Those of us blessed with coaching teams of young soccer players really won the lottery. What can be better than working with enthusiastic kids, who dote on our every word and whose energy and vitality makes every session a joy? Fun soccer games for kids add to the joy.
As long as we keep our sessions positive, we can help these young people not only to improve in their soccer, but also to become better people. We will be teaching the importance of collaboration, how to win with modesty and lose with dignity. We will be assisting them to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle while having fun in doing so.
But we have responsibilities as well. We remember that winning is far more important to adults than it is to children. Of course, young players prefer winning over losing, but defeat is something that does not bear heavily on them (and nor should it) while victory is a short-lived joy. Tough love, of the sort many of we coaches will have experienced growing up, rarely produces good results.
Praise beats criticism all ways up; a confident player with good self esteem will be a stronger player than one who doubts themselves. Coaching is about helping our students to find a better way, not training them out of their natural creativity. Making mistakes is an important part of the journey to becoming a successful player.
Most of all, though, we need to ensure that our sessions are fun. That they involve every player in the squad, not just the best. That they are active, with an element of light competitiveness.
Further, here are four great drills which will not only help our young players to improve but will also provide them with plenty of fun.
Drill One: Ghost Attack (Under 6 upwards, best for U8-U12)
Aim: To dispossess a player
Soccer Skills: Control, dribbling, tackling, support for teammates.
Equipment: Plenty of balls and two or three bibs.
A large grid, say the size of a penalty area, is laid out. Each player is given a ball, except for the ghost or ghosts, who are identified with a bib.
The players dribble the ball around the area, while the ghost or ghosts (aim for about a 1-6 ratio) attempt to dispossess the players and kick the ball out of the grid. Encourage players to keep their heads up and move the ball with small touches so that they can change direction easily. They should also look to accelerate away from ‘ghosts’.
The ghosts should work on harrying the players into making a mistake, choosing their moment to make a tackle when control is lost.
When a player is disposed, they must collect their ball, take up a position inside the grid and hold the ball above their heads, with their legs apart. They become live again when a teammate passes their ball thorough their legs.
Play for three or four minutes before changing the ghosts. The drill works as a good warm up and can be played for ten to fifteen minutes.
Drill Two: Rush Hour (Under 8s upwards, best for U10-U12)
Aims: To protect the ball; to make accurate short passes.
Soccer Skills: Control, dribbling, short passing, protecting the ball, developing mental strength, developing awareness, concentration and anticipation.
Equipment: plenty of balls and two or three bibs.
This is a great drill which develops numerous soccer skills in a fun, semi competitive situation. It requires good awareness of what is happening around the player. As with Ghost Attack, it can be used as a fun warm up, as well as a drill in its own right.
A 30 x 30 meter grid works well with around ten to twelve players. Each has a ball. The aim is for every player to keep control of their ball, moving all the time, while developing an awareness of the rest of the pitch.
Each player attempts to achieve two goals: Firstly, they must protect their ball from being hit by another ball; secondly, they must aim to ‘pass’ their ball to hit that of an opponent.
Encourage players to keep their heads up, moving the ball with close touches so they can change direction easily. They should focus on protecting the ball when danger is spotted and anticipate the direction of movement of an opponent’s ball so that they can pass into the space into which he or she is running.
Various elements of competition can be added:
Two points every time a player hits an opponent’s ball with their own, lose a point every time their own ball is hit.
Some players can be identified with a bib, and hitting their ball counts for double, while being hit by it means a double points deduction.
Players keep their own score and must resolve their own disputes over whose ball hits whose, when there is doubt. This helps to build fortitude and embed the lesson of getting on with the game.
Drill Three: Shoot on Sight (Under 7s upwards, best for U10 upwards)
Every player loves shooting, and this drill gives plenty of opportunities.
Aim: To shoot with power and accuracy.
Soccer Skills: First touch, shooting and anticipating.
Equipment: Plenty of balls, two goals.
Two goals twenty-five meters apart are set up. There are two teams of six. These are made up of a keeper, four shooters and one striker, who is the only player allowed in their opponent’s half.
The coach has a supply of balls at the side and passes randomly into the play to start each session. Players look to control the ball and shoot; their striker can play for any rebounds. Once the ball goes out of play, or the coach feels a team are not shooting quickly enough, a new ball is played in and the old one is knocked out of play.
Drill Four: Finishing (U10 upwards, best for U11-U13s)
This drill is great fun and works well as the final drill of a session or leading up to a game.
Aim: To score
Soccer Skills: Heading (where permitted), shooting, dribbling.
Equipment: Plenty of balls.
Like all the best drills, this one is very simple. As long as the action is fast, and the group does not exceed ten, it works very well. The coach stands at the side with a collection of balls. There is a goalkeeper and the remaining players line up five meters outside the penalty area.
The coach shouts ‘Go’ and feeds the ball into the first player in the line. This player then attempts to score. The ball can be fed for a diving header (very popular in muddy weather!!), for a dribble, for a first time shot or for a volley.
The coach can shout the nature of his feed to help the player, if needed, and might call ‘Defender!’ In this case, the second player in the line attempts to put pressure on the attacker to stop the attempt on goal. Encourage strikers to get into position quickly, to develop a good first touch, whether it is a control or shot, and take the ball early. Concentrate on the key body positions for shooting; head over the ball, striking with the laces or instep, smooth follow through, arms for balance, non-kicking foot firmly planted, pointed in the direction the ball with travel.
Have two keepers, who swap after each attempt. If a goal is scored, the keeper returns the ball to the coach, if not, the striker fetches it. If a defender is used, they become the next striker, so that they do not miss out on their chance.
Each of these drills has been widely tested, and prove to be successful and fun when used, provided keep the action fast paced and positive.
The following link has some good ideas for drills and sessions which young players will enjoy:
Your Soccer Coaching Home