Dribbling for 5 to 15 year olds

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.

Warm up

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.

Games

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.

Coaching notes:

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!

Dribbling for U9s

Equipment: 1 ball per player, cones, pennies

Warm up

Running Bases – Players try to dribble their ball without being tagged. If they get tagged, they exchange places with the tagger. Have taggers carry a pinnie to distinguish themselves. Hand pinnies over to the player that is tagged and use their ball to dribble. Players are save in any one of the 4 bases. Only one player allowed in a base at one time. If a new players enters a base, the old player must leave.

Body

Conquer the Pyramid – Dribblers (in Red) try to dribble through the three zones occupied by the blue defenders. 3 defenders in first zone, two in the next zone, and one in the last zone. Defenders must stay in their zones and try to kick any ball they intercept out of bounds. Dribblers go three at a time. If the dribbler ahead of you in your line gets their ball knocked out, you may start right away. As soon as the dribbler in front of you moves to the next zone, you can also go.

After beating the last defender, the dribbler must shoot the ball into the goal to get a point for their team.

Coaching Points: Good dribbling technique. Look for an opening.

Team Knockout – 15 minutes, 20×30 yards, half the players with balls, the other half need to be around the outside of the grid, the players outside the grid will come into the grid and work together to steal balls away from the dribblers and dribble the outside of the grid, once a player loses their ball they can help their team mates out by passing with them, time the team that started with out with the ball on how long it takes to get the ball out of the grid

Application

4 v. 4 Line Soccer – Each team has a line to defend and attack. Score a goal by dribbling the ball over any portion of the line that your team is attacking. The size of the field is the same as a standard 4 v. 4 game, but it is turned sideways. The wider, shorter field creates many good 1 v. 1 situations which challenges the player’s dribbling skills. Players need to evaluate and identify when to dribble and pass. This variation highlights: The correct attitude (when to take a risk aggressively) and the technical development and execution of dribbling.

Dribbling for U8s

Equipment: 1 football per player, cones, practice pennies

Warm up

Ball Gymnastics – Balls skills in small area, Roll ball with bottom of foot forwards and backwards with right then left. Repeat from side to side. Tick-Tock. Pass the ball from inside of left to inside of right. Hat Dance. Lightly touch ball with bottom of right foot then with left. Ball should remain still. Increase speed for both. Movement. Tick-Tock but move ball slightly forwards each touch. Take it width of field then turn and return. Same with Hat dance. Sideways stance. Roll right foot over ball and stop with inside of left. On return use other feet.

Body

Around the World – Set out four or five cones in a large area. Have in mind either local cities or countries of the world. Name each cone and then have the players dribbling inside the area. On command they must dribble around the country/city that you name. Also name several countries/cities at one time.

Running Bases – Players try to dribble their ball without being tagged. If they get tagged, they exchange places with the tagger. Have taggers carry a pinnie to distinguish themselves. Hand pinnies over to the player that is tagged and use their ball to dribble. Players are safe in any one of the 4 bases. Only one player allowed in a base at one time. If a new players enters a base, the old player must leave.

Relay Races – Set up 3 or 4 courses so that each team only has 3 or 4 players in it. Initially have the players run the coarses without a ball. Then add in a ball and add restrictions. Dribbling with left foot, right foot, rolling the ball.

Application

4v4 dribbling – setup a 4v4 game, allow players to score either by dribbling across endline or by shooting the ball through a single small goal. Give double points for dribbling across the endline.

Dribbling and stopping the ball

Ages: 8+; Equipment: Cones, balls; Players: 4+

Warmup

Start with some basic ball-control movements. Do your stretches.

Individual Work

The first step in learning to dribble is learning how to “carry” the ball by dribbling it straight ahead. The technique is very important to get down correctly. Done properly, this technique allows a player to propel the ball forward by “feel”, without needing to look down to see where the ball is. This technique should be practiced constantly.

The key coaching points are as follows:

The knee of the dribbling leg is bent and the toes are pointed downwards and slightly inwards, so that the front of the foot comes into contact with the ball.

Contact with the ball is made with the laces of the shoe, with the big bone of the arch slightly below the top of the ball at about the centre of the ball.

The knee must be over the ball when contact is made, so that the gait itself is very similar to prancing.

