Drills are used to enable players to practice and improve specific aspects of the game and once the drill is set up and running the coach should then advise, correct and encourage the players. The drill is a means to an end and not an end in itself. When using drills remember to:
- Vary the drill to prevent monotony.
- Explain the purpose of the drill.
- Don’t continue the same drill too long.
- Try to make the drill fun.
- Follow difficult drills with easy ones and vice versa.
1. Spiders and Bugs – Mark three lines 20 metres long and 15 metres apart as shown in the diagram below:
Divide players into two equal teams. Each team should stand alongside the centre line about two metres apart and all facing forward. Name one team Spiders (the ‘S’ in the diagram above) and one team Bugs (the ‘B’s). When you call ‘Spiders’! or ‘Bugs’! that team has to sprint for the end line nearest them. The other team tries to tag them. Anyone who is tagged joins the other team. Continue only until the players start to breathe heavily (that is, don’t exhaust them or keep going until only one player is left).
2. The Zipper Drill – Make a square about 20m by 20m. Divide team into two groups. Players start on cone A and run down to cone B. When they pass cone B they run diagonally to the opposite corner and across the other group, they now start from cone A again. Different exercises can include: slow jogging, stopping and turning, skipping (forwards, sideways, backwards), faster jogging, striding out, sprinting, three steps to the right then three steps to the left, high knees, heel flicks and ‘jump and head’. Progressions can include players giving each other a ‘high five’ in the middle and sprinting to A, turning before the ‘zip’, or introduce a ball.
3. Musical Balls – Each player, with their own ball, dribbles around a large area. They should be moving at a steady pace, avoiding each other and keeping their heads up. After they have been dribbling for a while, call out the word ‘CHANGE’. Each player must stop their ball, leave it where it is, and run around the circle looking for another ball. It is important they get to new balls right away and continue dribbling. After allowing them to get comfortable with the concept of the drill, remove one player‟s ball. This player now must run around the drill without a ball. When the next ‘Change’ comes about that person must try and find a ball, leaving another player without a ball to dribble. Any player who doesn’t end up with a ball after a ‘Change’ has to run round the area. Just be careful that the same player doesn’t lose out every time. Players are not allowed to swap balls with the same person two consecutive times, and make sure that they are using the entire area. Finally, make sure that the players are practicing moves and turns within the area, not just dribbling straight all the time. They should be weaving in and out of each other at a realistic speed.
4. All Skills Warm Up – Set up teams of 4 or 5 players facing a line of cones evenly spaced about ten metres apart. In the diagram below, ‘X’s mark the children and the cones are shown with a ‘C’.
Start with simple shuttle races (players run to and from each of the cones in turn). When they have run to the first cone, back to the beginning, to the second cone, back to the beginning and so on until they have run to all cones, they hand over to the next in line. The first team to finish is the winner.
Then tell the players that the handovers require the successful completion of a basic skill. For example, place a ball between each line and the first cone. After running to all of the cones, the runner must handover to the next in line by passing the ball to her or him, receiving a return pass and then passing it back. This exercise has to performed correctly before the next in line can go. After passing try other skills such as heading or side foot volleys.
5. Three Ball Keep Away – Start with two teams of equal numbers and three soccer balls. On your signal, players try to possess as many balls as possible. In this game, players must be good passers of the ball to keep possession. They must also make decisions on where to run when they don’t have the ball, when to pass or dribble, and whom to pass to. On your second signal the play stops and the team in possession of two or more balls wins that round. Repeat several times.
6. Reaction Warm-Up – This is a good warm-up exercise that warms up the brain as well as the feet. It is a good activity to find out who can think quickly – and also who knows their left from their right!
Set-up: Make a circle with cones – one for each player. Players should face the centre of the circle. If there are a large number of players, make two (or three) circles. The size of the circle will depend on the age of the players but even a small circle is good enough if the drill is done at pace. Players stand at each cone and the coach calls out a variety of instructions that players must follow. For example, ‘2 left’ (players all have to run to the cone 2 places to their left) or ‘3 right, 1 left’ (3 cones to the right then back one cone to the left) or ‘2 right, centre, 1 left’ (2 cones to the right, run to the centre and back, then 1 cone to the left).
Variations: The drill can be done with or without a ball, specify the type of steps players have to use between each cone (for example, sidesteps, backwards, turn and run), have players sit down after each instruction to get practice getting on their feet quickly.
7. Quick Reactions – Players line up behind each other in a straight line with cones 10m away on their left and right. The coach stands opposite them and shouts instructions (for example, “run left”, “jump right”, “skip left”, “hop right”, “sidestep left”. The players move to the line of cones indicated and back to the centre for the next instruction.
