One of the main challenges for those working with youth level players is getting them to see the bigger picture when it comes to a match. Only then can they make the correct decision on the field. After all, internationals sometimes make the wrong choices, and therefore inexperienced youngsters are bound to do this far more often.
Getting the right balance with young soccer players is a test of a good coach. Winning should not be the priority when working with children, rather we are looking for them to enjoy the game and develop their own skills.
However, one of the factors which increases enjoyment and encourages the development of individual skills is having success. Therefore, the following drills do contain the sort of tactical elements that are more usually found in adult sessions. Nevertheless, they do work well with young people as long as the following criteria are adhered to:
- Make the session fun;
- Allow failure to be seen as apart of the learning process;
- Keep talk to a minimum and action to a maximum;
- Make goals easy to understand and possible to attain;
- Keep sessions busy, with lots of changes of activity.
Each of the drills below is made up of 4 v3. Four attackers compete against two defenders plus a keeper, or three defenders plus a keeper when they become more experienced and stronger at the practice. The descriptions are based on how to begin the training, a further defender is simply added when the coach feels that the challenge for the offensive side needs to be greater.
Youth Soccer Drill 1: Attack v Defense
This simple drill is ideal to use with young players because it lacks any kind of complexity. It is simply a 4 v 3 activity which includes two defenders and a goalkeeper against four attackers. The aim is get a shot away. Points can be scored as follows (children like a challenge): 1 point for hitting a shot; 3 points for a shot that is saved; 5 points for a goal.
The coach encourages the following key points for the offensive side:
- Create space by players getting wide;
- Pass quickly and along the ground;
- Encourage players to really concentrate on their first touch;
- Encourage communication.
Change the defenders after every three shots. The drill works well if the players are put into teams of two, and when they are attacking (i.e. there are two teams of two working together) any points are given to all four players. That encourages team play.
Youth Soccer Drill 2: Finding space in the box
Here, the aim is to get an overload in the penalty box to increase the chances of scoring. This is a much more controlled activity, but as long as each player works in each position the skills and awareness practiced in the drill can be transferred to the match situation.
- Attacker 1 starts with ball,and dribbles fast down the wing, crossing into the box when they feel the best opportunity to create a shot on goal presents itself;
- Attacker 2 drifts towards the far post and then accelerates towards the near post;
- Attacker 3 drives towards the far post;
- Attacker 4 takes up a position on the edge of the box;
- The defenders decide where they defend; they should learn to cover the biggest danger, that is the player on the ball, and striker running towards the near post.
Youth Soccer Drill 3: Late Burst into the box
At every level, a runner getting into the box late presents a considerable goal threat. The intention here is to get the nominated player (who wears a bib to identify him or her) into the penalty area, where they aim to get away a first or second time shot.
Children learn best when they discover things for themselves. In this drill, only the bibbed player can shoot or score, and only he can enter the box (other than the keeper). Once in the box, the team in possession have five seconds to get the ball to him.
Simply play the 4 v 3 drill, and let the players work out what works. As they discover it, the coach points out that the following works well:
- Make the run late to the far post when the ball is wide;
- Run off the central striker, for the first time flick on;
- Make run that splits the defense, creating an angles for the short pass;
- More runs end up without the pass being received than runs that end in success. Players should not lose heart about this.
Here, the coach makes the first pass from inside the defending half; two strikers head wide to create space; one striker heads centrally to hold up the ball and knock it wide; the fourth player looks to run from deep into the box. He is the one who it should be hard for the defense to mark.
Start by demonstrating how the drill can work, with the assist coming either from wide, or from the central striker, then let the group play, and experiment with systems that work.
Youth Soccer Drill 4: Defending when outnumbered
So far, all of the drills have focused on the offense. Here, we work on defense. With two defenders, the attacking team should get in a shot. However,effective defense can delay this which, in a match, allow additional defenders to get back.
Here, a third defensive player is added who aims to get back before a shot can be played. He begins in his attacking half. The team in possession begin on the half way line. To make the drill fun and competitive, there are two teams of four (including one player who keeps for his side when it is their turn to defend). The aim is concede the fewest points. One point is conceded for a shot off target, three points for a shot on target and ten points for a goal. Each team has three minutes defending, with attackers starting once more from the half way line after a shot.
Let the teams play for a while then introduce tactical elements:
- Defenders back off until a line is reached (the edge of the penalty area is a good guide) when they need to try to make a tackle;
- Defenders defend on the half turn, so that they can change direction easily;
- Defenders focus on the points of greatest danger – that is, the opponent on the ball and the opponent next closest to the ball;
- Because they are outnumbered, they cannot man mark, rather try to slow down the pace of their opponent’s attack;
- Defenders should aim to stay close to each other to prevent passes through them.
The following video clip shows a 4 v 3 drill in action:
Thanks for reading this blog. Check out our blog post on Soccer Drills for Kids
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