Shooting for U8s

Equipment: Cones, pinnies, 1 ball per player

Warm up

  • Link Tag – Create pairs of players and have them link arms, break one of the pairs apart and give one of them a penny, the player with the penny is it and will chase the other player until they link up with one of the pairs, the player on the other side of the link must now leave the link and run


  • Punt & Catch – Get players in pairs again, one ball per pair, one player punts the ball up in the air and the other tries to catch it after it bounces once. They then trade off. Add restrictions such as player must sit down and get back up before catching the ball. Can they catch it without the bounce?
  • Keep your yard clean – Split team into two groups setup a dividing line in the middle of the field. Every player has a ball. On signal from coach the players kick their ball into the other half of the field. The players keep kicking balls out of their area until coach stops the game. Count up how many balls are on each side of the grid.
  • Capture the cone – Now set some boundries up with a 4 – 6 taller cones on each end line. Play 4v4 game where players can get point for either shooting the ball across the line or get extra point for knocking down a cone.


Scrimmage – 15-20 mintues, two 20×30 yard grids, create small goals on either endline and allow the players to play without any coaching

Shooting for U10s

Equipment: 1 ball per player, cones, pennies

Warm up

  • Math Dribble – Players dribble around in the are when the coach calls out a math problem the players must get in groups matching the answer, finish with a math problem that results in 2. A useful activity to get the players into groups without them always picking the same people!
  • 1v1 tag – have one gate per pair setup, players are without the ball and attempt to get through the gate without being tagged, encourage the players to use body fakes and change of speed


  • Ring of fire – Only half of the pairs will work at a time now, each pair has a ball and plays 1v1 for 1 minute, the players score by dribbling through any of the gates, they can not attack the same gate twice in a row, if they lose the ball to the other player they are on defence, the pairs that are sitting out are assigned to keep score, switch out the pairs that are resting

Next progression is to have the players work in pairs playing 2v2. Watch how the game changes

  • 2v2 to goal – Have two 15×20 yard grids setup, with small goals on the end line, play 2v2 for 3-4 minutes and then switch the players that are resting, score two points for dribbling through the goal and one point for shooting through the goal


4 goal game – goals are on each side of the grid, each team defends two goals, create teams for 3v3 or 4v4

Look for changes of direction of attack

Scrimmage – 15-20 minutes, two 20×30 yard grids, create small goals on either endline and allow the players to play without any coaching

Attack with pace and width

It doesn’t matter if your team plays six, seven, eight, nine or 11-a-side… you want them to attack with pace.

It’s also important that your players use the whole width of the pitch.

Spreading out when you’re attacking is a basic tactic. It pulls opposition defenders out of position, creates gaps that your players can exploit and gives them time to shoot.

Principles of play: How to attack

The session plan below was designed to improve an U11s team’s speed of play and use of width in attack.

It won’t turn your team into Barcelona overnight but it should help them attack faster and penetrate defences more easily. And they’ll score more goals too!

Session objective: Attacking with width and pace.

Number of players: 12

Age group: U10s and upwards

Equipment needed: Flat cones to mark the playing areas, two small goals, training vests to differentiate teams and several balls.


Divide your players into groups of four and give them numbers: 1 to 4.

Create a 20-yard square playing area for each group and place them adjacent to each other.

Players jog around the playing area passing in sequence, 1 to 2 to 3 etc.

After a minute or two, change the sequence so that players are passing in reverse numerical order: 4 to 3 to 2 to 1.

Coaching point

Emphasise the need to move immediately after passing. No standing around admiring your pass!

Activity 1: Keepaway

One player in each group becomes a defender. The other three attempt to keep the ball away from her.

Challenge each group to make as many passes as possible before the ball is intercepted (in which case the player who last touched the ball becomes the defender) or the ball goes out of the playing area.

Make the activity competitive. Challenge each group to make five, 10, then 20 passes before making a mistake.

Coaching point

Ask your players to tell you the best way to keep the ball away from the defender. The answer is to pass and move quickly into a place where you can receive a return pass.

Progression 1

Add another defender.

Add a second ball.

Specify the number of touches each player is allowed to take before passing.

