Go for goal

Objective: To practice individual tackling and defensive skills.

Experience: Beginners and upwards.

Set-up: Create a 20-yard square with a normal-sized goal at one end.

Three or defenders stand next to the goal and three or four attackers stand at the end of the playing area opposite the goal.

How to Play: On your signal, a defender passes a ball to one of the attackers. As soon as the attacker touches the ball, the defender runs out quickly and tries to stop the attacker shooting at goal.

The defender is awarded a point if she successfully tackles the attacker or manages to keep the attacker from shooting for 15 seconds.

The attacker gets a point for a shot at goal.

Attackers and defenders change places every three or four plays.

Coaching points:

You can either play this as team game and play first team to 10 points wins or set individual targets.

Emphasise the need for defenders to close down attackers quickly and for attackers to shoot as soon as they can.


1. Award two points to defenders who can keep an attacker away from goal for 15 seconds without tackling.

2. If a defender wins the ball, he can shoot at goal.

3. Play two attackers against one defender.

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

Keep ball

Objective: To improve aggressiveness and the ability to shield the ball.

Age group: U6s and upwards.

Number of players: Whole team.

Equipment: Cones to mark out the playing area, bibs and a ball.

Set up: Mark out a 30-yard square. Divide your players into four teams (it doesn’t matter if one has an extra player).

How to play: Each team stands at a corner of the square. Play a ball into the centre of the area and shout “Go!”.

The first player in each team runs out from their corner and tries to get to the ball first. Whoever gets the ball must try to keep possession for five seconds to earn a point for his team before passing the ball to you.

If the ball is stolen or the pass is intercepted, the player stealing the ball should keep it for five seconds before passing to you.

The first team to reach five points wins.

Tip: Very young players will find it difficult to hold onto the ball against three opponents so allow them to either pass to you straight away or play with two teams instead of four.

The older and more skilled the players, the longer they should be able to hold the ball before passing.

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

Do a turn!

Objective: To practise turning technique, defending, shielding the ball, shooting to score.

Age group: U8s upwards

Number of players: Whole team.

Equipment: Cones to mark out the playing area, two goals or four poles to use as goalposts, a few balls.

Set up: Mark out a 40×30 yard playing area. Position two goals on opposite sidelines but don’t put them exactly opposite each other. Divide your players into two teams.

How to play: Nominate one team to be the defenders. The other team are the attackers. The two teams line up opposite each other on the end lines.

On your signal, one of the defenders passes to an attacker. As soon as the attacker touches the ball the defender closes him down.

The attacker’s job is to score in one of the goals while the defender tries to take the ball away from him.

Coaching points: If the defender blocks the way to one of the goals the attacker should turn quickly and attack the other one.

Make it competitive – keep scores of successful attacks for both teams.

Progression: Play 2v1 with two defenders or two attackers. Instead of shooting, the attacker has to dribble the ball into a goal.

Coach the right way to pass back to the goalkeeper

Remember, a goalkeeper cannot pick up a backpass or they will give away an indirect free kick!

Tell your players they must NEVER pass the ball back to the goalkeeper between the goalposts.

ALWAYS pass to the side so that if the goalkeeper misses their kick, the worst that can happen is your team gives away a corner.

Make sure your players always pass to the goalkeeper’s strongest foot. A left footed goalie doesn’t want the ball on their right foot with an attacker charging at them.

This means you must let all your players know if your goalkeeper is right or left footed!

Castle Keep

Objectives: To improve defending skills, especially in numbers up situations.

Age group: U7s to U11s.

Set up: Split your players into teams of four and create a 12-yard square for each team.

Put a ball on top of a flat cone in the middle of each grid. This is the ‘castle’.

One of the four players should wear an different coloured top or training vest. She is the designated defender (the guardian of the castle).

How to play: The three attackers pass the ball around the guardian of the castle and try to knock the ball off the cone with a pass.

The guardian gets a point if they can stop the attackers hitting the castle for 20 seconds.

Change the guardian when the castle is hit or when the guardian wins a point.

Each player has five turns as the guardian. The player with the most points wins.


  • Make the area smaller for older or skilful players.
  • If players stand next to the castle, mark out a three-yard exclusion zone around it.

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

Keepaway in a box

Objective: This is a fun game helps younger players of all skill levels improve their ball shielding skills and understand the principles of individual defending.

Age range: U6s to U9s.

Difficulty: Easy.

Set-up: Pair your players up in a relatively small playing area. For ten U7s, 10 yards square is ideal.

The playing area should not be so big that the game turns into running and chasing. The objective to protect the ball in a confined space. One ball between two.

How to play: The game starts with both players in each pair placing one foot on the ball.

  • When you say “GO”, they both try to take possession of the ball.
  • The player who gets the ball must try to keep it away from her partner.
  • The ball must not leave the playing area. If it does, that pair is out of the game.
  • The winners are the pair of players who can keep the ball in the playing area the longest.
  • Switch partners after every round or two to build confidence in newer players and to challenge the more experienced players.

Coaching note: An alternative to eliminating players who let the ball go out of bounds is to make them wait for a few seconds before returning to the game. But that means that no one “wins” and, as Steve says, the game is so fast and over so quickly that no pair of players is out for more than a minute anyway.

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

Steal the ball


I like keepaway games. They are great for improving ball control, shielding the ball, supporting play and communication.

But “normal” keepaway quickly bores young players. There’s not much fun and no end result.

Steal the Ball, however, is fun to play and it can get very competitive. My players love it!

Age group: U6s to U10s.

StealSet-up: Create two playing areas. For team sizes up to six, 20 yards square is OK. If you have more than that (or your players are inexperienced) make the playing areas bigger.

Split your players into two teams and give them numbers 1 to X (P1 to P4 in the image below)

One team per playing area.

How to play: To begin with, your players pass the ball to each order in number order: 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 etc.

Tip: Encourage your players to move immediately after passing and tell them to use the whole of the playing area.

After a few minutes, call a number. The players with that number run into the other team’s playing area and try to steal the ball. Whoever steals the ball first gets a point for their team.

When all the numbers have been called, the team with the most points wins.


Call two numbers.

Play with two balls in each playing area and require the ball stealers to knock both balls out of the playing area to get a point.

Award a bonus point if the ball can be stolen in less than five seconds.

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

King of the ring

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

Every player has a ball.

How to play: Players dribble their ball around and, at the same time, try 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 – wait on the sideline.

The winner is the last player dribbling.


Ask your players to dribble with their “wrong” foot only.
Make the playing area smaller.


One or two players without a ball try to kick all the other players’ balls out as quickly as possible.

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.