more kids (the Cops) facing the Robbers somewhere near halfway to the other side. The object is for the Robbers to dribble to the other side without having a Cop tackle the ball away. If a robber loses his ball to a cop, he goes to jail (designate a small area off to the side or use a Goal structure.) Have the Robbers repeat the crossings until there are only 2 left. Make these guys the new cops, pull everyone out of jail and start over.

Pirate (or Monster)

A keepaway game. Coaching points: concentrate on the player’s close dribbling and screening techniques. Everybody inside a circle (centre circle is fine) with a ball. One player without a ball is the Pirate. Everybody starts dribbling around. The Pirate player tries to steal a ball from any player and pass it out of the circle – now, the two players are Pirates and go after the others…..then three, then four. Finally only one player is left with a ball. He/she becomes the Pirate the next game.

Variation: Bomber. Just like above except the “IT” player has a ball and tries to roll/throw it at the other player’s and knock their ball out of the circle.

Kick out

Everyone dribbles and shields their ball within a circle while trying to kick everyone else’s ball out, and simultaneously to protect their own. You can’t kick someone else’s ball out if your ball isn’t in the circle. If your ball goes out you have to leave the circle it gets down to two kids in a duel. The coach may participate to keep the game from becoming to competitive, as the ones eliminated early may feel bad.

Give and go

This one is good for getting the kids to move after they make a pass. It is appropriate for kids a little older, who pass the ball but like to stop and really admire their better passes. Everyone spaces themselves around the centre circle. Give the ball to one person and they call out someone’s name and pass to them. They then run to the receiver’s position in the circle. The receiver upon hearing their name called steps forward to receive the pass and yells “I got it!” The sequence is then repeated. Several things are accomplished besides getting them used to movement. The “I got it!” yell addresses the problem of nobody playing the ball in a game because they thought the other was going to play it. We all learn each other’s names quickly.

Invariably, someone is always left out so start a countdown from 10 to 0 and they have to figure out who has been left out (the left out person should be quiet). They start yelling among themselves to figure out who it is and this fosters communication on the field. (It’s pretty humorous too).

After a few practices, they get it down so they look pretty sharp. Then you toss in another ball. They love it! Now they have to think a bit because people are moving and two are busy with the other ball.

Egg Hunt

Have more balls than players. Have the players line-up across one end of the field. Take their balls and spread them out around the field, these are the eggs. At the other end of the field is a goal called the “basket”. Blow the whistle and turn them loose. The object of the game is to get all the “eggs” in the basket as quickly as possible. They are all on the same team, and aren’t allowed to take a ball away from another player. Time them to see how fast they can accomplish the task.

The kids really like this game. The more balls (eggs) the better. You should see them score, and turn right around and go back for more balls.

Marbles

Split your team into two groups and line them up behind two opposing lines. Each player should have a ball. Place an unusual colour (or size) ball in the middle. This is the marble (a #2 ball works well). Have them try to move the marble across the other team’s line by striking it with a ball. After the game starts, don’t require them to use their own ball, they are free to use any other ball they can find.

At first the players may get really excited and kick the marble. If this happens, call time-out and put it back.

Variation: eliminate the teams and play it in a circle. The game is over when the ball exits the circle.

Teach the parents

During the last practice of the season have a scrimmage between the parents and the players (with the coaches helping the players). This serves a couple of purposes. The kids love this game. They get a chance to show their parents what they can do and they enjoy beating their parents. (The parents never win, the coaches make sure of that….) Also, since many of the parents have never played soccer it shows them how difficult the game really is. The hope is that a parent may now think twice before yelling at a child for missing an “easy” shot in a game. Everybody seems to enjoy this scrimmage.

Shark and minnows

Teaches kids with the ball to shield it from an opponent and teaches kids without the ball how to take it away from an opponent. Use pylons to create a 15-yard square. One player, the shark, starts outside the square without a ball. All other players, the minnows, start inside the square with a ball. When the coach yells, “Shark’s getting hungry!” the shark starts running around the outside of the square and the fish start dribbling around inside the square. When the coach yells, “Shark attack!” the shark enters the square and has 30 seconds to send as many balls as possible outside the square. When a ball leaves the square for any reason, the corresponding fish must leave the square and stay out until the coach gives the “Stop!” command at the end of the 30 seconds. A fish has done well if still alive. The shark has done well if few fish survived. Choose a new shark and play another round until every player has been the shark once.

Camp Town Races

Line up all the players on one end of the field. They each have a ball. On the whistle, they all dribble to opposite end, shoot ball into goal, get ball out of goal, and run back and finish with a shot on opposite goal. The first one to finish is the winner. Ask them “Who is going to win the race?” They all learn to say “The player who can dribble it the straightest!” A variation is to start half at one end and half on the other. This really teaches them to try to do it fast while maintaining possession. This drill really helps players deal with the balls that pop out of the bunch.