As contact is made with the ball, the ball is dragged/pulled along by the dribbling foot, so that it comes to rest beside the dribbling foot when you step down again. Short steps are used, and the ball stays in front of the torso at all times

After illustrating this move, allow the players to have some time to experiment by moving around in free space. When most have learned the correct foot position and are successfully dragging their balls around with them, distribute them on a line (like they were lined up for a race) and get them to dribble to the “finish” line and check the ball (checking should be taught in the practice before this one).

Start using a walking pace, then progress to a slow jog, then to a faster jog. It is doubtful that your players will be able to progress to full running speed using this technique until they have practices for several sessions. So, for your warm-ups for the next few practices, do a jog around the complex or your field to work on straight-ahead dribbling.

Once they have learned to dribble with their dominant foot, switch to the other foot. It is fine to drop back to walking speed (dribbling is tiring) to work on the technique. Your main objective is to get them to learn to dribble with the dominant foot – and at least occasionally be able to take some dribbling steps with the non-dominant foot when they need to do this to shield the ball. Some players will be naturally left-footed and others will have no strong foot preference. However, all players can learn to use both feet, if encouraged and prodded to do so.

How do you encourage them to do so? Ask them to guess whether a race is going to be won by a guy with 1 foot or 2 feet. They know that answer. So, if I am a defender, and I know that you can only turn in one direction, you have made it at least 50% easier to guard you – because you voluntarily have turned yourself into a 1-footed player.

Small Group Work

Divide the group into pairs, based upon size/speed (i.e., put bigger/faster players together). Set up 2 cones per pair, about 8 feet apart and widely spaced. Put one player between the cones, as a defender. Have the other player come directly at him (can come thru in either direction). If the defender put his hand up in a “Stop” gesture, the dribbler must check the ball and stop before the gate. If the defender signals “thumbs up”, then the dribbler can go thru the gate unharmed as long as he keeps the ball in contact with his foot as he goes thru the gate. If dribbler tries to kick it thru, then he loses a point. After 10 attempts, the players switch places.

A contest should be held after both sides have had a turn. Possibilities include: pair with the greatest success wins; player with the most success wins; all players with X put in one group for a contest and all of the ones below X put in another group for their own contest.

Learning to stop the ball

Of course, if you are going to go forward at speed, you are going to need to learn to be able to stop the ball. This is a good time, after some experimentation with speedy straight-ahead dribbling, to introduce the basic check.

This is a very useful move to be able to do in order to keep the ball in bounds, or to do a quick turn when you are in a footrace with another player. In order to be able to learn this move, your players must be developmentally able to skip. Players who are younger than age 8 may not be able to skip – and, if so, will be too young to learn this move yet.

The key coaching points in teaching the check are as follows:

  • With the ball moving forward at a slow roll, put the plant foot (usually the non-dominant foot) beside the ball and do a quick hop on the plant foot as soon as it comes down.
  • While you are airborne with the hop, lightly tap the top of the ball with the opposite foot (which will naturally be coming over the ball in the normal stride). DO NOT put any weight on the tapping foot – a very slight tap on the ball will cause it to stop.
  • Continue forward to land on the tapping foot, then turn back to get the ball. Older players will be able to turn in the air and do a “rooster-tail” type of hockey stop (landing with the foot already turned sideways so that they can immediately push off in the opposite direction).

Teaching the Check

Put each player with a ball, and simply let them dribble around and work on stopping the ball with a check move. This move is not as hard as it sounds – and most players U8 and above can master it without real difficulty. Now, go back over a bit of your small group work – and let them incorporate the check into their work.

Large Group Work

Divide the group into 2-4 teams. Set up a series of cone “gates”, complete with gatekeepers (note: make the number of gates equal to the number of players on a team). Have the players dribble thru the various gates. The gatekeeper is allowed to kick their ball away if it is not in contact with their foot as they come thru the gate. Switch out gatekeepers periodically. Once everyone has run the gates, you can have a race if you like – or a contest to see how many gates can be run successfully. Of course, if your ball is knocked away, you have to re-run the gate, and this slows you down.

Progression: Players may be required to look up to see the number of fingers which the gatekeeper is holding up, and call this number out correctly, as they go through the gate.
Small sided game

Play 2v1 in a mid-sized grid, which is divided into two parts, with a small cone goal at one end. Put 1 defender and 1 attacker in part near goal. Have other attacker at opposite end of the grid. Ball is passed to attacker at end of the grid, who dribbles towards goal end. Defender cannot come out of the defending end. Defender scores if he can kick ball back into no-man’s land. Attackers score by making goal. Ball which goes over end line is a restart. Play to 5 points, and then switch roles. After playing 2v1 for awhile, you might try 4v2 and watch what happens.

