When coaching kid’s soccer, it is imperative to get two things right. Firstly, know their names. Greet, them, address them and encourage them by name. It does wonders for their self-esteem and holds them accountable. Secondly, keep training drills simple and fun.
Whilst learning their names can be considered common courtesy, I have for you the 10 best soccer drills for kids that will keep them engaged.
For most drills, you will require agility discs (cones) of some description. Bibs and mini goals will be a convenient accessory to have in your coach’s kit too.
Warm Up Football Drills For Kids
Nothing gets kids more excited at football training than some healthy competition. While I often use Bull Rush to get the kids running, it is also useful in teaching them evasive skills, change of pace & change of direction. However, if the kids had their way, we would be doing it the entire training session. As a result, I use it as a reward for the next session, provided we complete the session plan.
Warm up drills should be fun. With young kids, it is important to get a ball at their feet as early as possible at training. Having a ball and some competition is a great way to get started.
1. Running with the Ball – Catch me if You Can
Catch me if you Can is a simple and effective warm up drill. The objective is to catch up to your opponent and tag them whilst keeping control of the ball.
- Lay out a grid with agility discs that is 15 metres x 5 metres
- Players line up at 2 diagonal corners with only the first player in possession of the ball
- When the coach calls ‘Go!’ a player from each corner runs with the ball around the outside of the grid in a clockwise direction whilst keeping control of the ball
- After they pass the third corner they pass to the next player who sets out
- Players keep going until they catch an opponent from the other team
- Once tagged, recommence.
Skill Objective: Run with the ball and keep control. Light touches and a change of direction with acceleration.
Variations: Left foot only, right foot only, backwards.
2. Running with the Ball – Traffic Cop
Traffic Cop is another fun way to get kids moving and it also involves a ball at their feet.
- Players enter a 15 metre x 15 metre grid (adjust to accommodate the number of players) with all possessing a ball
- When the coach calls ‘Go!’, players run the ball within the grid
- The coach calls a series of traffic signals which reflect football moves
- Red light – STOP and put your foot on the ball;
- Green Light – continue running with ball
- U-Turn – roll the ball backwards with the ball of your foot and turn around and continue running with the ball
- Windscreen Wipers – players to stand still and using the inside of the foot bounce the ball backwards and forwards like a pendulum
- Overtake – accelerate into space
- Left Blinker – Left turn
- Right Blinker – Right turn
Players are to try and avoid collisions. Other signals can be introduced.
Variation: Players to eliminate other motor vehicles by knocking their balls out of the grid whilst keeping their own ball under control, until there is one vehicle left.
Skill Objective: Maintain control of the ball under pressure and utilise space.
3. 1v1 – Race Around the Mountain
Race around the mountain pairs two players against each other to see who can score first.
- Place a goal along one long side of a 30 metre x 20 metre grid
- Place 2 cones on the goal line 10m either side of the goals
- 2 lines stand behind each cone
- Another 2 cones are placed 20 metres away directly in front of the cones on the goal line
- When the Coach calls ‘Go!’ and throws a ball into the area in front of the goal, one player from each line runs around the cone in front of them and tries to score
- The player who doesn’t get to the ball first must try and defend or retrieve the ball and score.
Variation: Swap lines around so players are not using their preferred foot all the time. Assign players number 1 to 5 in both lines. When that number is called, those 2 players must contest against each other.
Skill Objective: Quick change of direction and striking the ball.
4. 1v1 Mini Game
The 1v1 Mini Game is a great way for kids to experiment with evasive skills and change of pace whilst running with the ball.
- Set up a 30 metre x 20 metre grid with a mini goal at each end in the centre of the shorter side
- 3 to 5 players line up at opposite diagonal corners;
- Coach calls ‘Go!’ and throws a ball into the field of play, favouring one team to reduce the likelihood of players running into each other
- 1 player from each line runs around their nearest goal into the field of play
- Players contest the ball, using change of speed, change of direction, evasive skills etc and attempt to score in goal opposite the end from where they started.
Variation: Use extra players around the pitch as support to player with the ball. (Bounce players around grid so they can be passed to and must pass the ball back to the same player).
Skill Objective: Encourage players to use step overs and change of direction, side step (drop the shoulder one way and go the other), stop and drag the ball, protect the ball and run into space.
5. Running with the Ball - 2v2 Work Together
Like the 1v1, players this time contest the ball in pairs. They are to be encouraged to work together to score in their opponent’s goal using evasive skills as well as passing or using their team mate as a decoy to create space for themselves.
- Set up a 30 metre x 20 metre grid with a mini goal at each end in the centre of the shorter side
- Players line up at diagonally opposite corners
- Coach calls ‘Go!’ and throws ball into the field of play favouring one side to avoid collisions
- Players from each corner run around the goal closest to them and contest the ball in the field of play
- Players can run the ball, pass the ball, shoot or use evasive skills to score in their opponent’s goal.