1. Monkey-in-the-Middle – Break the team up into groups of three, with one ball to a group. Volunteer one player to be the monkey-in-the-middle. The two other players try to pass the ball past the ‘monkey’ without letting her or him control it. Once the ‘monkey’ traps the ball, the last player to touch the ball takes her or his place. The two outside players must control the ball, or they will have to switch with the ‘monkey’.
2. Rapid Fire – Have the team form a circle around a single player. If possible, every player except the middle player should have a ball. Have each team member take turns passing the ball to the player in the centre. This player tries to trap and control the ball, and then passes it back to the original player. Have each team member take a turn as the middle player. If there is limited equipment the player in the middle starts with a ball and passes to a player standing in the circle. That player then passes it back to the middle player who then passes the ball to a different player in the circle.
3. Continue Down the Line – Divide team members into groups of four players with one ball for each group. Select one player to be the server. The three remaining players should line up, side by side, facing the server. The server will take turns serving the ball to each player who must trap and control before returning it to the server. Continue in this fashion, alternating the server.
4. Flight ball – Divide team into pairs, giving each pair one ball and a mark an area on the ground. One player will be the server, who is to serve the ball in the air to any location in the other player‟s half of the area. This player must move to the ball, trap it, and return it to the server. Alternate roles after every 10 serves.
5. 4 v 1 Keep-Away – Divide team members into groups of five. Use a square area about 10m by 10m for each group with a player at each corner and one in the middle. Players must keep the ball away from defender in middle while keeping ball in the area. For more advanced players use 3 v 1 or 3 v 2 with one open corner (player must move to support). Tips: Reduce the size of the area as players get better. Keep score by counting passes. Don’t be too strict in keeping ball in square – let play continue unless blatantly out of square.
6. Protect the Cone – Use a 20m by 30m area. Divide the players into four teams. Each player has a ball. Each team sets up three or four cones to protect on one side of the space. Teams decide which players will defend and attack. The game begins with players defending their cones or trying to knock down the other teams’ cones, while controlling their own soccer ball. When a team‟s cones are knocked down, the team is out. The team with the last standing cone is the winner. Tips: Make sure the turnover time for this game is quick so that the 1st team knocked out is not waiting at the sidelines for a long time.
1. Keep Away – Using cones, mark boundary proportionate to group size. Each player has a ball. On signal, dribble ball within boundary and try to kick other players‟ balls out of the area. Players whose ball is kicked out of area must retrieve ball and dribble around area before returning to game.
2. The Stop and Go – This is simply a change of pace. Players jog slowly with the ball, and then on “go” a burst of speed until the coach says “stop”. The key is a change of pace with the ball. Players can also put the sole of their foot on top of the ball when stopping the ball and then push it forward with the instep when they break off on the dribble again. Add a defender to simulate a game situation.
3. Beehive – In a 20m x 20m square each player has a ball. Players dribble inside the area avoiding other players. Players should practice inside and outside foot dribbling, stopping changing direction and pace, and maintaining control while in the beehive.
4. King of the Ring – In a 20m x 20m square each player has a ball except one player who is ‘it’. Players start to dribble inside the area while trying to avoid having their ball kicked out of the area by the player who is ‘it’. Players may re-enter area after retrieving their ball.
5. Shadow Dribbling – Have players pair up, each with a ball. The first player (leader) dribbles while the second player follows, also dribbling. The second player must copy what the leader does. Players have to try to keep their heads up. Encourage creative dribbling – changes in direction, pace, and technique. Stress control and change leaders frequently.
6. One on One – Players pair up, each couple with a ball in a square with cones at each corner. The player with the ball is ‘on the attack’ and the other player is the defender. The attacking player tries to dribble to any of the cones and touch the cone with the ball. The defending player tries to prevent this. Players switch possession of ball when attacker accomplishes his/her goal or when the ball goes out of bounds.
7. Dribble across a square – This is a good way to evaluate dribbling skill. It teaches general ball control, dribbling, and the importance of looking up while dribbling. Players also develop their peripheral vision, practice shielding the ball and improve their ability to speed up if they get in the clear.
Use 4 cones to make a square about 10 or 12 steps wide (smaller or larger depending on age and number of players). Every player has a ball. Spread players around the square, all facing inward (see diagram.)