Do not interfere or try to teach support decisions. Your team will not work on support roles until much later. For now, let the kids experiment with 2v1 decisions. The main idea at this point is just to get them used to carrying the ball in unopposed, and looking up to find a target player.

Ball control and team work

Equipment required: cones, bibs, 2 balls
Objectives: to improve ball control/team work
Warm up Group: ALL Duration: 15 mins
Set up: four cones marking out a rectangle 20×40 Zipper drill

Notes: Two teams. Players start on cone A1 and run to cone B1 (see next activity) doing what is asked of them (skipping, jogging, heading, two left two right, high knees, heel flicks etc.) then diagonally across to cone A2, then down to B2 etc.

Followed by a few stretches.

First activity Group: ALL Duration: 15 mins
Set up: as above Passing drill
A1 A2
B1 B2

Notes: Start with short passes (A1-B1, A2-B2) then long passes (A1-B2, B1-A2 etc), follow pass or move to end of row on your left/right. Two touch/one touch. Then try long pass followed by short pass. Call names.

Second activity Group: my team Duration: 10 mins
Set up: half of practice area, one ball, bibs. Soccer netball

Notes: Play with two 1m wide goals on a grid about 50×60.  Split players into two teams. Play normal netball rules (no running with the ball etc) but score by throwing the ball into goal (1 point), kick it in (2 points), head it in (3 points) or five consecutive passes (1 point). Emphasise communication, running off the ball, play the quick and easy pass.

Final activity Group: my team Duration: 15 mins
Set up: half of practice area, one ball, bibs. 4-goal mini-game

Notes: Allow three touches only. Award one ‘goal’ for three consecutive passes.

Ball control and ‘vision’

The focus of this U7 (girls) practice was ball control and vision.

Soccer Simon Says
All of the girls dribble around in a box and on command from “Soccer Simon” do various ball control/moves (pull backs etc), leave their ball and collect another, pass to the nearest player, sit on the ball etc. (be inventive!). Throughout the game, the girls are instructed to keep looking up so that they don’t run into anyone else or touch anyone else’s ball. If they are caught by “Soccer Simon”, they have to put their hands over their head, bend over shaking their head and say “oh no, you got me Soccer Simon”.

Stop with body parts
Continue in the box and have the girls stop the ball with various body parts, ie. knee, elbow, nose, hand. Rather than a voice command, the assistant coach or I would touch the body part that we wanted the kids to use. This way, they have to keep looking back and forth between both coaches who are moving around in the box for the commands. All while keeping control of their own ball and avoiding their team mates.

Nutmeg soccer
Split the kids into two groups. One group spreads out within the box and stands still with their legs apart. Each of these players are given different coloured bibs. Each of the players in the other group has a ball. On the coach’s signal, the players with balls try to score by “nutmeging” as many of the other kids as possible within a minute or so. After they have been going for a little while, tell them that they can only score on “nutmegs” with red bibs. Keep changing the instructions as to where they can score… for example blue bibs, white socks, blonde hair, glasses, coaches etc. This keeps them looking up to see where they have to go next. Have the kids keep track of how many scores they get within the allotted time period and do a couple of rounds so that they can try to beat their record. If the kids are moving too slow, add a shark without a ball that runs around and tries to kick the other kids balls away.

4 Goal 3v3 scrimmage
Divide your team into 3v3 or 4v4 games with two goals at each end. Let them play for a while. Pick a point in the game when everyone is clustered around one goal and freeze them. Ask them to take a look at the open goal and ask them which goal would be easier to score on – the one they are currently trying to blast through or the open one on the other side of the field. They will usually see the light. Let them play some more.

Conclusion
Have the kids pick up all of the cones. Review the focus of the practice very quickly, congratulate anyone who did particularly well and send them home (providing someone you know is there top pick them up, of course).

Passing and keeping possession

Age range: About eight to 12.

Objectives: To improve passing, support play and keeping possession as a team.

Measure of success

At the end of the session your players will be able to:

  • Understand why and how to move into a place where they can receive a pass.
  • Work together to keep the ball away from opposition.

Pre-requisites

Before taking part in this session your players need to be able to:

a) Pass the ball reasonably accurately over a short distance using any part of the foot.

b) Catch a ball using both hands.

