Like every team sport, the more you practice your soccer skills, the better you get, not only as individual players but as a cohesive team.
The more you practice drills, the more confident you get in your individual abilities. The more you run these drills in real team practice sessions, the more confident the whole team becomes of its abilities.
The more, too, you build bonds between teammates, that will help the whole team work better together – at any age, and at all skill levels.
And the more you win.
But what drills help build particular skills at particular ages or levels? How do you keep your teammates interested? How do you keep them committed to the sport?
You’re going to need the right drills at the right time.
And we’ve got them for you right here.
Soccer Drills By Age Group
Under-6 Soccer Drills: Have Fun While Improving
Let’s be honest – the Under-6 age group is about teaching kids to have fun in the soccer environment, so they want to spend more time in it as they grow up.
Choose your drills correctly, and you begin to coach them towards achievement while maintaining the fun levels.
Under-6 soccer fans might like drills like:
- 1v1 end zone transition, to get them thinking beyond themselves and towards a goal
- 4v4 game, to get them used to the idea of competitive team sport
- Dribble knockout, to help them keep ball control, with lots of support from their friends
- First to finish, to encourage concentration on a goal from end to end
- Tug of war drill, to encourage exercise, effort, and collaborative thinking
Under-8 Soccer Drills: Keep Up The Enthusiasm
For the Under-8 soccer team, you need to start building their skills in all areas, like attack, defense, dribbling, passing, and finishing.
But you also need to make sure your drills don’t begin to feel like chores, but keep their enthusiasm and team spirit fired up.
Your Under-8 team will probably respond to drills like:
- 1v1 defending to sideline gates, to train defenders to drive attackers to the side
- 2v2 end zones, to train attackers to dribble and pass their way into the end zone
- 5v5 two-goal game, to sharpen dribbling and attacking play, with an achievement in mind
- Monkey in the Middle drill, to get them opening space, thinking ahead, and passing quickly
- Power and finesse drill, to boost dribbling, ball control, and attack
Under-10 Drills: Keep Their Heads In The Game
The trick to helping Under-10s with their soccer drills is to find drills that, can keep their heads in the game and stop their minds from wandering – and taking their bodies with them.
This collection of drills is not overly complex, but should encourage focus on the process, while teaching your Under-10s the basics of ball control.
Focus your Under-10 team with drills like:
- 2v1 dribbling end zone drill, to encourage boldness against defenders, and dribbling skill
- 2v2+2 crossing and finishing, to encourage strategy and teamwork towards a (literal) goal
- 4v4+4 wide play drill, to encourage the solving of problems by passing to wide players with accuracy
- 5v5 wall pass scoring drills, to familiarize them with the fast ‘bouncing’ pass back technique
- Tic Tac Toe sprints, to maintain focus, boost competitiveness, and get the blood flowing in their veins
- Two-goal two touch drills, to spark creative thinking in the end zone
Under-12 Drills: Bring It On!
Under-12 teams will need drills that retain the fun and the friendliness of the game, but should also start to bring in some competition and some achievement of skills.
Try your Under-12 team with drills like:
- 4×3 attack, to encourage teamwork, advantage-finding, and strategic forward play
- 5v4 prevent forward play, to teach blocking, mirroring, and patience
- 5v5 round robin, to begin thinking about tactical wide play and combination play
- A crossing and finishing contest, so hone awareness of opportunity and how it can be made and used
- English square training, to begin honing precision passing skills
These drills will deliver challenges in their adversarial nature, and help your Under-12s start thinking about how to use the skills they have to achieve their in-situ goals.
Drills For Each Position
Whole Team: Warm Up Drills
Any sports physician will tell you if you try to play a game of soccer without a proper warm-up routine, you’re just asking for trouble. Sprains, strains, twists, pulls, you name it – they’re all just waiting for the soccer player that figured “Hey, I don’t need to warm up this time, it’ll be fine.”
It won’t be fine. You’re going to need to do some warm-ups as a team.
Warm-up drills also help you get into the right state of mind to deal with the competitive nature of the game, the psyche-outs, and the strategic thinking you need to do to win the match.
Sure, that sounds a little intense for training Under-6s, and obviously, you’re looking at just getting them limber before they run around.
But the higher up the age tree you go, the more the warm-up drills will help lock your team into the right mindset to win their matches.
Let’s start with some simple movement and basic skills drills. Try:
- Catch me if you can, for speed dribbling practice and an energy boost as other players try to catch the one with the ball
- Circle passing, to improve passing skills, coordination, and teamwork
- Dribbling commands, to improve dribbling and focus
- Dribbling gates, to sharpen up ball control while dribbling
- Dynamic soccer warm-up, to get the blood pumping and acclimate the body to running, turning and being active
- Pull the tail, to teach team play and fake-out skills
- Run up, dribble back, to hone ball control and speed
- Shadows, to teach teamwork to put players with ball-possession under pressure
- Triangle keep away, to teach co-ordinated play to retain team possession
- Two-line combinations, to increase responsivity and passing skills
Dribbling And Ball Control Drills
If you’re going to be a successful soccer player, dribbling is one of those ‘must-have’ skills.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re using simple taps or controlled spinning kicks, you have to be able to get past an opponent and end up still in control of the ball.
