Age group: 8 and up
Number of players: whole team
Equipment: flat cones, bibs (two colours)
The first thing to do is start with a warm up for this drill. Set a number of gates up throughout half of the field like below. Each gate should be 2 yards wide (a gate is imply two cones set up as things to go through such as a goal)
In the image on the left, the x’s are cones
Have half the players wear white and the other half blue. Have a white and a blue player match up with each other with one ball per pair. This is simply a 1v1 game where the players try to score points by dribbling through as many gates as they can.
The white player starts with the ball and tries to score as often as possible in the first one minute half. If the blue player wins the ball, then she tries to score goals.
The only restriction is that the players can NOT dribble through the same goal two times in a row. After a one minute half, they rest (and stretch) for a minute, then play the second half with the blue player starting with the ball. With a team of 16 players, there will be 8 games of 1v1 going on at the same time. This will encourage the players to dribble with their heads up (or run into each other). At the end of the second half, you might let the winner rest for a minute while the loser does some type of “punishment” such as a couple of push-ups.
The key is to turn this into a very competitive match. The next game should feature a white winner matching up with a blue winner and also have the losers match up with each other. You can do this three times and get a very strenuous work out going which will continue into the next drill.
The next progression of this series (which will begin to work with spacing and switching fields) is set up the exact same way with the gates remaining the same. It’s essentially the same game with the major change being that there is only one ball for the whole team. Now it’s all of the whites against all of the blues. In order to score a goal, the ball must be passed through a gate and received by a teammate. Those are the only rules that need to be explained.
Start them off playing a 6 minute game with a 1 minute break at “halftime”. This break is very important because typically, the first 3 minutes of this drill is dreadful. It has been my experience that players will try to dribble to a gate and then pass the ball through to a teammate who inevitably is marked up. During this one minute break, explain to the players that it actually takes 3 players to score a goal and not just the two they are trying to use (the player with the ball and the target through the gate). The three players are the player with the ball, and then two other player who are working together to find an open gate. Once they find an open gate, the player with the ball can drive (or chip) the ball to one of these open players who then play it through the gate to the other one).
Once they start to think in terms of needing three players to score a goal and that two of them must find an open (or unmarked) gate, then they will start to experience success in this game.
As the players get accustomed to this game, they will get more comfortable with playing with their heads up and looking to players who have proper support and spacing.