Musical balls

A fun soccer warm up that improves dribbling skills

Your players, each with their own ball, dribble around a large grid. They should be moving at a decent pace, avoiding each other and keeping their heads up.

After they have been dribbling for a while, call out the word “CHANGE.”  When you do this each player must stop their ball, leave it where it is, and run around the circle looking for another football. It is important they get to new balls right away and continue dribbling.

After allowing them to get comfortable with the concept of the drill, remove one player’s ball.  This player now must run around the drill without a ball.  When the next “Change” comes about that person must try and find a ball leaving another player without a ball to dribble.

Any player who doesn’t end up with a ball after a “Change” has to run round the grid. Just be careful that the same player doesn’t lose out every time.

What to look for:

  • Players are not allowed to swap balls with the same person two consecutive times,
  • Make sure that the children are using the entire grid,

Finally, make sure that the players are practicing moves and turns within the area. You don’t want them to just be dribbling straight all the time.  They should be weaving in and out of each other at a realistic speed.

Long tunnel

long tunnel

This is a very common drill but with an interesting twist that adds a great deal of conditioning to a sometimes slow moving drill. The most commonly used name for this drill is the tunnel drill.

Normally, you would have a group of players (anywhere from 4-8) in each of two lines facing each other (see diagram below).

long tunnel

The first player in line A passes the football to the first player in line B and then sprints to the back of line B. The first player in line B then passes to the first person in line A and then sprints to the back of line A. Very simple drill and somewhat boring.

To increase the number of touches per player and to increase both the intensity and conditioning part of the drill, do the exact same thing in groups of 3. Have two players together and then the third player is 15 yards away. The first person in the group of 2 passes the ball to the third player and then sprints behind her. It ends up being just like a bigger tunnel (and in fact can be done utilizing the same space) but now each player gets every third touch. By keeping the players 15 yards apart, the players will have to really sprint to get to the spot to receive the ball next. Do this drill at full speed for one minute periods and you will find that this conditioning is very relevant to soccer fitness.

long tunnel 2

Other variations on this drill include, playing two touches with the first touch away from pressure (the sprinter runs right at the receiver). This touch can be done first with the inside of the foot and then with the outside of the foot. Also, you can move the players back to 30 yards apart and have them play 2 touch chips to each other. This requires both a great deal of conditioning as well as working on chipping and receiving high balls. Do 5 different variations of this and it takes a mere 10 minutes of the training session (one minute of intense work and one minute of rest per variation) and you will find this is a great example of economical training.

Kick it out

Kick it out

Kick it outPlayers dribble around the inside of a circle.

On command, each player tries to keep possession of her/her own football while trying to kick the other players’ balls out of the circle.

The child whose ball is kicked out the fewest number of times in a set period (say, two minutes), wins the game.


“Keep your heads up”- Players must always be aware what is happening around them.

“Keep dribbling” – no standing and watching allowed.

“Play the ball” – try not to kick the other players’ legs!

“Use your body to protect the ball” – keep defenders a safe distance away from the ball.

Fitness training

Speed circuit

Speed circuitSpeed Circuit

Place cones around pitch or similar sized area, each station represents an area where the player works hard, then jogs to next station. It is important that the player works hard at each station, there should be distinct differences in effort between work done at a station and the jog recovery. Do not run too hard on the jog recovery as it will take away your ability to work hard at the next station.

At early part of speed endurance phase, (pre-season, or early season), aim for 5 mins continuous run with 3 mins walk recovery, repeat 3 times. During later stages of speed endurance phase, during season for example, aim for 3-4 mins circuits, with 3 mins recovery.

Spped circuitSpeed Endurance

Shuttle runs through first set of cones (place approx. 10 metres apart). Then side to side round witches hats, jog to cone, sprint to last cone, then sharp turn and sprint to final cone.

This is a hard session if quality kept up.

Aim for 8 repetitions with jog recovery.

Circle, pass, move


A tried and tested exercise that can be used in a warm up or as part of a passing drill session. It has the virtue of being very simple to explain and perform, is suitable for almost any size group (or groups) and and you can increase the intensity by adding more balls or asking for the players to cover specific distances.


Set up a circle of players, we have 8 in the illustration approximately 15 yards in diameter. You can adjust the distance according to how much work and effort you want the players to cover, this can become a conditioning drill too. As in the example, X1 starts with the ball and passes the ball to X2. Once X1 passes he must then move and take the position of X2 who will pass to X3 and then follow the ball and so on.


One football per group, as many players as you wish


  • Players should move to get their body in line with the ball
  • Arms out to the side for balance and for shielding the ball
  • Keep the body over the ball
  • Knees bent slightly
  • Standing foot should be planted 6 inches to the side of the ball
  • Standing foot should be pointing towards the intended target
  • The striking foot is raised and taken backwards
  • The ankle is locked, toes pointed out at right angle to ball to allow the inside of the foot to strike the ball
  • The player should be focused on the ball at all times
  • Strike through the centre of the ball
  • Ensure that there is a follow through
  • Resume the run and look for the return pass
  • Although concentrating on the pass on the move you may wish to use the coaching points for ground control on the move also. Encourage the players to talk to each other, to assist the player in the player in the middle. Also get the passers shouting the name of the intended receiver.


Encourage the use of both feet, right and left to pass

Increase the speed as if it was game related

Introduce more balls to really work the players

Increase the distances to covered

Circle passing

Circle passing

Circle passing

Start with 5 players in a circle with a 20 yard diameter. Then have another player behind each of these players.

