Shielding the ball


Do some basic ball control moves, along with your stretches. Introduce rolls, pullbacks, and circle turns, if you have not done so, as these techniques will be used in this session. Then, to fully warm up the players, put the players in pairs so that their arms are linked and they are leaning against one another, and have them try to roll the ball around with their outside foot. Have pairs switch sides periodically, so that they can work with both feet. Have a “sack-race” kind of activity, where the pairs try to walk/hop from one line to another, while controlling the ball with the outside foot. Have one race going forward; one going backward; and two going sideways (left-to-right and right-to-left).

One of the first skills which young players will need is the ability to shield the ball in order to keep a nearby opponent from stealing it. Confidence in the ability to shield the ball is critical to later success as a player – because a player who does not believe that he can hang onto the ball usually will get his head down, get flustered, and just blindly kick the ball away (“hot potato” clearance).
When should you shield the ball?

Common reasons to decide to shield the ball instead of trying to take the defender on by dribbling are that your opponent is bigger/faster or there is so much traffic past him that it doesn’t make sense to keep going ahead (so you need to stop and find one of your team-mates who is facing less traffic) or you are in your defensive third where it is too risky to dribble when you could lose possession.
How do you shield the ball?

By using various techniques to put your body between the opponent and the ball, so that you can gain time to give the ball to a team-mate or take advantage of a mistake by the defender to get past him.

What are the basic rules of shielding?

The first rule of shielding is to avoid turning your back on the incoming defender if at all possible. It is much harder to hang onto the ball if you cannot see what your opponent is doing – so try to keep one shoulder pointed at the defender at all times. About the only time that you want to turn your back on an opponent is when you know that you have back support and you will be able to play the ball back to a team-mate very quickly.

The second rule of shielding is to take control of the situation yourself. If the opponent is coming in hard, it is generally a good idea to be the one to make the first contact.

The third rule of shielding is to be aggressive in holding onto the ball. It is okay in soccer to use your arms, shoulders, body and legs to keep an opponent from getting the ball (you just cannot push with your hands or kick/push with your feet), so don’t be afraid to hold your ground or to use your body to push the opponent away.

Individual Work

There are four basic shielding moves which you will cover in this session. They are the simple step across; the roll; the pull-back; and the circle turn (Note: younger players may have trouble with the circle turn, but it is a good idea to introduce it anyway – and, for older players, it may be possible to add pull-back/taps behind the support leg and the stepover).

Put the players into pairs, and put each pair in a long/narrow grid with one ball (one player on one end and one at the other). The player with the ball will serve the ball to the other player, then act as the defender. This same grid will be used to teach each of these moves. Put the spare ball at one end of the grid.

Step Across

This is the most basic shielding move – but is amazingly useful. The player simply steps over the ball to put either one or both legs between the ball and an incoming opponent.

There is a trick to it, however. In stepping across the ball, the player usually wants to end up being positioned to face the direction where there is the best chance of finding support players (i.e., toward the open field- not the touchline). In general, the only time that you want to turn towards the touchline is when it makes sense to kick the ball off of the opponent’s shin guards to get a throw-in.

Obviously, the direction that the player will end up facing will depend on which foot is used to lead off. Let’s say that the open field is to his left. He will want to step across the ball in the direction of the defender, starting with his right foot – and then lifting his left foot so that it rests on the ball or comes over beside his right foot. Some coaches recommend that the player get in the habit of swinging the lead foot around the face of the ball, instead of stepping directly over the ball, so that the ball is shielded at all times. However, this may be an extra complication for young players (who can get confused with multiple decision), so you can leave this for later if it seems like a good idea.

After learning the basic step across, the player needs to know when/how to use the move. However, give the players some time to experiment on actually doing the move before you get into this.

Put two players at opposite ends of a small grid. Have one player pass to the other player, then walk towards the receiver to start shutting him down. Have the receiver step across the ball to put himself between the opponent and the ball – and end up with his back foot (the foot farthest from the opponent) resting on top of the ball. Once they have this basic idea down – and have learned the mechanics, it is time for the next step – which is to make actual contact with the opponent.

The basic shielding posture is:

  • Knees bent and bottom down to lower centre of gravity;
  • Body in a fencer’s or boxer’s stance (turned sideways with weight balanced on both feet);
  • Arm/elbow of side which will make contact tucked well in to protect ribs;
  • Other arm spread out for balance;
  • Time the step-across so that shoulder aggressively makes contact with opponent (bump him slightly), transferring weight to front foot so that back foot is free to pass/control ball.