Variation: Set up multiple goals at each end allowing play to spread more, making more opportunity for attack while defenders have to consider more than one possibility.
Skill Objective: Keeping control whilst running with the ball, passing the ball, working together, shooting and evasive skills.
6. Running With the Ball 3v3 – End Zone
This drill takes away a physical goal for players to shoot at with a focus on running with the ball and using team mates to achieve the objective.
- Set up a 25 metre x 20 metre grid with cones on the 4 corners
- There are 3 players spread across each long side of the grid facing each other with one team in possession of a ball
- Players must run the ball across their opponent’s line into the End Zone. They cannot just kick / pass across the line. They must maintain possession as they cross the line
- Players to work as a team to achieve their objective with one point awarded for each successful entry into the end zone
- Swap players out when ball goes outside the grid or when the objective is achieved.
Variation: Use extra players as bounce players around the outside, passing the ball back to the same team who passes them the ball.
Skill Objective: Using evasive skills, change of pace and passing to achieve the objective.
7. First Touch – Indian Giver
Players work on their first touch, taking the ball away from a ‘defender’ before passing the ball back.
- Players pair up
- Set up 5 or more agility discs in a circle with a 2 metre diameter
- Discs should be evenly spread around the circle with a wider opening at the front
- One player stands inside at the back of the circle facing the widest opening (imperative)
- The other player with a ball stands 6-8 metres away facing the wide opening
- The player with the ball passes the ball to the player in the circle. This player must take a first touch through one of the openings between the discs and bring it back in again before passing the ball back to the first player through the front opening
- The player in the circle can use the outside or inside of both feet, to ensure they are keeping the ball away from the ‘defender’
- Players are to be encouraged to alternate between first touch directions to create greater opportunities in a game situation.
- Change after 3 minutes.
Variations: Players use the bottom of the foot to roll the ball out the back of the circle before re-entering and passing.
Skill Objective: Improve first touch and create greater awareness of opportunities to keep possession and convert a defensive position into an attacking position quickly.
8. Striking The Ball – Chase the Striker
With Chasing the Striker, a player runs the ball at the goal (with or without a goal keeper) with a chasing defender applying pressure. Goal size will depend on age group though if U8s and over, it’s a good chance for goal keepers to be involved.
- Set up a 30 metre x 30 metre grid
- With a goal on one side, 5 players line up directly in front and 30 metres out, a second line of 5 players 10 metres to their left, facing the away from the goal
- The players facing the goal have a ball each
- When the coach calls ‘Go!’, the player with the ball must run the ball at the goal and shoot whilst a player from the other line must chase and impede the goal scoring opportunity
- Set up a cone 8 metres out so that the attacking team must shoot before they reach the cone
- Players to alternate between defending and attacking roles after each go.
Variation: Swap the side of the defensive player so they come from different angle.
Skill Objective: Players are to be encouraged to keep themselves between the ball and the chasing defender, keeping it out to the front and side to permit a more powerful shot whilst maintaining possession.
9. First Touch – 3v1 – Keep it
This drill is a great warm up as well as one that will help kids develop many skills including first touch, passing the ball and evasiveness. Plus it easy for kids to understand.
- Set up a 5 metre x 5 metre grid
- 3 players around the outside of the grid with one player in the middle
- The outside players must pass and move to keep the ball away from the defender in the middle
- Outside players can move around and across the grid and are encouraged to take a first touch away from the middle player
- Players change if they lose the ball or a poor pass is performed.
Variation: Make it maximum 2 touches for skilful players, ensuring players are receiving and disposing quickly. Alternatively, make the grid larger for less skilful players.
Skill Objective: Improve first touch, use evasive skills and pass the ball with good weight.
10. Game Time 2 Touch
Players are to work on receiving and disposing of the ball quickly in a game format. It helps players consider what they will do with the ball before they receive it and position themselves to maximise the chance of a positive outcome.
- Set up a field 30 metres x 30 metres
- Place 2 x 1 metre goals using agility discs at opposing ends (4 in total) 2 metres inside the corners
- 4 to 6 players on each team (one team wearing bibs) contesting their opponent’s goals
- Players to be encouraged to take a first touch away from defenders, play it first time; run into space; give a clear line of pass
- Players who take more than 2 touches are to surrender the ball to their opponents.
Variation: If an odd number of players, one player alternates between the teams as possession alternates ie the play with the team that has the ball (Joker). If 2 touch is too hard for players’ skill level, make it 3 or 4 touch.
Skill Objective: Improve first touch, consider alternatives to running with the ball (it becomes very difficult to run the ball with 2 touches).
Keeping Kids Engaged with Soccer Drills
All these drills can all be modified to accommodate both age groups and skill levels. Further, they are all relatively easy to explain, demonstrate and set up. As a result, they are some of the best soccer drills for kids allowing them to enjoy the experience, learn and improve and they won’t even know it!by