Number of players: Whole squad.

Equipment required: Three different coloured training vests, some flat cones, two small goals (or poles to use as goal posts) and several balls.

Timing

Each activity should last between five and 10 minutes. The whole session (including drinks breaks and the warm-down at the end) will last approximately one hour.

Warm-up: Netball/basketball

Why play this game? It’s not football!

Allowing your players to carry the ball but limiting the number of steps they can take with the ball in their hands encourages them to look for a team mate to pass to.

It also encourages players not in possession of the ball to move to place where they an receive a pass – an essential element of “real” football.

Netball/basketball is also a great way to get your players moving, warm and ready to take part in the session ahead.

Set-up

Mark out a 20-yard square with flat cones with a small goal on each end line.

Divide your players into teams of between four and six.

If you have more than 12 players, set up two playing areas and play two games alongside each other.

How to play

Players can score points by throwing the ball into the goal (or to a target player standing on an end line).

The number of steps that can be taken with ball in hand should be limited according to the age/skill of your players. Two or three steps is usually about right.

Variation

Older players can play “tag handball”, in which possession is lost if the player with the ball is tagged by an opponent.

Game 1 – 3v1 Keepaway

How to play: four players are positioned within a small area (three attackers and one defender). The defender can be identified by using a coloured vest or by holding a cone.

  • The attackers must try to keep possession from the defender using two balls.
  • The three players in possession may move anywhere within the area.
  • The defender’s goal is to “tag” (not tackle) the players in possession.
  • Once a player is tagged by the defender they switch roles.
  • A goal is scored for every 10 passes the attackers can make.

Try to get your players to think: “If she goes there, then I’d better go over here.”

Game 2 – Three Colour Keepaway

Set-up: Divide your players into three teams of between four and six, wearing different coloured training vests.

How to play: Using the same playing area(s), two of the teams try to keep the ball away from the third team, the defenders.

If a player gives the ball away or the ball goes out of play, the team that lost the ball becomes the defenders.

Teams in possession earn a point for every five passes they can put together without the defenders touching the ball.

Play for 10 minutes. The team with the most points wins.

Variations

1. To improve movement and encourage your players to get their heads up, tell the team in possession it can’t pass to its own colour – if the teams in possession are wearing red and yellow vests they must pass red to yellow to red, etc.

2. The defending team earns a point if it can intercept a pass.

3. To make the game more like “proper” football, place a small goal at each end of the playing area. Now the teams in possession can shoot and score when they have made X number of passes. For young players, “three passes and shoot” is about right. Older players can be set a target more appropriate to their skill level.

Game 3. SSG – no tackling

Set up a 30×20 yards playing area with a goal at each end and play a SSG (small-sided game) with the condition that tackling is not allowed.

The only way the ball can be won is to intercept a pass or force the player in possession to make an error.

Play for five or 10 minutes. At the end of that time, the team with the most goals wins. If no goals have been scored, the team in possession when you call “time” is the winner.

Finish the session with small-sided games of football. No coaching!

A complete passing practice plan

numbers passing

I’ve used this practice with my U11 girls’ team with some success. It really builds confidence and skill levels as you progress through the different games.

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

Numbers Passing

numbers passing

Players pass the ball to the player with the number one higher than their own. (eg. 5 passes to 6, 11 to 1). Ball travels through the entire team. First, allow unlimited touches, then two touches, not allowing the ball to stop, then one touch. Try playing with left foot only, outside of foot only, without talking.

Coaching Points

  • Eye contact.
  • Good passing technique.
  • Angles of support.
  • Proper weight of passes.
  • Keep body open to the field of play

Pass and Defend

pass and defend

The Game

Groups of three, one ball per group. Player A rolls the ball (receiving ground balls) or tosses the ball (receiving air balls) to either player B or player C. In this example, player C must control the ball and get a completed pass to player B. While this is occurring, player A immediately challenges player C and tries to win the ball back. After successful pass, player C would then pick up the ball and repeat the activity as the defender. The defender is awarded a point for winning the ball back and gets to throw again.

Coaching Points

  • Encourage defender to pressure quickly after the toss. Defender needs to work hard at closing down the space while the ball is in flight.
  • Receiving player’s first touch should be away from the pressuring defender.
  • Player receiving the pass should move to create a clear passing lane.
  • Do not allow the receiving player to one touch the incoming toss. This is a receiving drill, as well as a drill that serves as a good warm-up for practices dealing with defenders.

