Tackling for U9+ players

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


Play basic keepaway, requiring the attacker to become a defender when the ball is stolen from him. Use enough defenders so that the players are forced to move around quickly.

Individual Work

In soccer, the term “tackling” is used to describe any effort to steal the ball or knock it out. Thus, in soccer, a tackle can be on the ground (a slide tackle). It also can be done upright, either by knocking the ball out as you run along one side of the attacker or done from the front by blocking him from dribbling the ball forward. Unlike American football, a tackle really is not supposed to bring the opponent crashing to the turf. Indeed, in many cases, the tackle will be judged as a foul if you do so. As a result, your first job as a coach will be to explain the terminology to your players and make the point that the player is tackling the FOOTBALL ITSELF and not the opponent.

Alternatively, you can simply use a term like “ball-stealing”, so that they don’t have the idea that they will playing American-style tackle football with a pointy pigskin instead of a soccer ball.


The easiest tackle to learn is the knock-out tackle, which is used to hit the ball away when the attacker gets the ball too far in front. Teaching tackling is usually begun right after basic work on First Defender skills and the defensive stance.

Use the same grid and follow the same ideas of patience and delay, but give permission to go in for the ball when the attacker allows it to get out too far in front of him. In this exercise, the defender gets a point for sending the ball out of the grid in any direction while the attacker gets a point by dribbling over the opposing end-line.

This tackle is used when you want to buy time for your teammates to get back and is particularly popular with wing defenders.


The next tackle, which is also very easy to learn, is the bump. To do this, quickly move into the attacker from a slight angle, lifting your lead foot over the ball so that your lead foot will end up between his legs. At the same time, turn into him with your shoulder/hips so that you can bump the him off the ball with your backside and take the ball away with the outside foot.

Once you commit, the key is to pounce aggressively and go in hard. The lead foot comes across the ball just when your shoulder/hips are firmly against the attacker. Try to time the move in so that the attacker is momentarily looking down at the ball and is standing on his dribble foot so that he is temporarily frozen. This exercise also can be done in the same grid, using the same procedure as before. One point for stealing the ball and one point if the attacker can get around the defender and dribble across the opposing end-line.

Block Tackle

The next tackle is the front, or “block”, tackle. The purpose is to block the ball into the attacker’s foot, then to drag/lift the ball over the attacker’s foot. Body weight must be over the ball to prevent the attacker from getting any leverage.

Key coaching points are: ankle of blocking foot locked, to make foot into an L-shape (hoe-shape) to use as a drag; keep body weight over ball; put support foot well to the outside.

Put the pairs back into their grid, one ball per pair. Have the attacker stop, with the ball just to the inside of his right foot. Now, have the defender step in so that his shoulder presses into the attacker just as his right foot blocks the ball into the attacker’s right foot so that the ball cannot go forward. As soon as the block is made, the defender will try to lift the ball to the outside and bring it over the toes of the attacker by getting his locked foot under the ball and lifting/rolling it over. Note that the support leg must be sufficiently wide of the attacker to allow the blocking leg/foot and the ball to come across.

This is a more difficult tackle to learn, so give the players ample time to experiment. Most young players can block the ball easily but have trouble with the technique of dragging it over. Some will try to put the outside leg too far forward, and bump knees and/or give the attacker room to push the ball through their legs. Others will try to put the outside foot too far to the back so that they have no leverage to use against the attacker. It takes some time to figure out the best place to put the plant foot so that the ball is quickly blocked, and then lifted across. Once some success is achieved by both players, start with some very slow dribbling and let the players try to do just a block. When most have made a good block, then let them try to lift the ball across.

Now, simply let the players play 1 v 1 in their grids, as follows. The players stand at opposite ends of the grid, taking turns on who is the server. After serving the ball to the opponent, they close him down defensively and try to tackle the ball. Play until the defender has made 3 successful tackles, then switch. Do two full rotations.

Match-Related Work

Next, play a game in which each successful tackle is worth 1 point. The attacker scores 1 point if he can dribble across the opposing end-line without having the ball tackled away. Play until one player reaches 5 points, then switch roles. Note: Be sure to watch carefully to make sure that you are getting success. Reassign partners; or place restrictions on above-average players; or make the grids narrower if necessary in order to be sure that the defenders win more often.

Now, combine the kids in adjacent grids, and make a hexagon with some cones. Put a player between the cones at every other leg of the hexagon meaning that they will be in basically a triangle. Put the last player in the middle of the triangle, and play keepaway with the outside players restricted to movement only between their cones.

This makes their movement more predictable for the defender. Play until the defender kicks the ball out 3-5 times, then switch. Counsel the defender to use patience when he sets an angle to bottle somebody up as his success is guaranteed by the placement of the outside players once he sets his angle properly.

Match Condition Work

Play keepaway in a small grid, with 1-2 defenders and about 4-5 attackers (the small space will favor the defenders.

Give a point to the defenders for each time that they tackle the ball away or steal it and pass it to the other defender.

Give a point to the attackers for each time that all of them can touch the ball without an intervening tackle by the defender. Play to 5 points and switch.