Progression 2

After five minutes, take away the dividing lines between the playing areas so that you end up with all 12 players in one, big playing area.

Now play keepaway with three defenders.

Coaching points

If your players find it easy to keep the ball, add more defenders.

If they are finding it difficult to keep the ball away from the defenders, make the playing area bigger or play with fewer defenders.

Remember to set your players a target number of passes to complete.

Emphasise the need to move immediately after passing but also ask the question: Where do you need to move to? Aimless movement should be discouraged.

Activity 2: Attacking in threes

Move all your players to a 50 yards long by 30 yards wide playing area with a goal at one end and divide them into groups of three.

If you have a spare player, put her in goal. If not, you or a parent can be the goalkeeper for this game.

The groups of three go to the end of the playing area opposite the goal. Players in each group are assigned positions on the field: Centre, left and right.

The ball is kicked out by the goalkeeper to one of the players in the first group.

Each group attacks the goal at match pace, passing the ball at least four times before a shot is taken. Players must maintain their positions relative to each other and each player must touch the ball.

Note: If you have an assistant, use two playing areas with two groups of three in each.

Coaching points

Your players will probably begin by passing the ball to feet and moving very slowly up the field.

Ask them why passing to feet slows the attack – because the player receiving the ball has to slow down or stop to control the ball – and if there is a better, quicker way of passing. The solution is to pass in front of the player so they can run on to the pass and control it in their stride.

Once they start to pass in front of the running player you should see a big improvement.


Add a defender who tries to disrupt the attacks.

Add a “no-go” line five yards in front of the goal. Attacking players now have to complete the move and shoot before they get to the line.


Put a second goal in the playing area. Two of the teams now play a 3v3 game.

To further encourage wide attacking play, the two waiting teams should act as side supports.

The first goal wins the game.

Play winner stays on and see which team can win most games in a 10-minute period.

Coaching points

Congratulate players who pass in front of running team mates and applaud attacking moves that use all three players.

A complete shooting practice

Age group: U8 – U12

Warm Up: 5 – 10 minutes. Activity level – increasing. Space: General. 1 – 2 Players per group.

Instep Warm Up

soccer coaching game

The Game

A good warm up for coaching sessions dealing with instep passing and/or shooting. Start with players sitting down and kicking the football out of their hands. Look for good technique – ankle locked, toe pointed, strike ball with laces, plant foot facing target, leaning forward, no spin on ball, head position.


Two insteps in a row
Kick ball, stand up and catch it.
While standing (moving), kick ball and catch it.
Have the ball bounce in between touches, keep ball going.
Two touches without ball hitting ground.

Instep Passing

soccer coaching game

The Game

In pairs, players make instep passes back and forth.


Start with ball being kicked after a bounce, dropped from hands..
Ball kicked from the ground.
Increase distance.
Restrict player to 2 touches.

Small Game 20 – 25 Minutes. Activity level: Medium progression to high. Space: Defined space “smaller”. 3 – 5 players per group.

Instep Squares

soccer coaching game

The Game

Two squares are set up with two players in each square who are teammates. The more skilful the players, the smaller the squares are and the further apart they. are. The game starts when one team kicks the ball into the others’ square. The receiving team must control the ball without it going outside of their square. Each player is allowed to play the ball with one touch. The team has 3 touches to get the ball into their opponents square. The ball may not stop at any time. Play stops when a shot misses the other teams grid or is not controlled. Decide beforehand how high a ball may be played to be considered fair.

Coaching Points

“Drive” the ball into the other teams grid to make it difficult to control
Good shooting technique
Encourage an aggressive “shooting mentality”
To receive the ball, get in the line of flight, using your first touch to “kill the ball” for your partner.
Prepare the surface that will receive the ball early
Keep the body balanced, weight on toes.

Team Game 30 Minutes plus. Activity level: High. Space: Defined for the game = larger space. 7 – 11 players per team.

Steal The Bacon

soccer coaching game

The Game

Two teams, each player is designated a number. The coach calls out the numbers of the players. These players then run out from the endline to play the game. The coach serves balls from the sideline if the ball goes out of bounds or into a goal. Each group should play for a minute and a half of continuous action. Players waiting to come on should return loose balls to the coach, or act as “support” players, returning passes back to the team who made them. The number of players playing at one time depends on the coach’s objectives. This game is best played 2 v. 2 or 3 v. 3.