Now, return to the grid and allow players to practice making the shoulder-to-shoulder contact (or getting their shoulder into the opponent’s chest, depending on the angle). The idea is to aggressively hold the opponent on one shoulder while you get your head up to find a team-mate to give the ball to. In the warm-up, the players experimented with moving the ball while leaning into the partner, so they should have some ideas of their own which they should be allowed to explore.


When in the basic shielding position, the ball is moved around either with the side of the foot or the sole of the free foot. The way to move it with the sole of the foot is by rolling the ball back and forth, periodically putting the foot down to movement of the plant foot.

There is a knack to doing this successfully, which is only gained by practice. Allow the players some time to work on this in the grid – and also suggest to players that they can work on this at home by pushing one shoulder against a wall, and simply rolling the ball back and forth to move in a circular fashion. After some experimentation, play a game where the defender gets 1 point if he can steal the ball or kick it away before the count of 5, while the attacker gets 1 point if he can hold the ball to the count of 5. Increase the holding time to 7 or 9 as you get success.


The pullback move is used when an opponent is coming in so quickly that it will be hard to step across the ball in time to shield it, so the ball is basically snatched to one side using the sole of the foot. Once the ball is snatched back, the basic shielding posture is used to lean into the opponent – but the player will need to be more braced for the contact, as he likely will not have time to initiate the contact himself.

After illustrating this move, have the receiver move up into the middle of the grid (which will reduce the time needed for the server to get to him), and work on using the pull-back to get ready to shield the ball. Play the same game of points for holding the ball or stealing it.

Circle Turn

There are two types of circle turns – one by using the inside of the foot and one by using the outside of the foot. The latter is the one which is most commonly used – although both can be practiced. In an outside circle turn, the foot used to turn the ball is cocked outwards and somewhat back, and the ball is tapped 3-4 times to allow the player to make a complete circle.

Usually, a circle turn will be used in a pressure situation to spin off of an opponent and explode away on the last tap. Therefore, when practicing circle turns, add an explosion to the last tap so that the ball is pulled with the foot in the new direction. Note that it is fine to do partial circles (and, in games, most “circle” turns actually are about _ of a full circle). The key to using circle turns well is to be able to look up as the taps are being made, so that the ball can be laid off to a team-mate if close support is available – as the ball almost always should be laid off in such situations, since the natural position of the first player will serve to obstruct the opponent. When you observe a player actively obstructing the opponent, however, you need to bring up the difference between just holding your ground (which is legal) and active movement to prevent the opponent from getting to your team-mate with the ball (which is a foul).

Return to the same grid to work on the circle turn. Put the receiver on the back end line (to give him more time to control the ball once received, and allow him to initiate the circle turn as soon as the opponent gets within contact range. Instruct the server to act more like a shadow, just slightly crowding the receiver from the rear as he makes the circle – but not really make an effort to steal the ball. Remember: you are just introducing the idea of this move at this stage. Young players are unlikely to be able to execute this move under full pressure until they have spent more time working on dribbling (especially on explosions), so simply encourage effort.

Small Group Work

Split up every other pair, so that you now have 3 players in a grid. Leave the server at one end, put the receiver in the middle, and put the other player on the far end of the grid (he will serve as the support player). Then, serve the ball into the receiver; allow the defender to close him down; and, as soon as the defender is on him, have the support player start counting slowly to X (which is the amount of time that most of your players could successfully hold off an opponent by shielding). Once the count is reached, the support player then can move in to accept a drop pass and the team then can try to dribble across the opponent’s end line.

After 3 tries, swap out roles. Then, play a game of 2v1 – encouraging the inside player to hold the ball and wait for support unless the defender makes a clear goof which will allow him to get by.

Large Group

Station a line of players at the midline, and a line of players on both sides of the goal. When you serve a ball into the middle, the first players on the goal line can start for the ball. The midline player starts after the count of 3 and acts as a support player for whichever goal line player wins possession. The player who wins possession may try to score himself, or can hold the ball and lay the ball off for the incomer (going 2v1). Defender scores by dispossession, and attackers score by getting a goal. You will want this game to move quickly, so use two goals if you have more than 9 players, as you don’t want more than 2-3 in line. Have players move to a different station after their turn.


