Practice Drills

So you've decided to coach your child's soccer team! Coaching youth soccer can be both a rewarding and frustrating experience, sometimes even at the same time. You'll come across players who don't want to be there, players who want to be there but have no desire to get in the middle of the action, and players who excel and never want to come off the field.

No matter what level of players you end up with on your team the most important thing is to try and make it fun for everyone. Whether the players mix it up in the game or sit on the sideline if they have fun they'll come back out next season and that's what you're looking for at this age.

With that in mind here are some drills and idea's for practice.

At this age the most important thing is to get the kids used to working with the ball. I see too many teams practicing throw ins and not enough with the ball at their feet. Here are some drills I have found to be helpful.

1.) Settle and Shoot: The players lineup about 5 - 6 yards in front of the goal. I pass the ball from the corner and the player must settle the ball and shoot it into the goal. We don't use goalies for this drill. The skills it works on are settling/trapping the ball and then shooting it on goal. Don't let them take too long to do this.

2.) Around the Globe: This is a drill you'll see basketball players use quite a bit. I think it works well for young soccer players too. We line up 5 balls again about 6 yards out from the goal in an arc. The player starts behind the goal and runs out and shoots each ball at goal as quickly as possible. They are not allowed to dribble they have to shoot each ball in succession as quickly as they can. The player who does it the fastest and score the most number wins. The skill this works on is shoots and doing so at a quick pace.

3.) Red Light Green Light: This is a very common drill for dribbling. Each player has a ball and when you say green light they start dribbling. I like to do this across the field so they can spread out and not be bumping into each other. While they are dribbling you say red light and they must stop where they are with the ball. Any player whose ball is too far out in front of them and out of control is eliminated. I also eliminate the last/slowest player so they can't just walk along with the ball. Skills this addresses - dribbling.

4.) Sharks and Minnows: This is another common drill, though I am not really a big fan of it. Essentially you designate a couple players as sharks, and all the others as minnows. The minnows dribble the ball around a designated area and the sharks try to kick the balls out of the area. The last minnow to have their ball wins. The reason I'm not a big fan of this one is if you have an aggressive player or two, when they are sharks you end up with some kicked ankles. Skills this addresses - dribbling, shielding, tackling.

5.) One vs One: This one is actually one of my favorites. The players make two lines, one on each goal post. I throw a ball out into the field and the first player in each line races out to the ball. The player who gets there first has the ball and turns around to come back to the goal. The other player tries to take the ball from them. Whichever player brings the ball back and scores wins. Skills this addresses - dribbling, shielding, shooting, defense, turning with the ball, running.

6.) Shooting contest: Each player shoots from a spot on the field whoever scores moves on the others are eliminated. I keep changing the distance and angle from goal. This is more of a fun game for them to play.

7.) Dribble around cones: I like to set them out so they have to weave a little bit, make a turn at some point and then shoot on goal. Sometimes I go in front so they can follow me.

Here are some other things we work on.

Goal Kicks: Always kick the ball to the side. Never up the middle. Better to kick it out of bounds than right to a player on the other team in the middle of the goal and can then just shoot and score.

Corner Kicks: At this age I don't like them trying to kick it all the way in front of the goal. I put two players at the corner, one passes to the other and he/she dribbles in closer then either shoots or crosses from there.

Marking Another Player: We'll pretend it's a throw in and let one set of players try to get open, while the other set tries to cover them.

At the end of practice we always have races. We don't run, we have races. Running is not fun, racing is!

There are lots of great drills you can do. Use your imagination and come up with whatever you can think of that is fun and gets the ball at the players feet as much as possible.