Coaching Points

Combination play
Seeking and taking shots
Attacking and defending principles of play

Bread & Butter

soccer coaching game

The Game

Three teams of 4 (A, B, C) and two keepers (X, Y). Team A attacks against keeper Y. If they score, they then quickly try to attack keeper X. At this time, team B leaves the field and takes the place of team C who were the supporting players on the endlines, supporting both teams. The supporting players support for both teams and can move along the end line. The are limited to one touch one the ball. Have an ample a supply of balls ready in each net.

Coaching Points

After scoring a goal, attacking players look to play quickly before the other team has a chance to come on and get organized.
Try to play the ball to target players.
Attacking and defending principles of play.

3 Goals

soccer coaching game

The Game

Start with two teams of equal number. Each team has 3 goals to defend and attack. Each team has one keeper who must defend all 3 goals. Play regular soccer rules.

Coaching Points
Attacking team should try to change the point of attack away from the keeper, then proceed to get a quick shot off.
Defending team must try to force the attackers in one direction so their keeper knows which goal to defend.

Central Goal Shooting

soccer coaching game

The Game

Player 1 starts in goal. Player A dribbles at speed to cone, stops the ball and shoots with the next step. After the shot, player A runs to become the new keeper waiting for player 2 to shoot. Player 1 gets ball and goes back to his side.

Coaching Points

Watch for players backing up or moving to the side before they shoot. There should be no extra steps.
Set up several fields and have contests.
Teams should not wait to advance ball to cone and shoot immediately after the opponent shoots.
The drill makes players follow their shot, and the group will coach and remind the players. If they do not get to the goal, the opposition will have an open goal to shoot at.
Teams can keep score themselves. A goal counts if only below the height of the keeper and in between the markers. First to 5 wins or 3 minutes. Players should get quality repetition in short periods of time.
Coach can vary repetition by the number of players in each line.
Vary distance to goal and size of goal so players have success, then make it harder by increasing the distance and making goal smaller.
Encourage players to hit hard.

Same game as before but the shooter must strike the ball before the cone and on the move.

Coaching Points

Watch for the plant foot being too far behind the ball, this will send the ball over the keeper’s head.
Make sure starting position to cone distance is great enough to allow other player time to get to goal.
Progress further, allow players to dribble around the cone and then shoot.
Hips and plant foot should be facing goal when shooting.
Players should strike the ball with a smooth swing. Don’t allow swing to be a sickle motion.
Players should look at ball when making contact.
Follow through on kicking foot and get to goal.

Player A now dribbles directly between cone markers simulating a defender (cones about one step apart). Player chops ball to either side and shoots ball back to far post.

Coaching Points

Kicking foot and hips should be pointing toward far post.
Follow through onto kicking foot.
Eyes on ball during shot.
Get to goal after shot.

Shooting accuracy

Improve your team’s shooting accuracy!

soccer coaching drill – shooting

EQUIPMENT: 2 footballs, 2 cones, 1 tarp and bungee cords or rope


After watching two games in a row where my team shot over and over directly to the opponent’s goalkeeper, I decided that I needed to do something drastic to change their thought process about shooting. Although I had told them many times in practice that they needed to shoot for the low corners as a general rule, they just didn’t get what I was trying to emphasise. In frustration at our last game, I joked to the assistant coach, “I’m going to cover up the middle of the goal with a tarp next practice – let’s see how they like that!” But then I thought, “Hey – that’s not a bad idea…”

SETUP: I arranged the old tent tarp to cover up the centre 1/3 of the goal, covering it from top to bottom. The tarp has nice grommet holes in it to lace your rope over the goal, or to attach the bungee cords to. I put the equipment bag on the bottom (inside the goal) of the tarp to keep it from blowing in the breeze.


I placed a football in each side area on top of a cone. You don’t really need the cones, but the kids get a kick out of knocking things down versus just hitting them.

I talked to the kids and explained that the giant blue tarp represented the area where the goalkeeper would easily save a shot, and the basketballs were the nearly perfect areas to shoot at. In order to hit the balls, you have to “aim small, miss small”. You can’t just “kick the ball at the goal” which is what I think we were doing in the past. You have to accurately select your target, and aim right for it!