X1 starts with the ball and passes to X2. X1 then sprints behind X2 (so it’s a pass and follow the pass). X2 then passes to X3 and sprints and follows the pass. X 3 then passes to X 4 and does the same. X 4 passes to X5 and then X5 passes to X1. After each pass the player follows the pass and goes to the back of that line.

Do this for 2-3 minutes and then add a second ball. Now the balls start with X1 and X4. While X1 is passing to X2, X4 is passing to X5. This will require a lot of movement, hard sprints, communication and vision.

Next add one defender in the middle. The difference now is the players can pass in any direction they want. However, they still must follow their pass.

Next add a second defender so it’s sort of a 5 v 2 game but with much more movement and confusion than normal (must like a real game of soccer).

There are other variation you can do with this type of activity with the biggest limitation being your imagination.

Ball Tag

Age groups: all ages

Number of players: whole team

Set up: the size of the grid will vary depending upon the numbers involved as well as the level of the players but for 10-14 players a 25 x 25 grid would be about right.

Basic game: start with two players each holding a bib.  These two players are “it” in a simple game of tag.  If either of the two “it” players tags another player, the player who was tagged gets the bib and becomes it.  This should get all of the players moving a bit to start.

Progression: next we add two footballs into the grid.  A player who has possession of a football can’t be tagged.  The “it” players don’t try to steal the ball but rather they try to tag a player who doesn’t have a ball.  This is where the passing, receiving, vision and communication come into play.  If a player is being chased and is about to be tagged, a teammate with the ball should pass her the ball in order to give her safety.  This will require the players with the ball looking to see who is in danger of being tagged.  It will also require the players without the ball who are being chased to be running while looking for a ball and calling for it (just like they should be doing in a game).

TIP: With younger or less experienced players you might want to start with them holding the balls and they can throw and catch using their hands and then progress up to using soccer skills.

Summary: while this is a very simple game, it’s one that your players will enjoy and will also allow them to work on some extremely valuable ball and communication skills at the same time.

Conditioning drills (2)

Indian Running file – Players jog around the field in pairs. The back pair must sprint to the front, outside the line of other players, then the next pair, and so on.

Shuttles, sprinting, backward and sideways sprinting – Arrange a line of cones 3 yards apart and 30 yards long. Players sprint to the 1st cone and then back; 2nd cone then back; and so on.

The 5000 endurance running – Using the soccer field, players first jog around the perimeter. When they return to the starting point they must sprint one side then jog the remainder, then two sides, three sides and full field sprint.

Strap an old car tyre to a player’s midriff with approximately 25 feet of slack rope. Player must run distances of 50 -100 yards against the resistance.

Circuit training (30 seconds on each) – Arrange 5 stations; divide group into 5 equal teams and start 30 second drill. -a) Push ups. b) Burpees. c) Sit ups. d) Star Jumps. e)

Bench Jumps Up and down the clock- 10 yd; 20 yd, 30 yd, 40 yd, and 50 yd sprints then walks back breathing deeply. Arrange cones in 10 yard distances; develop progressive long run sprinting and develop breathing for recovery.

Heading endurance in circle – Arrange 10-15 players in a circle; one player enters and goes for 30 seconds calling and heading balls back to the server. This can be developed with two or even three players challenging for the same ball in the circle. This drill can also be used with passing and control topics.

Posture running – over cones: Start at the end of the line cones; run over the top of the cones; lift your knees high. Purpose: To keep upper body and head still while running.

Agility running – around cones: Stand sideways to the line cones; start at the first cone and run between each cone sideways; use small; quick steps. Purpose: Improves forward movement and side movement.

Speed starts– no cones: Begin a sprinter’s starting position; use a two point stance and burst forward as quickly as possible; use a three point stance; use a four point stance. Purpose: Improves initial movement towards ball.

Sprints – no cones: Mark off 50 yards and 20 yards on the track; start in a three point position; run to finish and quickly change direction to run backwards; have a partner time each sprint.

Up and down drill – Objective: Improve speed by running short sprints forwards and backwards. Start at the end of the line of cones; sprint to the cone diagonally in front; go around the cone; back pedal to the opposite next cone; go around it; repeat the process; go through all the cones; jog back to the starting point. Look For: Explosiveness on first step; body straight and leaning forward; arm movement on sprints; arm movement on back pedalling.

Recovery Step Drill – Objective: To work on explosiveness. Have two lines of cones in a “zigzag” formation; cones must be seven or eight feet from each other; have at least eight cones on each line. Stand by the first cone; stay inside the two lines of cones thru the drill; touch the first cone and always facing forward go to the next cone by performing one cross-over step and a few side steps; get to the cone as fast as possible, touch it and go for the next one; repeat the process and finish touching every cone; jog back to the starting point. Look For: Bent knees, Explosive recovery.

First Step Drill – Objective: To work on explosiveness, mainly on the first step. Have two lines of cones in a “zigzag” formation; cones must be seven or eight feet from each other; have at least eight cones on each line. Start at the end of one line of cones; sprint to the closest cone to the side; over-exaggerate the first step: if cone is to the left, left leg goes first and vice versa; decelerate as you get to the cone; turn and sprint to the next cone; repeat process until you finish weaving in and out thru the cones; jog back to the starting point. Look For: Powerful and explosive first step, pivoting and turning, arm movement, leaning forward.

Cross over Step Drill – Touch cone and side step; stay lower-no feet bump; last cone sprint back ( *Use also running backwards)

A. Use same set up for going around cones, get low when going around cone and touch-sprint back.

B. Same as 1) above – no touch cone ; sidestep around cone – sprint back.

C. Sprint to first cone – back stepping to next – change speed sprint to next cone, etc. Spring back. (*Develop w/ball)

D. Ski-skip drill in and out of cones, then sprint, jog back.

E. High knees over cones.