An U6 training session

red light

WARM-UP: A brief warm-up is appropriate in order to get the players thinking about soccer and to prepare them physically for the time ahead. This should involve individual body activities that may or may not involve the ball. Anatomy dribbling is easy and fun. They can also chase their ball as it is thrown by the coach, bringing it back with different parts of their body. Or, they can chase someone with their ball at their feet. Freeze tag is a good example.

Static stretching is also appropriate at this time, again, hopefully done with the ball.

“Soccernastics” activities are very appropriate, like: rolling the ball with the bottom of their feet, with their elbows, backwards, with the back of their neck while holding on to it; throwing it up and catching it; keeping it up with their feet while sitting.

INDIVIDUAL ACTIVITIES: Follow the warm-up with some kind of individual activity, not a real 1 v.1 game, but some kind of activity where players act as individuals in a game environment. An example would be a kind of tag game, or “Red Light – Green Light”, or a game where players are trying to knock their ball through gates. Keep players in motion at all times. Avoid having them wait on lines. Play games of “inclusion” instead of games where the “loser sits”.

PLAY THE GAME: Move on to the real game, but, make sure it is a 2 v. 2, 3 v. 3, or 4 v. 4 game. Switch the game every 5 minutes or so. Be creative. Play with 4 goals, or 2 balls. Play with or without boundaries. Use cones if you don’t have real goals. Keep players involved. Have more than one game going on at a time if necessary. It is important that every player has a chance to shoot on goal as often as possible.

WARM-DOWN & HOMEWORK: Finish the session with a warm down. Give them some more stretches to do with the ball. You may want to review what you started the session with. Also, give them some homework so that they practice on their own. Think of some ball trick that you would like to see them try to do, like, bounce it off their thigh and then catch it. It is important to finish on time. This is especially essential if the players are really into it. Stop at this point and you will get an enthusiastic return.

U-6 PRACTICE IDEA “Keep Your Yard Clean”

Here is a game that involves kicking and is a good example of parallel play in that it involves all players on the team at one time, but, they are all acting as individuals during the game. This allows for individual differences in skill. The game is simple, fun, and easy to adapt to account for team size and experience.

THE GAME: Create a ‘neutral area’ between the two teams where no player is allowed into. This area can be as small as one yard and as big as 10 yards wide. The width is determined by how far the players can kick the ball.

Each player starts with a ball at his / her feet. On command, each team tries to keep their side of the game free of balls by kicking their ball over to the other teams side.

After an appropriate amount of time (when the balls become too scattered, or, the players are losing focus), stop the game and count which side has the most balls on their side.

Distribute the balls evenly for another try if the players are still interested.

After players have found some success with this basic game, try these variations:

  • Players can only use their left foot.
  • Throw the ball back.
  • Kick the ball back.
  • Dribble the ball around a cone that has been set up in the middle of their “yard”, then, kick the ball back.


Red Light…Green Light”

red light

Here is a game that should be familiar to most U-6’s. Again, the game is fun, simple to set up, and has direct application to the game. The skill that it is targeting is dribbling.

THE GAME: Each player has a ball, except the one player that is designated as the “light”.

Lines from start to finish should be approximately 20 – 30 yds..

Players start from the line opposite the “light”. The “light” then turns away from the group shouting out “GREEN LIGHT”. At this signal, the players start to dribble towards the “light”.

When the “light” turns back around, calling out “RED LIGHT”, players must freeze their bodies and their ball.

If the “light” catches players or a ball still moving, that player must take 5 steps back.

The first player to cross the line where the “light” is standing is the winner and becomes the new “light”.

You can start the game without using balls for younger players, then have them roll the ball with their hands, then use their feet.


All skills circuit training

It’s important to vary the format of your coaching sessions occasionally.

The traditional format of technical skill, individual practice, opposed practice followed by a small-sided game is tried and tested and it works. But your players will appreciate it if you spend a little time and effort setting up something completely different sometimes.

Mini World Cups are a great way of injecting pure fun and letting your players do what they really want to at training sessions: play football.

Another interesting format is a short skills circuit.

Children love to compete with each other and a skills circuit allows them to do just that while, at the same time, improving the essential skills that you teach them all year round.

Set up: the skills circuit I use with eight or nine year olds consists of five 10 yards square playing areas marked out by cones.

Your players should be split into five groups. The groups should be small – no larger than four players in each – so if you have more than 20 players you should consider setting up two circuits or having the extra players take part in another activity.

Each activity requires an observer who records the results. He or she can be a coaching assistant, a parent or an older player.

Each group of players starts in a different area.

On your command, your players spend a specified time (two minutes or so) carrying out the activity in their area before moving on to the next one. I suggest that you blow a whistle to start and stop the activities.

In each area, the players are challenged to perform as many of each activity as possible in the time allowed. They are also encouraged to make the transition between area as quickly as possible.

Each player has a ball that they take with them from one area to the next.

Area 1: Ball control

Equipment required: one ball each.

Activity: Ball Taps – tap a ball between the insides of both feet.

Variation: the “hat dance” – sole taps on the top of the ball with both feet.

For more advanced players: ball juggling.