1: Any shot in the goal not hitting the target ball
2: Knocking the ball off the cone
-1: Hitting the tarp (Negative one point)


I ran my entire practice around this silly tarp, and it was awesome! The first few minutes there were a lot of shots into the tarp, but by the end of our hour together, I would estimate that 1 in 10 were hitting the tarp, and about 1 in 5 were knocking a ball off of its cone!

You can turn almost any drill into this game, and I rewarded the kids as teams or as individuals when they had high scores after each section. Then we would start over the scoring again for the next time.

DRIBBLING: We dribbled through cones, ending with coming around a cone for the shot. Worked left and right sides. You can make your own dribbling games end with a shot this way.

SHOOTING: We worked around the perimeter of the penalty area (vary by age) shooting from multiple spots right after one another to keep it lively and minimal standing around.


Steal the Bacon works great here. Count off your team into two equal groups. Each group should have a “Player 1”, a “Player 2”, et cetera. It’s best if both of the same number kids are similar in skills and size. Line up each team on their own side of the penalty area line to start. The coach throws up a ball in the middle (about at the penalty spot) and calls out a single number (or sets of numbers as you want to increase intensity). The players with the number called race to the ball to control it, shield off the other player, and take a shot. Keep score for each side. Coaches can help to influence the game a little with “errant” throws that may benefit a slower player. Creative cheating from the coach! We always finish with a tie score and *all* of the numbers get called for the final ball.

War: Split the team into 2 groups. Players take shots from the penalty mark. If they hit the tarp, they go to the end of the other line (the other team). If they make it, they go to the end of their own line. If they knock off a basketball, the last player in the opponents line goes to the end of their line.

Attacking with confidence

A youth soccer training session by Scott Placek

In several posts, I have advocated an emphasis on developing confidence with the ball at the feet, regardless of the position a player plays. In today’s game with the interchangeability of positions, any player may find themselves in an attacking position. Moreover, the ability to dribble confidently, whether for possession or penetration, will serve a player well in any segment of the field. A defender who is confident with the football at their feet will get you out of more trouble than they will ever get you into.

The first attribute to developing confident dribblers comes from you as the coach. You must support your players decisions to dribble, whether resulting in success or failure. That doesn’t mean that you don’t try to help them see options or discuss the wisdom of various decisions with them. But you must realize that each decision to dribble places the player at enormous risk of personal failure. You have to recognize and appreciate the player’s willingness to take that risk. If you can do that, realizing that failures will outnumber successes then you have taken the first step toward developing that confidence: you have created an environment where the courageous and creative dribbler can flourish.


Warm-up (10 minutes) Every player gets a cone and you make a circle (or use the penalty area). Dribbling in the area, each player with a ball, no defenders. The other players and the boundaries provide the match related pressure of space. Working at a reasonable pace have the players execute Coerver type moves, have them dribble with all surfaces of the foot. Encourage creativity, body feints, evaluate and correct dribbling posture. Each player will get plenty of warm-up touches if they work at a good pace.

STRETCH (5 Minutes) Stretch all major muscle groups.

TACTICAL – Without Direction (25 – 35 minutes) Back in the circle or penalty area, each player with a ball

1) Introduce the player to the two biggest assets in beating defenders – change of speed and change of direction. These two simple steps are many times more successful than all the feints, fakes and footwork. They are the building blocks for confident attackers. Have the players change speed and change direction on your call. Emphasize that dribbling speed in games is NOT maximum speed. If you are at maximum speed as you dribble, you can’t change speed to go by defenders. On the change of direction, watch that players are pushing, not cutting the ball. Cuts are emergency type manoeuvres in that they call for the ball to be changed rapidly and often out of immediate controlling distance or into space not protected by the body. Cuts have their place, but should not be a primary (or even secondary) weapon in the arsenal of tricks to beat defenders.

2) Now introduce the role of vision and how it ties to space. Encourage heads up dribbling and introduce the idea that with the ball at your feet you are looking for space. The sequence is as follows:
EYES see the space FEET push the ball to space (change of direction) ACCELERATE into the space (change of speed) Have players now dribbling look for space created by the movement of other players and perform the sequence. You should see and notice both the change of speed and the change of direction.