You can play a regular scrimmage, or can continue to play with lopsided teams (creating various restrictions to provide for arrival of late support). Regardless of your decision, praise all efforts to shield the ball and look for support. Encourage team-mates to talk to one another, and to call for the ball if available. Remind them that, when under heavy pressure, players may be afraid to look up – so they will need to YELL and get close to offer any meaningful help.

Passing, receiving and shooting practice plan for U10s

Multi purpose games

A passing, dribbling and shooting drill where one side is given an extra player (2 v 1)

Multi purpose games

Game Rules

  • Have substitute players ready to replace those who are playing.
  • One team has a single outfield player, the other has two, and both have a goalkeeper.
  • Several balls should be kept within each goal to keep a ball in play.
  • Make the goal four yards wide, and create a play area 25 yards by 15 yards.
  • Encourage both teams to score even though one has a manpower advantage.
  • When the ball is out of play, start the game at the goal line by the goalkeeper.
  • Keep score.

Player Objectives

  • Watch the ball but keep head up to observe opponents and the goal.
  • Team with two outfield players:
  • The player in possession has two options – pass the ball or keep it.
  • Pass to teammate with pace and accuracy, and use teamwork to score.
  • For the player not in possession, support teammate by being visible.

Team with one outfield player:

  • Player in possession keeps the ball until the angle to shoot exists, then tries to score.
  • Manipulate the ball, keeping body between opponents and the ball.
  • Change pace and direction.

A 1 v 1 v 1 drill that induces the player in possession to create a shooting position

Multi purpose games

Game Rules

  • One ball for three players in the area shown in the diagram, approximately 15 yards square.
  • Each player plays against the other two players.
  • Each player tries to score in a goal four to five yards wide.
  • When the ball goes out of play, the coach puts another ball in play.
  • Goalkeeper making a save throws the ball to the coach.
  • After 10 balls are served, all three players and the goalkeeper are changed.
  • Keep score and play the winners against each other to name the champion.

Player Objectives

  • Control the ball from the coach.
  • Manipulate the ball to avoid challenges.
  • Shield the ball when necessary.
  • Change direction – turn with the ball.
  • Change pace.
  • Shoot at the earliest opportunity.

A fun game which encourages good kicking technique and develops passing skills

Multi purpose games

Mark out an area approximately 15 yards by 10 yards with a goal three yards wide in the middle.

Game Rules

  • Each player remains behind his own line.
  • A shot can be played with the inside or outside of the foot through the goal.
  • The receiving player controls the ball behind his line and tries to pass the ball through the goal (if by lack of control the ball rebounds into the goal, it does not count).
  • As the players improve, increase the length of the area of decrease the size of the goal.
  • Limit the touches to three or, as players improve, to two.
  • Play the game for five minutes and have the players keep score.

Player Objectives

  • To control the ball and set up the pass.
  • To achieve pace and accuracy of passes.
  • A circle game that develops passing and shooting

Soccer circle drill – passing and shooting

Multi purpose games

Game Rules

  • Make the goal one cone placed inside an area with a radius of approximately six yards.
  • If a liner is not available, the circumference can be marked out with frisbees, bibs or other cones.
  • The team in dark uniforms plays against the team in white.
  • A goal is scored when the ball is played from outside the area to knock over the cone.
  • All players are allowed to run through the circle but no player is allowed to touch the ball in the circle.
  • If any player touches the ball in the area, the opposing team has a free shot at the “goal” from the edge of the circle.
  • Keep score.

Player Objectives

Player in possession:

  • To keep an eye on the ball and keep the head up to observe teammates, opponents and the goal.
  • To maintain possession of the ball by keeping one’s body between the ball and opponent.
  • To change direction, by turning with the ball, and to change pace.
  • To pass to teammates and choose which teammate is the better option.
  • To achieve pace and accuracy of pass.

Players not in possession:

  • To support the player with the ball.
  • To know where and when to run.
  • To know not to make the same run as other supporting players, or to crowd the player in possession of the ball.


The game should be no longer than three minutes before allowing players to rest.

With a group of 12, six play and six rest.

3v3 one goal

A 3-a-side game which emphasizes dribbling, passing and shooting

Multi purpose games

Game Rules

  • A normal 3-a-side game in an area approximately 30 yards by 20 yards, except that it is played around one goal rather than two.
  • Emphasize shooting at goal at the earliest opportunity.
  • Players combine to create goal-scoring opportunity.
  • Team in the dark uniforms can score only from the left side of the field, and team in white only from the right side.
  • Re-start game with a throw-in any time the ball goes out of bounds.
  • When goalkeeper makes a save from one team, he throws the ball into the opposing half of the field.

