The World Champion, highly successful women’s soccer team were pretty impressive in the recent World Cup in France. There was an interesting quote from USA co-captain and, we might controversially conclude, star player, Megan Rapinoe. ‘There are no stars,’ she stated, in various forms to different journalistic outlets. Yet when we watch young players starting out on their soccer playing careers the story is very different. The Under seven side we are coaching might not provide future internationals, but even if it did, the chances are the following statement would be true: Every player is a star. There are soccer training drills that can help promote this.
Of course, they are, mommy and daddy’s little star. Grandparents’ miniature Messi too. But also, superstars in their own minds. Young kids have a highly attuned sense of self. They need to. The human race hasn’t yet evolved out of the state of survival of the fittest…and strongest. If it comes to competing for mommy’s milk, then sharing probably equates to starving. Giving up daddy’s attention to their little sister will most likely not be repaid when the both our altruistic child and his or her sibling next want a bit of parental time.
So naturally enough, the same ego driven psychology takes place when it comes to the soccer pitch. Very young players see the game in terms of themselves. How far they can dribble, how well they can shoot. Since passing inevitably gives the attention to someone else, it is best not contemplated.
Therefore, how do we, as coaches, bridge the gap between the egotistic player and the team player? It is not easy. The answer is repetition, repetition and repetition, this alongside praise for team play. Reward the dribble every time with a positive comment, and that is what the child will associate with good play. (Of course, we are not advocating the castigation of every child who departs on a bit of wing play, or suggest the coach sends them, tail between their legs, to the bench. A happy medium is important in soccer just as it is in everyday life.
Here are some drills to get players used to working together rather than as individuals. The drills focus on play in triangles, the strongest shape on a soccer pitch. The drills are straightforward, but effective. They can be adapted to the strengths and experience of our squads. When working with kids, simple is always best. Young players don’t want to spend hours watching complex drills, they want to get on with the action.
Triangle Warm Up
Here, the aim is simply to get the children moving. The drill works with four to six players. The cones are 10 metres apart, and passing should be crisp, accurate and along the floor. The coach can encourage movement, correct body position for receiving the pass and movement as the drill takes place.
(Note: in the diagrams, blue lines equal movement of players, red lines movement of the ball.)
- Pass firmly with the instep;
- Run to where the ball is passed.
- Receiver gets on the half turn to receive the pass;
- First touch position takes the ball slightly away from the player, but under control, and in the direction of the next pass.
The coach can introduce developments to stretch players and differentiate between various ability levels. Ideas include:
- Taking the touch with the weaker foot;
- One touch passing;
- Changing the direction of the movement of the ball.
This development of the basic triangle will help to develop the concept of team play in a group of juniors. Focus on movement and good basic skills.
- Movement is simple; A passes to B, then runs between B and C; B passes to C, then runs between A and C. C passes to A, then runs between A and B.
- Encourage short, 8 to 10 metre passes; start with two or three touches – control then pass;
- Encourage all players to keep their heads up, and to communicate.
- Add a defender to create a small degree of opposition to increase pressure on the strikers; if the defender wins the ball, then the last attacker to play swaps and becomes the new defender;
- As players become better at the drill, make the area in which they play smaller.
- Introduce a goalkeeper (a defender can also be included with strong groups);
- Define the area in which the drill takes place;
- Players must make at least six passes before getting into position for a shot at goal.
- For clubs with the resources, mannequins can be placed around which the triangles must move.
Triangles to create shooting opportunities
This is a fun drill because it keeps players active and interested and can also be used with a large group with regular rotation. Three attackers and a goalkeeper are needed.
Player one passes the ball to player two and runs on into the space. Player two passes to player three and makes a run towards the pass he or she has made and beyond player three. Player three lays the ball off to either player one or two, who must shoot first time or after one touch. Player three then chases in the shot on goal.
- Passes must be firm and along the ground;
- Players must communicate to ensure that the pass setting up the shot is delivered into the right place;
- Players swap positions after each round.
The best bit of any session for a child or (let’s be honest) an adult player is the game at the end. This motivation is cultivated by the best coaches who use the game to work on skills they have drilled through the session.
During the course of the game the coach is constantly encouraging movement to create triangles. Periodically they stop the game to point out strengths and weaknesses of positions. Keep this kind of intervention brief, as the players will be anxious to get on with their game. However, positive feedback will reinforce good technique.
There is no doubt that triangles are ideal for soccer training with kids. Right up to professional level they are the basic shape teams try to achieve, so they make sense tactically. However, because there are only three players in a triangle there is much involvement which helps kids to develop their skills and retain interest in games.
Further, the vital skill of communication is developed. Sometimes, the patterns of a full game can be overwhelming to any player, so this is especially the case with younger soccer stars to be. Simplifying the game down to three player triangles makes understanding the flow of a match easier, and that encourages players to communicate.
If we understand what is happening, we are much more prepared to contribute to the process.
Your Soccer Training Home
If you liked this post, you’ll like our post on cultivating a desire for success.