“Pump your arms!”
Ever heard a coach barking a rolling list of orders that actually made their players perform worse and be more frantic? I know I have.
Worse yet, these orders are often shouted during a series of mundane drills that do not allow for kids to explore their abilities, find creative solutions or compete at high intensity.
Athough instructing and providing guidance is the meat of coaching, sometimes letting your drills do the talking works best. But poorly designed drills don’t provide this type of feedback. These are drills that need to be well thought out and have a distinct goal in mind. Rather than running them through the same old mindless drills over and over, adding elements of competition can provide instant, valuable feedback for athletes.
My favorite drills are ones that let kids have fun while they’re working hard and getting better.
With that in mind, here are five soccer training drills actually worth your time.
1. Cone Twister
Ready for a throwback? Enter, Cone Twister. Remember the popular childhood game that involved putting each hand and foot on a different color, leaving your body twisted up in a pretzel-like position?
Let’s bring it back.
What I love about this is I do not need to tell kids to bear crawl or crab walk or plank or balance. The game accomplishes all of that and hones in on total body strength, balance, coordination and spatial awareness. Better yet, the kids laugh and smile and enjoy the challenge. And if you want to up the ante on the fun, as the coach you get in there and have your players shout out the colors to make you fall over.
2. High-Speed Chase
You do not need to be a track coach to teach speed. If you are a soccer performance coach and you have coordination, stability and total body strength in your program, you are ahead of the game. All of these things naturally clean up running form, so now it is time to get your players performing drills at top speeds.
I love this chase game because it covers 40 yards, varies the starting position and makes players want to run fast and be tenacious.
3. Auditory Acceleration Drill
Building off the Speed Chase Drill, using a similar template as a race for acceleration makes players more explosive on their first step. The best part about this drill is you do not need to tell players to explode into their first step. The fact that this is a race is enough to manifest that physical action. Moreover, the auditory cue of the ball dropping is a nice touch to work on reacting to different stimuli.
4. 1v2 Block-the-Gate Game
Soccer skill drills can become monotonous for young kids if they are ordered to dribble through cones for the length of a training session. Although it is important to teach clean dribbling and sharp 1v1 moves and turns, how about letting them problem solve on their own?
This is my favorite game for a multitude of reasons: Kids can create, apply skills and learn to pick their head up and avoid pressure. And of course, it is also fun. To increase the intensity, set a time limit on how many gates they need to get through and have them compete against their teammates each round.
5. Various Agility Games
Telling your youth athletes to have better “shin angles” or “deceleration” or “low center of mass” sounds like a foreign language to them. To that end, they do not care about the terms you learned in your exercise science coursework. What they do care about is doing an agility drill that inspires them to go at full speeds, change direction rapidly, and enjoying themselves without even realizing they’re training.
Some of my favorite agility games include Hungry Hippos, Packman Tag and 1v1 Dodgeball.
What This Does: improves shin angles, lowers center of mass organically, elicits a high intensity, takes less than 10 seconds for anaerobic power development
What This Does: improves spatial awareness, takes 60 seconds for anaerobic capacity development
What This Does: gets kids away from the grind of year-round soccer drills, yet still accomplishes athletic qualities soccer players need, such as spatial awareness, upper body power development, and reactive agility.
I hope these drills inspire you to put together a fun pitch session for your youth players! You will not only build better all-around athletes, but you will birth a new excitement in them to train. The best practices are the ones that are fun but also leave players feeling like they worked hard and got better.
Many of these drills would also translate beautifully to athletes of other sports, so don’t be afraid to experiment!
Photo Credit: Pollyana Ventura/iStock