Player Objectives

  • To take early shots from within shooting distance of the goal.
  • To provide support for the player with the ball.

A passing practice plan

Fast footwork

While each child’s enjoyment still takes priority above anything during the coaching session and basic technique should be maintained, now introduce some technical and tactical elements. This is a good age to teach children basic skills of heading, shielding the ball and using the laces. Continue to help the children learn the rules of the game.

  • A coach should:
  • Be enthusiastic
  • Encourage children
  • Prepare a thoughtful progressive coaching session
  • Promote good sportsmanship between all players
  • Be a role model to the children

Priorities for a training session are:

Children should be working with their own soccer ball at the beginning of the session. As the session develops this requirement can be relaxed for more tactical practices. The same philosophy applies as with younger age groups: Many touches on the ball mean lots of learning.

Brief explanations and technical advice are used but still be careful not to lose the children’s interest.

A more tactical element is now introduced. This could include getting the players to spread out, using the width of the field instead of always playing down the middle and all players moving up and down the field as a team.

Continue to emphasize the correct technique.

Still discourage the use of the toe. Children should now be using the inside, outside, heel, laces and bottom of the foot.

End every session with a scrimmage, which should be about a third of the total sessions time. Coaches should continue to encourage players to spread out. When all the players bunch around the ball, make them freeze and ask them what they think about their position. Let them teach themselves. Repeat rules of the game during this time.

Every session should now follow a general pattern: warm up, unopposed practice, opposed practice, game related practice, scrimmage/game.

Fast Footwork Warm Up

Fast footwork

Set out a square approximately 15 yards by 15 yards depending on the number of children. Players dribble around the square, moving into space and encouraged to keep their head up, no toes! Start with the inside of the foot, then the outside, bottom of the foot and laces. Incorporate turns during this warm up (coach demonstrates correct technique), starting with the basic hook turn and introduce a new turn each week.



Set up a rectangle of cones 15 yards by 8 yards, depending on the ability of the children. Divide the children into two teams with each team standing outside the long side of the rectangle. Each child has a ball. A ball that is a different color (object ball) from all the rest is placed in the center of the area. Children should try to pass their ball to hit the object ball and knock it over their opponent’s line. Players may not stop the object ball with their feet; they can only pass their own ball into it. Play is continuous until the object ball has passed outside the area. If the object ball is knocked out the side the coach can pass the ball into the center again. Players may retrieve soccer balls from anywhere on their own side of the area. Balls can only be kicked from behind the end line. Soccer balls are to be passed using the inside of the foot only.

Keep Away


Set up an area of cones 10×10 yards for each group of 4 children with one soccer ball per group. Play 3 attackers against 1 defender (play 4 attackers against 1 defender with younger or less able children). The attackers must try to make 10 uninterrupted passes to score a goal. Defenders should try to intercept a pass and kick the ball out of the square to score a goal. The first pass is a free pass that can’t be intercepted. Play first to 3 goals then rotate defender.

Progression 1. Allow a maximum of 2 touches of the ball before a pass is made to another attacker. This will reduce any dribbling that may occur and requires swifter movement from those players without the ball.

Progression 2. Passes should now be made with the weaker foot.

Progression 3. Now make the square 20×20 yards and play 6 attackers against 2 defenders. Same rules apply and progression 1 and 2 can be added to this game if players are successful. To encourage players to spread out attackers can be made to run around a cone on the outside of the square after making a pass before they can rejoin the game.

Through The Gates (Dribbling)

Through the gates

Set out pairs of cones about 1 yard apart covering a total area approximately 20×20 yards. Each pair of cones represents a gate. Each child has a ball. Time how many gates the players can dribble through in 30 seconds. Go over coaching points such as a) soft touches on the ball when dribbling, b) head up, c) only go towards open gates. Repeat for another 30 seconds to look for improvement. Try a third time to see if players can make their best score.

Progression 1. Players can only dribble with the outside of their feet.

Progression 2. Players must dribble with their weaker foot only.

