This is a practice plan that can be used with children from four or five years of age up to about 15. It includes activities that will improve your players’ ball skills, speed and balance.
1. Inside to insides
All your players have a ball between their feet. Encourage them to tap the ball from their left foot to their right, using the inside of their feet. Start at a slow pace and gradually increase the speed.
Progression: allow your players to look at the ball to begin with but it’s important they can do this exercise with their heads up. It’s not as easy as it looks!
2. Hat dance
Your players tap the top of the ball with the sole of their left foot then their right. Again, start slowly and increase the speed of the taps as your players gain confidence.
Coaching note: both the previous two exercises should be done without moving off the spot.
3. Every step touch the ball.
Ask your players to walk with the ball, touching it with various parts of their feet as they go. The objective is to take a touch on the ball with every step and not to move quickly.
Inject a bit of fun by telling your players to leave their ball (shout “leave it!”) and find another one. You can also instruct your players to stop the ball with different parts of their body – call “head” or “elbow” or “knee” etc.
Progression: Heads up, don’t look at the ball. Try to feel it with your feet.
Don’t ask your players to dribble round cones. It just isn’t realistic (when did you last see a line of cones on the pitch during a match?) and there are much better ways to work on their ball control.
1. Crossover dribbling
Use a small, square playing area. Half of your players line up on one side, each with a ball, and half on the opposite side also with a ball each.
On your command, both sets of players dribble their ball across the square, turn and dribble back. Make it competitive by seeing which player can cross the playing area 10 times in the quickest time.
This is a great way to encourage young players to keep close control of the ball in traffic and keep their heads up.
Encourage your players to take lots of small touches and pause (stop/go) if a collision looks likely.
Progression: Demonstrate a number of different turns and ask your players to complete a different one each time they cross the playing area.
Tip: small, low bounce balls (futsals are ideal) are slightly heavier and seem to “stick” to the foot better than normal footballs. This helps build young players’ confidence quickly.
2. End Lines
Play 4v4 or 3v3 in 20 yards by 30 yards area. Players score by dribbling over the end line with the ball.
Coaching note: you can encourage your players to use the full width of the playing area by dividing the end lines into thirds and awarding one point for a “goal” scored in the centre section and two points for a goal scored in one of the outside sections.
Finish the session with at least ten minutes of free play. No coaching!