3) Continuing the EYES, FEET, ACCELERATE sequence, designate a “key player.” This player continues to perform the sequence, but randomly stops his ball. All players must stop their ball as soon as he does. Now the players are not only looking for space but must scan the field for the movement of their teammates.

Hospital Tag 

I like to finish the circle work with a game that players seem to like a lot. Everyone with a ball dribbles in the area. 2 taggers (also with a ball) try to tag as many players as they can in 45 seconds. If a tagger chases you out of the area or you lose control of your ball (not kicked away by attackers: this is NOT KNOCKOUT) you are considered tagged. If tagged, you keep going and try to avoid tags for the rest of the time (no player ever stops and is “frozen”) If tagger looses control of ball making tag, they are not to count the tag. Go through the whole team as taggers. You can make coaching points out of the fact that if you are constantly going to open space, you will avoid the taggers. You can also make the point that if you are in a crowd of your own teammates i.e. trying to avoid the tag) you are still at risk because there is no room to manoeuvre. I also use this game as an evaluative tool at tryouts. It tells you a lot about the mindset of players. If they are risk takers, they will often dribble AT the taggers, trying to dart away at the last moment, daring them to tag them (what position do you see that player in?). More conservative players will keep moving to distances and space opposite the taggers (what part of the field do we want this mindset in?).

BREAK (5 minutes) I use this time to describe what we are about to do, give them water etc.

TACTICAL – Unidirectional 30 minutes 1v1 in a 20×10 area. Pairs, one ball per group. Set up 20×10 areas for each pair. Each partner on a opposite end line 1) D on end line plays ball up to A 2) A receives and tries to beat D across end line Coaching Points: A moves to ball, don’t wait on it, receive it on the move D follows ball and assumes good defending position A should attack the front foot of D, force D to turn. If D turns, go by him as he shifts. If D is not set (i.e. still coming forward as you meet) push the ball into space behind D and accelerate Encourage use of feints and fakes to unbalance D If you beat D, accelerate through the end line. How many times have we seen attackers run down form behind after beating a D? We want them to continue acceleration for a good 5-7 yards to put the D out of the play. Then they come to normal speed to seek out the next chance. A pushes the play – don’t give other Ds time to get back. Try to put this D out of play as quickly as possible (to reinforce this point (“Delay helps the defence”) I condition this game to provide that A CANNOT turn his back to the Defender, but must face him up. REMEMBER this is a practice for the attacker. We want to vanquish our defenders quickly and decisively.

Switch roles every 10 balls. Switch partners frequently so all players are matched against one another. Praise creative attempts, even if they are unsuccessful.


This game is played in the penalty area. 2 defenders 6-12 yards off goal line, all other players in the goal mouth with a ball. When the coach calls “Escape” players try to get out of the penalty area (over the 18 or either side line) They must dribble over the line with control. Defenders try to dispossess and shoot the ball back into the net. If the defenders score the shot, attacker joins defenders. If defenders don’t score, or player kicks the ball over the line (as opposed to dribbling) the attacker must reenter the field through the goal mouth and try to escape again. Round continues until all players have escaped or been turned into defenders. Then remaining attackers go back to goal mouth and coach calls escape again. Game continues until only one attacker left.

Coaching points: vision – find space, sides as well as straight ahead. great chances to escape with good change of direction you are not out if you lose ball, chase and prevent shot

TACTICAL – WITH TRANSITION (15 minutes) Side against Side, to two 4 yd goals, no keepers (or full goals with keepers) Regular game with 2 modifications: no forward passes (only square or drop) dribbling gates in the field – if a player dribbles through the gate in either direction, they score a point for their team. You can set up a scoring system as you wish (i.e. goals 1 pt., gates 3 pt. other systems have given points for beating a defender, doubled points for beating the second defender, “quality points” for a great move, “brilliance points” for recognizing and attempting a good 1v1 even if unsuccessful, etc.

END MODEL TRAINING SESSION This session is good for U11-U14, and I use it even for U19 and college teams as a reminder/introduction early in the year, with a few modifications.