Progression 3. Players must do a trick as they go through the gate

Through The Gates (Passing)

Set out the cones as above. This time the children are divided into pairs with a ball between two. The player that begins with the soccer ball must dribble up to a gate then pass the ball along the ground to their partner. This player then dribbles the ball to another gate where they return the pass. Time how many gates the players can pass through in 30 seconds. Go over coaching points such as a) soft touches on the ball when dribbling, b) head up, c) only go towards open gates, d) make a simple push pass e) don’t kick the ball too hard or in the air. Repeat for another 30 seconds to look for improvement. Try a third time to see if players can make their best score.

Progression 1. Players can only dribble with the outside of their feet.

Progression 2. Players must dribble with their weaker foot only.

Decision making for very young soccer players

This practice session will help young soccer players to make their own decisions. It uses the well established and successful technique of guided discovery – a technique that should be understood and used by all youth soccer coaches.


The purpose of this training session is to encourage informed decision making by young players regarding where to pass the ball, receiving the ball, and moving off the ball.
Too many coaches of young children tell their players where to run, when to pass the ball, and where to pass the ball to. Making decisions for your players may result in short term wins for the team but it stifles player development. Players from a young age who are encouraged to make decisions for themselves, to experiment and not worry about the consequences will turn out to be more skilled and capable players in the long term .
Even 5 and 6 year olds can be taught simple ideas and encouraged to think about their options with regard to passing and moving without the ball.

The approach of using guided discovery is used during this practice session. It is a simple process – begin by asking questions and then encourage the players to work out the answers for themselves. This is a proven and more effective method of learning than simply telling children where and how to pass the ball.

A word of warning – guided discovery requires you to really know and understand what you want to get out of the training session. You need to think carefully about the type of questions you need to ask.

Warm-up: passing in pairs

Players get in pairs and pass and move within a designated area.

Begin with free-style passing then make it more directed by telling them to run around a cone that is on the outside of the grid after they pass and before they receive the ball back from their partner.

Key coaching points

  • Technique of passing ball
  • Eye Contact
  • Passing to correct foot
  • Passing to feet or space
  • Pace of pass

Some of the questions that can be asked during this activity (not drill) are:

If a player without the ball is running toward you, where you should pass the ball? Answer: To their feet. As the coach, you may have to give them the choice of saying either “feet or space”.

If a player without the football is running away from you, where you should pass the ball? Answer: To space. As the coach, you may have to give them the choice of saying either “feet or space”

How do I know my partner (teammate) is ready to receive a pass? Answer: Because they are looking at you. (Eye contact)

Even in the warm-up, you have asked them good questions, without you necessarily having to show or tell them. Ask them! You will be surprised at what they can tell you.

Then play a small sided game (scrimmage).

The point of this game is to get into a winning position and then keep the ball away from the opposition for a set period of time. It provides young players with many opportunities for making decisions relating to running into space or a supporting position.

When players are participating in this game, you will find many moments as a coach to ask them the following questions:

If a player with the ball has pressure, where do you run support or space? Answer: support

If a player with a ball doesn’t have pressure, where to you run support or space? Answer: space

You are planting a seed in their mind of where they run during a match. As a player, you can only run to either support or space. The amount of pressure that is on the ball determines where you run when you are close to the ball.

The entire training session then is continuing to ask them these questions, not demanding anything, but asking them constantly what are their thoughts?

Moving with the ball for U6 – U9

Topic: moving with the ball

Warm up: Body Part Dribbling

In a 15 x 20 yd area, each player has a ball. The players dribble freely in the area. When the coach says “NOW”, the players must stop the ball with any body part. Keep it going

Variation: After the players try it a few times, the coach will yell out a specific body part. Each player must try to stop the ball with that body part. Keep it going.

The coach gives praise for creativity and asks each player what body part they used.

Red Light – Green Light

When the coach says “green light”, players dribble their ball with their feet. When the coach says “red light”, players must stop their ball and stand still. When the coach says “green light” again, the players begin to dribble their ball again. Have fun with their imaginations…have the players make “brake’ sounds when coach says “red light” and have them make loud “motor sounds” when coach says “green light”.

The coach gives praise for creative movement, whether the ball is being carried with the hands or dribbled with the feet. The coach applauds dribbling with the feet, change of direction, etc. The coach highlights players that are dribbling the ball with their feet and asks if everyone can try to dribble the ball with their feet.

Sharks and Minnows

Two players, the sharks, do not have a ball. The rest of the players, the minnows, each have a ball.