All players start on “Go” and each player dribbles across and back. They must do a ‘Pullback’ (putting the bottom of the foot on top of ball to stop it and pulling it back in the direction you came from) or a ‘Hook Turn’ (pulling the toes up and turning the foot so the outside of the foot can “hook” the ball, stop it and pull it back) to turn. Tell players to look up while they dribble so they don’t run into each other. The first to 12 is the winner (each turn is 1 point). Tell players to yell ‘Done’ when finished and ask each player his/her score at the end of the game. Play 2 or 3 games. For the second game, the first to 10 is the winner and for the third game, the first to 8 is the winner.
Coaching points: when in “traffic” (surrounded by other players), keep the ball close to the feet to protect it, learn how to look up while dribbling by keeping the ball close to the feet, when in the ‘open’ (out of traffic) kick the ball and run to it to go faster, but still keep it under control to turn.
1. Basic Passing – Divide the group into partners, giving each pair a ball. Have the players pass and trap the ball, while you evaluate their skill. Later, introduce one touch control passing (or passing the ball without first trapping it).
2. Triangle Pass – Set up a three player triangle. Each group has one ball. Players try to pass around the triangle shape. Make sure they reverse the direction of the passes from time to time. After a certain level of proficiency is reached, add a defender to try and intercept the passes.
3. Pass and Follow – One player stands in the centre of a circle. One of the players in the circle passes the ball to the player in the centre, follows the pass and takes the place of player in the middle. Meanwhile, the player in the centre traps the ball and passes to another player on the outside, following the pass and taking the place of the player passed to. The player with the ball traps the ball, passes it to the centre player and follows the pass. Continue around the circle. As the players improve, put another ball into play and/or impose restrictions (for example, one-touch play or alternate side-of-the-foot).
4. Pressure Passing – Set up a circle of cones about 10m in diameter. One player stands in the middle, the rest space themselves out equally around the edge of the circle. The player in the middle receives the ball from a player on the edge, controls it, turns and passes to another player. As soon as she or he passes the ball out, a second ball is played in from the edge of the circle. As soon as this ball is passed out to a player on the edge of the circle the first ball is played in again and so on. The middle player has to run quickly backwards and forwards to provide passes to the rest of the circle. Swap the middle player after one minute. Stress the importance of good, crisp and accurate passing. The middle player must keep their head up and look at the target. Vary the game by only allowing two touches, then one touch. Played properly, this is an intensive and fun workout.
5. Keep Away Ring – Players pair up and stand across from each other around a circle of cones. One player stands inside the circle and tries to intercept passes made between the players. Passes made between the players count as goals. Change the players in the circle after a pass is intercepted or after a short time.
6. Cone Game – Players stand in a circle, facing a partner on the opposite side. Set up 6 or 8 cones in the middle of the circle as targets. Players try to knock over the cones in the middle with accurate passes.
7. Four Corner Pass – Set up a 10 by 10 metre square with cones at each of the corners. Four players on each side of the square have one ball between them. They attempt to pass the ball to each other, but may only run between the cones on their side of the area. A fifth player inside the area tries to steal the ball. Change the middle defender frequently.
8. Circle Passing – Many of the basic circle games can be used to practice passing. Try using a circle with two players in the middle trying to intercept passes made by the players on the outside. The player whose pass is intercepted goes into the middle.
9. Triangles – This is a good way to reinforce basic passing skills with the added bonus of introducing vision and awareness. Divide into groups of three. Player 1 passes to player 2 then immediately runs between player 2 and 3. Player 2 passes to player 3 and runs through the gap between player 3 and player 1. And so on. Done properly, this is a fast game that reinforces the pass/move combination, makes players look carefully to find their next target and requires good passing technique. Just be careful the players don‟t all disappear out of sight!
10. Relays – You can use a passing and moving relay race with a set up like this:
The basic practice is A passing to D and running to the back of the line, D passing to B and so on. Practice this for a few minutes (watching for and praising correct technique) then add the requirement that players must shout out the name of the person they are passing to. If they don’t, send them back and make them do it again. Adding this rule has the following benefits: it makes the players talk, it makes them look up to see who they are passing to, and if done at the start of a season it helps introduce the new players to each other. This game can be made competitive by making the first team to do 20 passes the winner. Many variations are possible. For example, go from two touches to one touch.
1. Marbles – Players are organised into pairs, each with a ball. Standing with her or his back to the field of play, the first player throws the ball over her or his head. The second player then kicks their ball from the starting point and tries to hit the ball that was thrown. Play alternates by kicks until one ball is hit. The players then change over and start again. Coaches should emphasize instep kicks for length and the side of the foot for accuracy. Make it a condition that in every other game only the left foot is allowed to be used.
2. Shoot Between Cones – Set up a row of cones 3 to 5 metres apart. Pair up players and put one player on each side of the line facing the cones and each other. Players should start close to the row of cones at first, striking the ball between the cones. The partner receives ball and passes it back through the cones. Move players further apart as their technique and accuracy improve.