Multi purpose games for very young players

Run and shoot

Have the players in two lines by the centre circle. Have a player from one line start moving towards the net and feed him/her a football from beside the net. They have to dribble toward the net and shoot. Normally avoid any drills with line-ups, however this one works because the kids move quickly through the line. You should have lots of parents to help collect balls and keep kids moving through the lines.

Cone soccer

Play 1v1 with one player against one player, each has a cone as a goal. This is every player; nobody stands and watches. The object is to hit the cone; there are no boundary lines, etc. This is nothing but 1v1 dribbling with a little bit of long passing/shooting, etc. They figure out very quickly that they have to beat their man and nothing else will do. After about five minutes, everybody switches to somebody they haven’t played yet. This way nobody is hopelessly outmatched against the same player for very long. They hate to stop doing this until about forty minutes or so when their tongues are hanging to the ground (it’s also a good conditioner). This also teaches individual initiative – nobody else is going to stop the opponent; nobody else is going to score the goal.

Strong sides

The team concept is best taught with unbalanced drills (i.e., 2 v. 1, and 3 v. 2, etc.)– this is true for players of all ages, but especially with younger players. This will make the benefit of team play obvious and it will “let the game be the teacher”. Start with 2 v. 1 drills, then when the players clearly recognize the value of combining to beat one player– either to beat and score or to maintain possession– consider a move to 3 v. 2 (vary the amount of space the drills are carried out in– space is almost another subject).

Striker!

Divide players into two teams. Station each team at a corner post of the goal, standing off, but facing the field. Place a keeper in goal facing the field. Coach/assistant stands behind the centre of the goal with a supply of balls. Coach tosses a ball over the crossbar to about the penalty spot. A player from each team both sprint to the ball and attempt to control it, turn, and get a shot off. The second to the ball defends (if he then wins the ball, then he tries to shoot). When there is a score, save, or ball goes out of play, restart the same way with a different pair of players. May want to limit amount of time each pair has to attempt to score as some kids will dribble all over the field if you let them and everyone else gets bored. Limit the area that the combatants can “fight” in to the penalty area.

Possession

Picture a square about 20 yards to a side. Coach is at one corner. Two teams are at each of two corners to immediate right and left of coach. Coach serves balls between the two teams first players in line from each team attempt to receive ball and turn and pass to their own team. Second player to the ball attempts to defend, prevent turn, or gain possession and turn and pass to his team. Score one point for turning and passing and successful reception. This keeps the two players in line and the second players in line who are the receivers into the game. Receivers cannot enter field but can adjust position along a line to receive pass. Coach can vary the service to handicap one player or another, serve hard, soft, air balls, or into the space beyond the two lines, etc. Coach controls time and with cones lays out the space for play (if no one can turn and pass within a few seconds, no points and the next players are up; dribble out of bounds and the same thing– get back in line and coach serves another ball).

Line Drills

Although you should limit the number of line drills, the following drills are very helpful in teaching younger players important fundamental aspects of the game (all these are on a field stepped off to regulation size, preferably with a regulation goal).

Players rotate positions:

  • Simple cut back move: 1 line. Have players start at midfield and dribble half way down sideline with coach providing minimal pressure. When coach says ‘cut’ the player cuts the ball toward the middle and then finishes with a shot. As season progresses, coach adds more pressure.
  • Reverse move (U6s can begin to do this; U7s ought to be able to do it): 1 line. Players and coach stand on endline next to goal. Coach passes ball ahead. Player has to run and reverse ball, then turn and shoot (or dribble back and shoot).
  • Pass to partner: 2 lines: one along sideline and another toward the centre of the field.
  • Same as above, but this time, when coach says pass, the player passes to the wide-open team-mate. The team-mate must be yelling ‘pass it to me.’ The play finishes with a shot. As season progresses, coach adds more pressure. Also, this is the foundation for 2 v 1 or 3 v 1…As season progresses, a defender is added and is coached on how to intercept/steal a pass.
  • Throw-in play: 2 lines: one along sideline and another toward the centre of the field. The coach (standing on the field 4-5 feet in front of players on the sidelines) has a ball and rolls it out of bounds. He tells the first player in line along the sideline to ‘go get it and throw it in.’ The coach points to where it went out of bounds and tells the player to throw it in from there, encouraging the player to hurry and watching for proper technique. The throw in goes to the team-mate who is yelling ‘pass it to me.’ The throw in made in front of the waiting team-mate. After the throw is made, both players run to the goal. The play finishes with a shot. As season progresses, coach adds more pressure. This can be done with 3 v 1. As season progresses, a defender is added and is coached on how to intercept/steal a throw-in.
  • Goal kick play: 3 lines: one taking goal kick and 2 lines 10 yards ahead of kicker. Kicker kicks to one of the players who, with other team-mate, runs and takes a shot. Coach is lightly covering one of the targets. As season progresses, a defender is added and is coached on how to intercept/steal the kick and score an easy goal. This might be done with a dad kicking to another dad. The players are shown how to run and intercept for an easy shot.
  • Kick Off – Offence and Defence -Position the players the way they will be in the game. Defenders touch finger tips, offensive players positioned around their half of centre circle. Teach centre forward to pass at 45 degree angle to partner who starts run as soon as ball is kicked. Emphasize not kicking straight ahead. Teach defenders how to handle kicks straight at them and kicks off to the side.