The minnows line up side by side along one of the 10 yd lines facing the other 10 yd line. The sharks position themselves inside the grid facing the minnows. When the coach says, “swim”, the minnows try to dribble their soccer balls past the sharks, safely to the other side of the grid. If a shark steals a soccer ball from a minnow or kicks a ball out of the grid, the minnow becomes a shark and the family of sharks grows. The minnows that make it safely to the opposite side get to swim again on the coach’s command. Continue until all the players become sharks.

If a shark steals a ball and can dribble it over any line of the grid, then the shark becomes a minnow and the minnow becomes a shark.

(These are games of inclusion…no one sits out.)

Minnows must keep ball close when being pressured by the sharks. Minnows must recognize open space so that they can speed past the sharks if the sharks are busy elsewhere.

Sharks must concentrate on stealing (tackling) the ball.

Get Outta’ There

Set up a 15 x 20 yd grid with a goal at each end. The goal is 3-4 steps wide using flags or cones. The players are divided into to teams colour coded with pennies. NO GOALKEEPERS.

The coach is located centrally on one side of the field, outside of the playing area. Each team lines up single file on both sides of the coach facing the field.

The coach kicks a ball onto the field. The first player from each team chases the ball and plays 1v1. The players shoot at the goal that is farthest from their starting position. If the ball goes out of bounds or is scored, the players must get off of the field immediately and return to the end of their line. If they don’t get off the field quickly, the coach yells,” Get Outta’ There!” Once the players are off the field, the coach kicks the next ball onto the field and the next 1v1 begins. The ball is the cue.

If the coach says, “ONE” before he serves the ball onto the field, then the game is a 1v1, like above. If the coach says, “TWO” before he serves the ball onto the field, then the game is a 2v2…2 players from each line play against each other.

The players get repetition on dribbling to beat an opponent. The players get repetition on shooting. They get the opportunity to defend 1v1. They get repetition trying to steal a ball from an opponent (tackling).

The coach must praise their effort and make the game exciting with his/her enthusiasm.

Cool Down Activity

Hit the cone

Cones are scattered around an large grid. Each player has his or her own soccer ball.

Players try to kick their ball so that it hits one of the cones that have been scattered around the area. They can start from various distances. After they hit one cone, they can try to hit another cone.

Coordinate this activity so that everyone isn’t kicking their ball at the same cone. Let them play and have fun.

Give generous praise for their effort and hard work.

Passing and receiving for U10-U12

U-10/U-12 team of 14 players, 90 Minutes Total

Equipment: 7 red and 7 yellow bibs; 16 cones; 1 ball per player; 1/2 normal size football pitch.

Coach arrives at least 15 min. early and lays out two lines of cones 5 yards apart, 8 cones per line, with 5 yards between lines yielding 7 5*5 grids.

15 min.: Warm-up. Each player with a ball in 1/2 of the penalty area. Dribble with both feet, go at angles, change direction, moving slowly for 2-3 minutes. Stretch. 1/2 of players put their balls outside of area and spread out around area with feet spread apart. Remaining players dribble ball around area and, on command “start”, begin to score points by passing ball between legs of stationary players. Can score on each stationary player once before moving on to next. Emphasize head up, avoid traffic and congested “goals”, proper pace of pass so that it a) gets through but b) doesn’t end up in the next county. Time for 1 minute and switch roles. Stretch. Now players with ball must dribble around area and on command “start” make eye contact with a stationary player, call their name, pass ball to them, and move to get a return pass. Time for 1 minute, score a point for each pass completed, switch and repeat. Emphasize head up, communication before pass, proper pace on pass.

15 min: Players in pairs with one ball per pair, one pair in each 5*5 yd. grid. Coach demonstrates Inside of Foot pass. Players pass inside their own grid for 5 min. Emphasize toe up, heel down, ankle locked, turn foot out sideways; plant foot faces direction pass is to go; kicking leg bent slightly. Hit through the ball slightly above center, contacting the ball with inside of foot between ball of foot and heel.

After 5 min., coach demonstrates simple foot reception and players both pass and receive for 5 min. additional. Emphasize on reception don’t stop ball, just cushion it and push it out to the side a bit; use same part of foot used for passing, step into ball for next pass.

After about 10 minutes, have players keep kicking foot raised for a few moments after kick. If they’ve done it correctly, they’ll be facing receiver and easily balanced on one foot…

Look to correct: for pass: Leg playing the ball stiff/straight; plant leg too far away from ball; kicking too hard/soft; hitting ball too low (goes up in air) or too high (bounces).