Area 2: Dribbling

Equipment required: 16 small traffic cones set up in four lines of four and balls.

Activity: Each player dribbles their ball up and down a line of cones as many times as possible without knocking them over or missing any.

Variation: Dribble with “wrong” foot.

For more advanced players: Dribble with a specified part of the foot: sole, inside, outside etc.

Area 3: Running with the ball

Equipment required: balls.

Activity: run with ball from one side of area to the opposite side as many times as possible. Ensure players do not turn short.

Variation: Two players start on one side and two on the adjacent side of the area. This forces the players to keep their heads up while running with the ball to avoid collisions.

For more advanced players: perform a specific turn at the end of each run: drag back, stop turn etc.

Area 4: Shielding the ball

Equipment required: one ball per group.

Activity: use an even number of players in each group.

Players split into pairs. One player has a ball and for one minute, he tries to stop his partner from touching it. He gets a point for every 10 seconds he is successful so can get a maximum of six points if he can keep the ball away from his partner for the whole minute.

After one minute, the players swap roles.

Variation: none.

For more advanced players: award one point every 20 seconds.

Area 5: Passing accuracy

Equipment required: a flat cone with a ball balanced on top. Alternatively, you can use a plastic skittle or bowling pin.

Activity: set up the area as for “knock out” (described below), except there is no goal to shoot into.

Players take it in turns to try to knock the ball off the cone (or knock over the skittle/pin).

Variation: use a specific part of the foot, such as the toes or instep.

For more advanced players: Use weaker foot only.

The whole circuit takes about 15 minutes to complete. At the end you should share the results with your players and, if you wish, give a small award to the player who scored the most points, either in each area or in the circuit as a whole.

Repeat the circuit every month or so, track your players’ progress over time and at the end of the season give an award to the player who has shown the most improvement over the period.

All skills practice plans

 From Amhurst Soccer

Dribbling Lesson Plans

Passing & Receiving Lesson Plans


Defending Lesson Plans

Attacking Lesson Plans

Tactical Lesson Plans

Small group defending

warm up

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


warm up

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 progressing to high. Space: Defined space “smaller”. 3 – 5 players per group.

small game

Pressure / Cover Defending

2 v. 2, with goals marked out in the corner of the grid.

Have a regular game with periods of about 2 – 3 minutes in duration.

Have plenty of extra balls ready to keep the game flowing

Coaching Points

  • Defending principles of play
  • Pressure on the ball, do not let the first attacker’s head to come up
  • Second defender must cover the goal as well as be aware of the second attacker
  • First defender tries to channel the attacker into the sideline and away from the second attacker. (This is easier to do since the goals are in the corners of the grid, the sidelines come up quicker.)
  • When first defender has made the play predictable, second defender tries to double team.
  • Make sure the defenders stay balanced, that they do not become too spread out, enabling the attacking team to make “splitting passes”.
  • As soon as the ball is won, can they shoot? This is the best time to do so because the attacking team is not in a good defending posture.

Four Goals – End Line

Four goals

The Game

4 v. 4. Each team defends two goals and attacks two goals. Having the goals on the end lines makes this game more realistic as it forces the attacking team to have more of a direction to their attack.

Coaching Points

Defending principles

Defending become particularly challenging since the defending team has two goals to defend, essentially turning this into a 6 v. 4 game.

It is a good idea to allow each team to decide by themselves, at first, where they are going to try to win the ball. In other words, are they going to challenge the ball all over the field, or will they hang back and try to only defend the space close to their own goals?

Can they “channel” the ball into certain areas of the field to gain possession.

Can they apply enough pressure on the ball to limit the first attacker’s options, and make the play predictable.

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

Four Zones Game

4 zones game

The Game

A regular 11 v. 11 or 8 v. 8 scrimmage. Break the field into 4 horizontal zones. Award the defending team points when they win the ball back in a chosen zone. For example, the Blue team might be given 3 points for winning the ball back in the first zone, two points for the second zone, one point for the third zone and no points for the fourth zone. This can change depending on where the coach wants the team to try tp force the play

Coaching Points

Try to get the players t work together, collectively, as a unit, with all 11 players aware of the defensive plan.

Can the defending team control the attacking team, making them play the ball in a certain area of the field, and then winning the ball there.

Make sure you give defending agendas to both teams.

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

Two Sided Goal Game

The Game

A 2 v. 2 game played to a two sided goal. Goals can be scored from either side. The game is a continuous flow game that is best played for 2 – 3 minutes.

Coaching Points

  • A good warm-up or cool-down game to teach defending and attacking skills.
  • Defenders must make sure they cover the goal as well as the attacking players.
  • Defenders must work at channelling the first attacker away from their support.
  • Attacking team must be good at combination play to unbalance the defence.
  • As soon as the ball is lost, defending team must get goal side.
  • Try to attack immediately when the ball is won.

Shooting for U9s

Equipment: Cones, pinnies, one ball per player

Warm up

Instep Warm Up – Start with players sitting down and kicking the ball 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.


  • Sitting
  • 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 – 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.

Instep Squares – 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, taking the 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.


  • Steal The Bacon – 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.

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