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

Numbers Up Keep Away

keepaway

The Game

A basic keep away game. One team tries to keep the ball from the other team. Because the one team has an advantage, the amount of reps of the skill (ie. passing and receiving) is increased. There are many variations; lose the ball and go in the middle, play for a time limit, if you “split” the two defenders with a pass, you get a goal, play 3 v. 1, 5 v. 2, 6 v. 3.

Coaching Points

  • Angle and distance of support must be good.
  • Keep hips facing the play.
  • Weight and accuracy of passes.
  • Good passing technique.
  • Team shape, wide support and at height.
  • Defending – make play predictable by being patient.

Targets Passing

targets passing

The Game

Start with three teams of equal numbers. The space should be rectangular in shape. Team A starts as free target players on all sides of space. Teams B and C play a game of keepaway. Passes can be made to the A players (they must return the ball to the the passer’s team). Count the number of consecutive passes. Ten equals one goal. After a specified time period, or a goal, rotate teams. Let the scoring team make the decision whether to become “targets” or stay in the grid.

Coaching Points

  • Encourage good pace and accuracy of passes.
  • Pace should be fast enough so defenders can not intercept, and comfortable for the receiver to control.
  • Accuracy – Ball should be played to players feet.
  • Players need to make good decision on how to utilize targets to retain possession.

Variations

Targets can only one touch the ball.

Field players must have 1, 2 or 3 touches, depending on skill level.

Award a goal if player can make a wall pass with target players.

Team Game 30 Minutes plus. Activity level: High. Space: half – full size pitch. 7 – 11 players per team.

8 v. 8 with Corner Goals

8v8

The Game

8 v. 8 played on half a field. Set up 10 yard squares in each corner of the field. These act as goals. A goal is scored when the ball is passed into the square and then out to a teammate. Each team can attack any of the four goals.

Coaching Points

  • Keep the team balanced in attack and defence. Don’t bunch up around one goal.
  • Look to attack the goal that is open. See if players can recognize where the pressure is.
  • It should be easy to keep possession since the defence has so many goals to defend. Be patient in attack and don’t take unnecessary risks.
  • In defence, look to create opportunities to double team.

Variations

Play with two balls to open game up.

Allow a goal if player dribbles in and out of square.

Insist that passing goals require three players.

Limit players to 2 touches

End Zone Game

End zone game

The Game

Set up field as shown with a seven yard “Endzone” at each end. Score a goal by getting the ball from one “Endzone” to the other by passing or dribbling. Once a goal is scored, immediately attack going in the other direction. The end zones are “free”. Only the attacking team can enter this area.

Coaching Points

  • Attacking and defending principles
  • Counter attack
  • Passing and receiving

Keeper to Keeper

keeper to keeper

The Game

This is a possession game that uses the keepers. Instead of trying to score, each team tries to pass the ball from one keeper to another. Keepers can play the ball with their hands.

Coaching Points

  • In attack: Attacking principles of play. Always look to get the ball forward and to the keeper. especially, right when you get it from the keeper. Counter attack often. Since the flow of play changes quickly, players get practice in the back and front.
  • In defence: Must have pressure on the ball. Quickly get behind the ball when possession is lost. Prohibit counter attacks.
  • Good, quick keeper distribution.

Warm Down 5 – 10 Minutes. Activity level: Low ramping down. Space: General, No specific boundaries. 1 – 2 players per group.

Triangle Passing Drill

triangle passing

The Game

The triangle has sides of one yard in length. Player A passes the ball to player B. Player B receives the ball at position 2, after it has come out of the triangle. B then touches the ball to the side and returns it to A making sure the ball does not travel through the side of the triangle which it came from. The diagram shows 2 options for the return pass. Try to keep the game going as long as possible without making a mistake.

Coaching Points

  • Passing and receiving warm-ups.
  • Preparing the surface before reception, keeping feet active.
  • Keep body facing the play. Use good technique.

Progression

Allow unlimited touches to develop a feel for the game.

Restrict players to 2 touches, one to prepare ball, one to return it.

Ask the players to determine if there is an easier way to bring their first touch. (This should be towards the nearest cone – the cut becomes determined)

Nearest Cone forces player to take his eyes off the ball and look at the “field” in front of him.

Make the triangle 2 yards apart and see what happens.