3. Go For Goal – Players form two lines on either side of the coach who is standing 20 metres from a goal. The coach serves the ball toward the goal line while one player races to win the ball and shoot. As skills improve, add a goalkeeper. The coach should encourage correct shooting technique and a good first touch on the ball.
4. Quick Shot – Divide players into groups of three, and give each group one ball and two cones. Set the cones up as a goal, and have one player be the goalkeeper. The remaining two players should be on opposite sides of the goal, facing each other. They take turns shooting on goal. When the goalkeeper makes a save, he should turn and roll the ball to the other player. Switch goalkeepers often.
5. Cone Kick Down – This is played just like a regular small sided game, but instead of having a goal to shoot at set up five cones along each goal line. The first team to knock down all five cones wins. There are no goalkeepers.
6. Shot Against Goalkeeper – Divide the team into pairs. Give each pair one ball and four cones. Set the cones up as two separate goals, about 10 metres apart. Every player stands in front of a goal and takes turns shooting and being the goalkeeper. Initially, have the players shoot a stationary ball. Then have them stand behind their goal line and dribble up to it before shooting or have the goalkeeper roll the ball to the shooter for a one-touch shot.
7. Pass and Shoot – Set up two cones as a goal at one end of the square and divide the group in half. Pick one player to start as goalkeeper. Then line one group up behind the goal, with one ball for each player. Line the other group up fifteen feet in front of the goal, in the centre. The first player in the line behind the goal should pass the ball to the first player in the centre line. This person then traps the ball and takes a shot on goal. After their turns, the players should get in the end of the alternate line (players who took shots need to retrieve the ball if needed). Switch goalkeepers often. For large groups, two games can be set up at opposite ends of the square. Later, have the shooting line take their shots with only one touch.
8. 3 v 3 One Goal – A normal 3-a-side game in an area approximately 30m by 20m, except that it is played around one goal rather than two (two cones placed in the middle of the area). There is one goalkeeper to defend the goals from both teams. Team A can score only from the left side of the field, and team B only from the right side. Players combine to create goal-scoring opportunity. Emphasise shooting at goal at the earliest opportunity. Re-start game with a throw-in any time the ball goes out of bounds. When goalkeeper makes a save from one team, she or he throws the ball into the opposing half of the field. Change the goalkeeper often.
9. Cone Ball – Can be played 4v4v4. Put a large cone (or similar) in the middle of the field. The three teams play against each other. To score a team simply has to hit the target (the cone). Add a 5 metre exclusion zone around the cone and introduce a goalkeeper to this area.
1. Self Heading – Players ‘head’ the ball out of their hands and catch it. The ball should start being held against each player’s forehead. The player then pulls head/upper body back while holding ball still and then strikes the ball. Concentrate on eyes open, mouth closed, hit with proper part of forehead (contact the ball with the forehead area between hairline and eyebrows).
2. Self Heading (in pairs) – Players form pairs, each pair with a ball, and stand about 5 metres apart. One player heads the ball to their partner using technique described above. Partner catches and heads back.
3. Partner Heading – In pairs, one player tosses the ball gently to the other player who heads it back. Continue for 10 consecutive headers and change.
4. The Heading Game – In 10 by 5 metre square, players take it in turn to head ball over opponent’s goal line by pulling ball back and using their own momentum to head the ball. The player who is attempting to stop the ball can use their hands or dive if necessary.
5. Three Person Heading – Have one player stand in the middle of two others, who each have one ball. The outside players take turns tossing the ball gently for the middle player to head it back. The middle player must head one ball, spin around and head the other ball, then back again. Continue for a given number of headers (10-20), and switch the player in the middle.
6. Target Heading – Players form groups of three (two tossing the ball and one heading it). The first player gently tosses the ball for the second player to head in the direction of the third player, who is standing to the side (at a 90° angle). This player catches the ball, and tosses it gently for the second player to head it back to the first. Continue for a given number of headers (10-20) and switch the player heading the ball. Encourage accuracy of the headers.
7. Keep It Up – In pairs, one player tosses the ball gently to the other player who heads it back. The first player tries to head the ball back and players try to keep the ball from hitting the ground only by using their heads. Encourage players to keep count of how many times they head the ball and try to beat their best effort. Join two pairs together and have them try to make the balls collide mid-air.
8. Volley Football – Two teams stand at either end of a 10m by 5m area with a centre line (similar to volleyball court). Place benches or cones along the centre of the court to represent a net. Game begins with throw-in to teammate who heads ball over net. The opponent must header the ball back before it bounces twice. Points are scored as in volleyball.
