Defending – the basics

1v1 defending

This session is suitable for players aged 8 and upwards.

Skills required: the players should be able to control and pass with some confidence

Equipment required: cones and footballs.

Number of players: groups of three, four and five.

Start the session with a suitable warm up and finish with a SSG.


Grid size: 20m x 10m

1 server and 1 receiver face each other on opposite sides of the grid. A defender (player 1 in the diagram below) waits just outside the grid halfway along the side line.

The server (player 2 in the diagram) passes the ball to the receiver (player 3). The player waiting outside the grid runs into the grid to defend and stop the attacker passing the ball back to the server.

The receiver must try to beat the defender and return the ball to the server.

1v1 defending


The defender only moves after the receiver has touched the ball.

Coaching points

The defender must start with good strides and end with short steps.
He should show the attacker the side he wants him to go, (the defenders best foot).

Key Points

Switch on, concentrate (attitude). When and where does defending commence? As soon as possession is lost you must be mentally prepared to defend. You must be able to read the situation, the player in possession and other attacking and defensive players activity. We are at our most vulnerable when the ball is lost because players have been drawn out of position.

Nearest man to the ball should apply pressure on the ball by moving into a position within 2-3 yards of their opponent.

Angle of approach in order to adopt the correct challenging position the defender must make up ground while the ball is travelling (travel as the ball is travelling) and get into line between the ball and the goal or target area. The defender’s job is to reduce passing angles and space for the man on the ball to play in and to make passing targets predictable.

Speed of approach. The defender should approach his opponent as fast as he can while the ball is travelling in order to make up ground. It is important, however, for the defender to have slowed his approach by the time the football has reached the opponent. If he continues at speed when the the opponent has the ball under control he will find it difficult to change direction, so the attacker will be able to beat him with a trick or a sudden side movement. The approach by the defender should be slowed, and a balanced position should be adopted, just before the ball is brought under control. Quick closing down can force technical and tactical errors by making opponents perform quicker than they are capable of. Make sure he doesn’t beat you on the first touch, therefore don’t close down too close or too fast or he will nick it past you. Be aware of give and goes with supporting players.

Closing down the last few yards by slowing down (small strides). If the defender is five to six yards away from the attacker when the ball is brought under control, his task is to close down the last three to four yards.

Side on approach, inch in, face the same way. Slightly crouching, the defender should adopt a sideways on position and edge in slowly towards the attacker. Gain the initiative by pretending to tackle or feinting so the attacker looks down and the ball and tries to defend it.

Force him one way, onto your best foot, into players, down the line or across the field. Make play predictable. Show where you want him to go and make him go by getting there early.

Closing down. Get in position with a gap between your legs, get down and stay down and resist putting first foot forward. Is he too tight too soon or too loose so that the attacker can easily control the ball?

Jockey the attacker. The idea of jockeying is to delay or break up the attack by preventing the player on the ball from playing forward (or sometimes sideways) by keeping in front of him or by getting your body between the attacker and the goal. The defender backs off slightly and waits for the attacker to commit himself, keeping their eyes focused firmly on the movement of the ball and not the player. The defender must get low, slightly half turned and stay balanced on their toes with their body weight evenly distributed between both feet so they can edge close to the ball, have the option of tackling or springing off if required. Keep your opponent at arm’s length so you are a good distance to tackle if possible. You don’t need to tackle the important thing is to prevent them playing forward. Don’t make it easy for the attacker by diving in or moving too fast or too close, be patient and track the attacker who is in front of you.

Be Patient, don’t jump in and wait for the Cavalry. Time, in these situations, time always favours the defender. If the attacker has control of the ball, the temptation to try to win the ball must be resisted by the defender. Remember, fools rush in, usually fall over, and present the opposition with a numerical advantage.

End product. Intercept and create, spoil and recover, contain and stick and tackle.

Clearances you must you be first by meeting the ball as early as possible with determination. Look for height, distance or width. Height favours the defence and buys time.
Recovery Runs with lots of positive attitude.

Recovering defenders should understand their lines of recovery. The run should be a direct line to their own goal. When the ball is put into wide areas wide full back furthest from the ball should run in line with the back post, far post should run mid goal, mid goal should mark near post, near post should go to the ball. Once goalside the options are can I win the ball, can I cover a challenging player, can I mark someone or can I mark space.

Remember…if you can win the ball, tackle decisively but don’t jump in.

