When it comes to sports, young athletes need to be approached and trained differently than those in high school, college, or professional. For young soccer athletes, drills should be focused and basic. They should also be fun! At this age and stage of development, the young soccer players are learning basic skills and how to participate in a team setting.
Five go-to soccer drills for kids to build a strong foundation:
Red Light, Green Light
Have the young players spread out across one of the goal lines of the soccer field with a ball at their feet. The coach calls out the colors of the traffic light: Green light means to go fast. Yellow light means go slow. Red light means to stop the ball by placing their foot on the ball. The coach calls out light colors until all players turn to the opposite goal line across the field. This drill helps the players with dribbling, speed adjustments, and ball control.
Hit the Coach
Set out four cones to create a square big enough to contain the whole team with some extra space to move around. The focus of this drill is for the young soccer players to kick the ball and hit the coach’s legs. Once they kick the ball and hit the coach’s legs, they can step outside of the circle. The drill continues until every player has successfully “hit the coach.” Not only is this a fun drill for the young players, it works on endurance, ball control, kicking, dribbling, and accuracy.
Sharks and Minnows
One player is the shark and the rest are minnows. The minnows should line up along the goal line and have a ball at their feet. When the coach yells “go” the minnows dribble their ball toward the opposite goal line. As they dribble across the middle of the soccer field, the shark attempts to steal the minnow’s soccer ball and kick it out of the area. Any minnow whose ball is successfully stolen and kicked out of the soccer field becomes a shark. All minnows who make it across the field line up and wait for the signal to cross again. This continues until only one minnow is left and they become the winner.
Snake in the Grass
Snake in the grass is a soccer dribbling exercise for the players to work on their coordination and body movements. Use four cones to create a square approximately 10 by 10 yards in size. All the players will be inside the square. The coach should choose two players who will be the snakes. The snakes lie on their stomachs on the grass. The objective of this game is to have the snakes slither (or crawl) around the square attempting to touch the other players. To begin, the coach shouts out “snake on the grass” and the players begin dribbling the ball within the coned-off area while attempting to avoid the snake by running, jumping, cutting, or pivoting. Every player who is touched becomes a snake. The game ends when all the last player remains.
Pair up the young soccer players so they are facing each other about five feet apart. Have them begin passing the ball back and forth using the inside of their feet. After 10 passes, have them each takes a step back. Continue passing and stepping back until the distance becomes too far for proper control This drill teaches the young players how to receive a ball with ease as well as passing it off.
While these five drills may seem easy and more game-like, they will help young soccer players with endurance, footwork, agility, and coordination. Children often learn skills through play and games. Sports should be fun for kids while layering in skills. These are some simple drills to drive home key soccer elements without borning, or burning out, the up-and-coming soccer stars.