9. Circle Keep It Up – Players form a circle of 4 or 5. The drill begins by one player tossing the ball gently to another player in the circle. The group must then try to keep the ball up for as long as possible only using their heads. Teams can count the highest number of consecutive headers to determine which group is the winner.
10. The Heading Game 2×2 – Players are paired up to play 2v2 in a 10 by 10 metre square. One pair has ball and tries to advance down field heading the ball to each other (without it touching the ground). Once they get near the other teams goal line then one of them can attempt to head it past their line to score. The other team stays on their goal line and attempts to save the ball. Once the ball hits the ground or is saved, the two heading retreat to their goal line and the other 2 begin to try to keep the ball in the air and advance up the field to score.
1. Soft Catch – Play game in pairs throwing and catching ball. Try to make no sound as the ball hits the hands (this is almost impossible!)
2. Keepers Nest 3 v 1 – Place three cones in a triangle 10 metres apart. One player is inside the triangle as the keeper. The other three try to possess the ball and score goals by moving the keeper out of position and playing the ball through two cones on the opposite side of the triangle. If the keeper intercepts the ball, the player who played the ball last becomes the new keeper.
3. American Football – Divide the group into teams and players use their hands to pass. Concentrate on proper hand position under pressure. If a player has the ball in her or his hands they cannot move their feet. Players cannot grab the ball if it is in a player’s hands! Instead of making goals for the teams to score in, create an end zone at either end of the small field. A team can score a “touch-down” if they pass the ball to a teammate standing in the end zone (players cannot stand in the end zone for more than 3 seconds).
4. Crocodiles in the River – 20 by 30 metre square. 3 teams of about 4 players and 3 balls. Each team gets five minutes in the middle as goalkeepers (they are the crocodiles in river trying to intercept the ball!) Count the number of interceptions. The other two teams have to play the balls across the “river” back and forth. Introduce calling for the ball, then passing to a teammate on same side. Goalkeeping techniques being used include – anticipation, setting position for shot, and receiving balls. If ball is intercepted have keeper distribute back to the coach.
5. Triangular Goals – Create triangular goals (3 cones 2 metres apart in a triangle shape) in the middle of the penalty area. Play 4v4 within penalty box. One team has 4 attackers, the other 3 keepers and 1 defender. If the ball goes out of the box, or the keepers/defender make a save, switch teams. Let each team keep scores. Then go to larger area – 6v6 or 8v8 in between halfway line and edge of 18 yard box. Open goals up to 6 metres wide. Advance the activity appropriately by asking players to play 3 passes before shooting, having to header a goal or chip over goals to teammate to score!
Small Fun Games
1. 9 x 9 Mobile Wingers – 2 teams of 7 playing in an area approximately 60m x 40m. An additional 2 players per team act as “wingers” playing in a channel just outside the main pitch. These wingers cannot enter the playing area, nor can they tackle one another. Their team-mates can, however, pass to and receive the ball from them. Key Points: Encourage players to use the full width of the pitch in order to “stretch” the defence. Emphasize the need for wingers to cross the ball well and for attackers to make good runs into the penalty area.
2. Your Number’s Up – 2 teams of 10. Teams are divided into 2 groups and 5 from each team are positioned in each corner. When a player’s number is called, he/she must come onto the pitch as quickly as possible and will play against the opponent who has the same number. By calling more than one number, the leader can vary the amount of people playing. Change when a goal is scored or after 2 minutes. Key Points: Emphasize working as a team in attack and defence.
3. Run for your life – 4 teams of 7. Pitch 60m x 40m, 2 teams play a 7 v 7 match, in which the first team to score are the winners. As soon as a goal is scored, the winning team must retrieve the ball from the goal as quickly as possible and play into the opposite goal. The other team leaves the pitch immediately and joins the “queue” to play. The next team must get into the pitch quickly and ensure they are defending the correct goal. Key Points: Speed to thought and movement. Stress importance of organisation in defence.
4. In the Zone – 2 teams of 7 playing in an area approximately 60m x 40m. 2 players from each team must play in each of the 3 zones, i.e. 2 defenders, 2 midfielders and 2 attackers. Players must stay in their zone – mark the zones with cones. (As a progression the midfielders can be allowed to move into their team‟s attacking zone to create a numerical advantage) Key Points: Man-to-man marking, finding space/mobility.
5. Changeover – 2 teams of 7 playing in an area approximately 60m x 40m. An additional 7 players per team stand on the line just outside the pitch and can receive and pass the ball to those actually playing. On a given command (e.g. change), players on the outside swap with those on the pitch.