Progression 1 v 2

1v2 defending

Try to hold them up so players can get back and help. So don’t dive in, keep your distance to give you time and ease toward the side of the ball. Open your body so you can see both attackers and the ball and listen to communication around you.

Organisation as above except now two attackers.
Defender must look to retreat and recover. Line of recovery.
Keep distance to give time.
Ease toward side of the ball.
Open body stance.
Show where you want the ball to go.
Angle and distance between players.

Progression 2 v 2

2v2 defending

Organisation as above except, the extra defender stands on the other side opposite the first defender.
Defenders should wear bibs.
Look at forcing play in one direction, angle of approach.
Support for challenging player. Communication, angle and distance.
Recovery runs.

Key terms

Closing down

This involves reading the situation, the player in possession, your immediate opponent and any other players’ movements. When preparing to close down you should focus on the ball and your opponent and get your stance, movement and readiness to react right. The timing of closing down is important, you should be aware of when the pass is certain and as it is released so you can travel as the ball is travelling. The approach should be fast as the ball travels but slow on approach, where do you want to show him with your angle of approach and observation of receiving players touch or movement. Don’t jump in but approach with controlled deceleration.


Move quickly into a position within 2-3 yards of an opponent so you reduce his passing angles and space which to operate in. Make passing targets predictable by showing him one way and force technical and tactical errors by making opponents perform quicker than they are capable of. Supporting players must move into position quickly to reduce his decision making.


This involves the defenders intention to show or hold up the player. It takes into account the characteristics of the opponent:

If he is better on his right or left foot,
Does he like to come inside or outside
Does he like to shoot, dribble or pass

This depends on If the play is overloaded and how far are we from goal. It also involves limiting the operating choices and options as well as gaining control of the situation by having correct distances, angles and changes of position. The defender must be aware of possible, and speedy changes of position and balance. Making play predictable by patience and decision making. Decisions to push the opponents in which direction and why, and to work the opponent and when to tackle.


Marking involves allowing an opponent to receive a pass under limited and controllable conditions as well as preventing him from receiving a pass. Preventing an opponent turning and discouraging the man on the ball to pass to the man your marking. You will have to be aware of marking distance, angle, stance and movement, changes of position as well as body shape. The marker will have to make the following decisions:

Can I intercept and then create
Spoil and recover
Push back and stick

Recovery runs

Central areas. Get goal side in the most direct route to goal and then reassess your situation. Can you challenge, mark another attacker, cover space or prevent the player running directly at goal.
Wide areas. Your run should be in a line with the near post if you are out wide and not at the wide man if he is going to cross and you can’t get there. If you run in a line towards the near post then you can prevent him from coming inside and maybe you can block the cross.


Use your arms for balance, you should crouch as low as you can so that you are ready to spring. Your weight should be over your toes so that you can move quickly into action.


A very important way of preventing an emergency situation from happening is to delay your opponents as long as possible.

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.

A complete shooting practice

Age group: U8 – U12

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

Instep Warm Up

soccer coaching game

The Game

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


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

Instep Passing

soccer coaching game

The Game

In pairs, players make instep passes back and forth.


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

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

Instep Squares

soccer coaching game

The Game

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

Coaching Points

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

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

Steal The Bacon

soccer coaching game

The Game

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

Coaching Points

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

Bread & Butter

soccer coaching game

The Game

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

Coaching Points

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

3 Goals

soccer coaching game

The Game

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

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

Central Goal Shooting

soccer coaching game

The Game

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

Coaching Points

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

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

Coaching Points

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

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

Coaching Points

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

Attacking skills


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A complete shooting practice

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Shooting accuracy

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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

U11 – U14 possession practice plan

We have all seen it – a team masterfully knocking the ball around ad nauseam but accomplishing very little. 

Suddenly, one or two defenders close down an attacker, there is a miscue – a poorly weighted pass or a poor receiving angle – a defender picks off a pass and there is a counterattack, most likely resulting in a goal. This type of ball possession can be very boring or very exciting, depending on which team you are playing.

Here are a few exercises gleaned from various local and international coaches aimed at improving ball control and encouraging possession with a purpose – scoring goals!


Light jogging, juggling, Coervers, free-form passing in 3s – interspersed with stretching.  Emphasize the stretching.

Dutch Game

3 teams (example; 5 reds. 5 blues, and 5 whites) in a 40×30 yard area – adjust grid to size of teams – playing 10v5, 8v4 or 6v3.  Two teams (red and blue) play keep away from the other team (white).  See how many consecutive passes you can complete.  If a red player loses the ball to a white player, the whites and blues play against the reds, and so on.  You can progress from unlimited touches to 3 touches, 2 touches and then one touch.