Parachute play for youth soccer coaches

parachute play

parachute play

Soccer coaching practice plans don’t usually require a parachute as well as the usual cones, balls and bibs.

However, I’ve used parachutes very successfully, both as as ‘ice-breakers’ at initial training sessions for all age groups and to encourage children to work co-operatively as a team in game type situations.

Parachute play also improves fitness as the action of lifting and lowering the ‘chute works on biceps, triceps, forearms, back – even the hamstrings and calves.

You could try using a parachute as a warm up to your main training session (they make a welcome change from stepping over coloured cones!) or even devote a whole session to parachute games.

Pop a parachute into your bag at a training session soon. Your players teamwork and fitness will benefit and you’ll have a load of fun at the same time!

Ball Roll: Have the children try to roll the balls into the hole in the middle of the parachute. (Or have children try to keep the balls from going into the hole in the center.)

Competitive Chute Ball: Mark a line across the diameter of the chute. Have equal teams hold the edge of the chute on either side. Throw a ball into the middle. The aim is to get the ball off the chute on the other team’s side of the line, and stop it coming off your own side of the line (i.e., to throw it over the other team’s heads). You mustn’t let go of the chute or touch the ball with any part of the body. Keeping score is optional.

After several minutes of wild flapping and little progress the group should realize that coordination and strategy are needed to flick the ball off the chute.

All Change: Have the children hold onto the edge of the parachute. On the count of three, have them lift it high into the air. Call out the names of two players. These players quickly change places under the canopy. Begin calling three or four names at a time. When the game is at its ending point, call out “all change” to have all the players switch.

Rollerball: Everyone holds the chute taut. Place a large ball near the edge. Try to make the ball roll around the edge of the chute. To do this, someone starts the ball rolling. As it comes towards you, you lower the edge you are holding, and as it goes past you raise your edge. When all the players do this in synchronisation, it creates a kind of wave going round the edge of the chute which pushes the ball in a smooth steady circle. It can not be done without concentration and co-operation, but it is very rewarding for a group to eventually achieve the correct motion.

Popcorn: Place a number of small balls onto the parachute. Shake to make them pop up like “popcorn”.

Merry-Go-Round: Children turn their bodies sideways and hold the chute with one hand. They then walk around in a circle, making a “Merry-Go-Round.” For variety, children can hop, skip, jump, etc. You can stop music as a cue to reverse and go the other direction.

Poison Snakes: Place three or four jump ropes onto the chute. Shake the parachute to keep the snakes from “biting” (touching) you.

Parachute Tag: Lift the parachute high into the air. Call out two children’s names. They must trade empty spots by running under the chute, before it comes down on them.

Mushroom: Standing, lift the parachute waist height. Count to three – with “one” and “two” being small practice lifts. On three, all lift the chute overhead, and crouch down pulling the parachute edges down as well. This creates what looks like a “mushroom.”

See-Saw Pull: From a sitting position, have children pull the parachute back and forth in a cooperative see-saw motion.

Shoe Shuffle: Count off. All of a selected number take off one shoe and throw it in the middle. On the count of three, raise the chute, and the designated children have to run under and find their shoe before the chute comes down.

Bouncing Balls: Have one or two children under the chute try to knock balls off the parachute from underneath.

Flying Saucer: All take one step forward upon lifting the chute in the air. Upon command, all let go, and watch as it slowly floats.

Ball in the Bucket: Break into two or more “teams.” Each team will have a different colored ball (or balls.) They will try to keep their color ball from going into the middle circle, while trying to get the other teams’ color of ball(s) into the hole.

Beach Ball (or football) Fun: Using a beach ball or a football, roll it round the edge move it with waves around the parachute.

Mushroom: From a standing position, lift the parachute from the ground to waist height, counting one (lift) and two (lift). On three (lift), have everyone raise the parachute high over their heads and then crouch down, pulling the parachute tightly behind them. A mushroom effect is created as the parachute settles.