Look to correct: for reception: Ball stopped dead instead of cushioned and pushed out; ball pushed out too far/close; receiving surface “hard” rather than “soft”; receiving with wrong part of foot.

[Note: There those who shudder at the thought of mixing two concepts, e.g. passing and receiving, in the same exercise and they are certainly welcome to their opinion. It is the writer’s opinion, however, that in the case of passing exercises, proper reception makes the ensuing pass easier in that the player is stepping into a slowly moving ball.]

10 min.–Groups of three (grab an assistant coach, parent, sibling, etc. or put 4 in a group and add another cone to that area), each group with a ball, 1st group standing on 3 of cones in first grid, next group on second group of 4 cones, etc. Player with ball starts with pass to either of other two players and runs to empty cone. Receiver repeats. Move from unlimited touch to two-touch to one-touch over course of season. Emphasize and correct same points as in prior section. After they get the idea, time and see how many completed passes in 1 minute.

5 min.— Drink break and socializing. (All players dribble their ball to you before heading off). Coach re-sets cones to mark off two 20*25 yd fields with 4 yd. cone goals at the diagonal ends of the long sides of the rectangle.

25 min.– 5v2 progression as follows. Technical points for all same as in first section. Emphasize also how much easier the game is for the attackers if they keep the space big, use the whole field, move after passing, & play away from pressure. (This can START off as 6v1 and move to 5v2 as players become more skilled.)

  • 5 players pass the ball around. Defenders simply give ball back if they intercept or kick out of area. No points scored. Change roles frequently.
  • Repeat 1 but every 5 consecutive passes is a goal (recruit assistant, parent, sibling, etc. to count passes). If defenders win, they score by dribbling to any side of the rectangle and stop it by stepping on it. Any ball going out of bounds, whether kicked or dribbled, goes back to attackers. Keep score out loud. Stop in few minutes and switch roles.
  • Same but defenders can score by inside foot pass through either of small goals.

5 min.– Drink and socializing. Coach re-sets field to 35*50, 5-6 yard goals.

10 min.— Scrimmage. Coach observes ONLY.

5 min.–Warm-down, players pick up all equipment, shag balls, get reminded where and when next practice/game is, etc.

Ball control in tight situations

Good close control of the football is very important.

Over the years famous players admitted they were self taught – street footballers seem to be of another generation now but kicking a tennis ball around in the street was often the only route open to would be footballers.

Whatever its limitations, some of Britain’s all time greats probably came up through that route – Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney and Wilf Mannion readily spring to mind and their total control of the ball suggested that street practice never did them any harm.
Recreating the situation they grew up in is now out of the question, but there are practices designed to develop ball control.

2_7_ballcontrolPractice 1

In practice (1) a team of players x are all given a ball each, and at a given signal they dribble the ball (using both feet) in and out of the other players all inside an area of 10 metres x 12 metres.

The important thing is that each player must avoid all the others, and must ensure that their football doesn’t come into contact with any player or any other football.

2_7_ballcontrol2Practice 2

To progress, the area is slightly increased to a 12 metres square – again with all 11 players with a ball each.

Again they have to avoid contact with the other 10.

To speed up the practice and to work on quicker control the coach should now instruct each player they have 45 seconds to run the ball to each line (marked A, B, C and D) stop it dead on the line before moving to the next line. By adding a time limit it ensures each player has to move quickly to each of the 4 lines and in so doing make it more difficult to exert top quality control. Time limit can vary with the technical ability and the age of the players involved.

2_7_ballcontrol3Practice 3

To progress, 4 of the players now go on to the outside edge of the square leaving 7 in the centre each with a ball.

The 4 on the edge (do not have a ball to start). The X’s in the centre run round keeping close control of their ball until at the given signal they have 30 seconds to pass, and get a return pass from each of the 4 outside players (X1 – X4).

Good passing is essential, and players will have to constantly look up to see which of the 4 outside men is available, at the same time avoiding the rest of the players in the centre.

2_7_ballcontrol4Practice 4

Now return to each of the 11 in the square with a ball.

The idea now is for each player to try and keep control of his ball, while at the same time attempting to kick one of the other 10 footballs outside the square.

As each players ball goes out of the square so he is illuminated from the practice until there is only 1 player left in possession of a ball within the square, he is the winner. This develops competition and ensures players are taught to look around them while controlling the ball

Ball control and ‘vision’ for U7s

A fun youth soccer practice plan for U7s

Soccer Simon Says

All of the players 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 players 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.


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).