Emphasize sharp, crisp, accurate, and properly weighted passing, off the ball runs,  good passing and receiving angles, and good communication.  Players should keep their heads up and look long, medium and then short for passing opportunities.  Avoid continuous passing around the perimeter of the grid.  Encourage players to check into the middle of the grid to become target players.  Some of the Dutch professional teams use this as a warm-up.


More and more teams are shifting from man-to-man defending to zonal defending.  In order to disrupt these zonal defenses, teams have found it necessary for their players to be able to make sharp, accurate passes to teammates across the pitch to quickly change the point of attack.  When Johan Cruyff was at Barcelona, they incorporated this exercise into their training.  In an area slightly larger than the penalty area, or larger rectangular area (depending on skill level and success rate), play 8v8 keep-away with the restriction that no pass can be less than 15 yards or 20 yards (pick one).  Count the number of consecutive passes.  All passes should be played as hard as possible to receiving players – almost to the point of blasting it across the ground.  Players will be forced to get into receiving positions and to make good first touch receptions.  Again, you can progress from unlimited touches to 3 touch, 2 touch and then a final one-touch melee.  At first this will not go well and balls will be flying everywhere.  Be patient and stay with it.  You will be amazed at the energy level this creates, the first touch control the players develop, the crispness of the passing. Also, the players will quickly learn they have to think well ahead of every pass.

Emphasize: (1) long, crisp ground passes; (2) getting into receiving and supporting positions quickly; and (3) good first touch control – relax the foot; (4) good communication.


In a 40×30 yard grid with a 2×3 yard grid in the center of the larger grid. Two teams of equal players.

Team A puts a player in the small center grid and scores a goal every time the ball is played into the center grid player and back out again to a Team A teammate (ground passes, volleys, headers all count as goals if successfully played back out to a Team A player).  Team B tries to keep Team A from scoring.  Team B scores a goal if it completes 5 consecutive passes.  Team A tries to disrupt Team B and intercept passes. Reverse the teams.

Danish Game – With Neutral Players

In a 60×30 yard or 60×40 yard grid with 5 yard end zones at each end of the grid.  Neutral players occupy the end zones (they can be field players or GKs); no challenges in the end zone.  Two teams (red and blue) play up and down the length of the grid possessing the ball as much as possible.  Either team (in this example, red team) scores a goal when it successfully gains possession, travels to either end zone A or B (for this example end zone A), makes a successful pass into the end zone to the neutral player, receives a return pass (to any player on the passing team), then travels back to end zone B, makes and receives a return pass, and then travels back to end zone A and makes and receives a return pass.  After you intercept a pass, you can attack either end zone A or end zone B (it doesn’t matter in which direction you start), but in order to score a goal, you must traverse the grid to the opposite end zone, and return to the original end zone where you started (ABA or BAB).  Players may also use neutral players at either end zone for back passes to relieve pressure.  Emphasize ball possession while traversing the area.  You can work on one-twos, wall passes, takeovers, and selling dummies, all with the purpose of going forward.  Look long, medium and short.  GKs can participate in the end zones or on the pitch using both their hands and feet.

Danish Game – Without neutral players

Same game only with empty end zones; a team has to send a player into the end zone to receive and return a pass; no challenges in the end zone – repeat at both ends as before to score a goal.    


Set up a 12×9 yard grid: place discs at 3 yard intervals along the 12 yard length, and then place discs at 3 yard intervals across the width.  Two teams of 6 players each go into the grids as follows.


x     x     x     x     x

A     B     A    B

x     x     x     x     x

A     B     A    B

x     x     x     x     x

A     B     A    B

x     x     x     x     x


Team A tries to make accurate passes through Team B to teammates A in the 3rd grid area.  A’s and B’s can interpass or change places only in their grid.  A’s and B’s cannot leave their respective grids to receive or intercept passes.  If B’s intercept, B’s try to complete passes through team A to teammates B in the next grid over.  Teams compete to complete the most number of passes.  Extra players are divided evenly and fill in with their respective teams.  Switch A’s and B’s grid positions.  Losing team does slow shuttles while picking up a disc on each shuttle.  Winning team starts stretching and is joined later by losing team.

Team stretches together.

Shooting accuracy

Improve your team’s shooting accuracy!

soccer coaching drill – shooting

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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