Dribbling drills are nothing like as messy as they sound – they’re simply ways of training your brain and your muscles to do whatever is necessary and permissible to perfect your dribbling game, including:
- 1-on-1 gate dribbling, keeping overall control while negotiating obstacles
- 1-on-1-on-1 dribbling, to keep control when faced with active opposition
- Dribble attack, to enforce dribbling technique with a reward (a shot at goal)
- Dribble knockout, that works like a dance-off – stay with your ball, and if you leave it for too long, face a penalty like sit-ups or push-ups
- Dribble race, which instills dribbling precision and team effort
- Dribble relays, with a team penalty, to encourage both control and speed
- Four corners dribbling, to familiarize players with changing the point of an attack
- Line dribbling, to master dribbling with turns and possession
- Musical cones, combining continuous dribbling with sudden on-target shots
- Shark attack, to train them in dribbling while under dedicated attack
Drills To Build Passing Skills
No man is an island, the poet said, and that’s especially true of players on a soccer team. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a team.
Accurate passing skills are at the root of most complex downfield maneuvers, so it’s worth drilling them from any age where the goals of soccer are really understood.
Try some of these to get your players passing the ball:
- 1-in 1-out, to improve passing accuracy and direction change
- 4-on-3 attack, to teach calm and passing under pressure
- Grid passing, to hone one-touch precision passing
- Guard the castle, to teach both passing around a defender – and defending against an attack
- Meet the ball, to double train in both passing back and receiving
- Numbers passing, to build awareness of incoming passes and passing back skills
- One-touch pairs passing, to teach one-touch passing in its simplest form
- Pass and overlap, to teach passing over distance
- Pass through traffic, to build confidence in passing through a congested space
- Space wars, to teach possession despite active opposition, while injecting a fun competition element
- Switching play, to develop ball movement and speed play, while aiming past defenders
- Triangle goal game, boosting spatial awareness while in possession of the ball, to open up options in real-time
- Two teams one-touch passing, to teach confidence moving off the ball, and support of teammates
Aim And Shoot Drills For Successful Finishing
At the end of the day, all the excellent midfield play in the world is not going to win you a soccer match. You need attackers who can finish the job and score goals. Drilling in the art of a finish, leading to a goal, will help bump up your scores – and your number of wins.
Try these to focus your attacking players:
- 1, 2, shoot, to hone the accuracy of shots at goal
- 1-on-1 shootout, to develop shooting skills in direct competition
- Cross and finish competition, to increase both crossing precision and shot placement
- Cross control, to develop first-touch accuracy, crossing, and shooting
- Diagonal shooting, to train attackers in longer-distance passing and shot placement, while testing goalkeepers in keeping out unexpected shots
- Final pass and finish, to hone attackers’ run-timing and shooting accuracy
- First to finish, to improve speed dribbling and final shot power
- Gate shooting, to build crossing, receiving, and shooting skills in one drill
- Moving goal, to develop passing and shooting skill sin younger soccer players
- Power and finesse drilling, to help attackers shoot and score from a range of distances and angles
- Quick finish competition, to help take first touches away from defenders, and hone finishing instincts
- Sequence shooting, to develop passing skills in front of a player, and the ability to take goal shots quickly and accurately
- Team sniper, to promote competitive goal-scoring
- Turn and shoot, to promote highly effective finishing after a turn
Drills to Keep Possession
If you don’t have the ball, you don’t have control of your soccer destiny. Drilling possession teaches decision-making and pacing.
Try these drills to improve your team’s possession-keeping:
- 4v4+3 Barcelona, to improve your team’s transition from defense to attack mode
- Blackjack, to boost ball control in confined spaces, and decision-making that benefits the team
- Break the line, to stimulate forward-thinking play
- English squares, to hone the quality of passes in a tight space
- Four quadrant passing drill, to envision future passes ahead of time
- Golf possession, to help clue players in to future ball positions
Drills To Stop You Conceding Goals
Soccer is famously a game of two halves. That’s as true in its make-up as its duration. You not only have to score more goals than the other team, you have to concede fewer.
Drill your defensive skills and keep the other team from scoring with these techniques:
- 2-on-2 support, to instill individual defense plus team action
- 3-on-2 defending, to teach the limiting of an opponent’s options even when the defense is outnumbered
- 4-on-2 overload, to improve defensive technique, speed, and footwork
- Box defending helps develop an awareness of attacking crosses
- Channel the attacker builds confidence in a 1-on-1 defense scenario
- Defend the gate helps with defensive positioning
- Defensive recovery runs trains defenders for that moment when it’s recovery or goal
- The horizontal challenge puts defenders in a last-ditch defense situation so they build confidence
- No turn 1-on-1improves defensive footwork when attackers try to turn defenders
Drills To Score Goals
More goals equal more wins, do drill your finishes hard:
- 2-on-2 plus two develops crossing and shooting accuracy under time pressure
- Agility finishing develops footwork progressively
- Back to goal trains the instinct to beat defenders when a pass comes to you and your back is to the goal
- First to the ball pushes attackers’ dribbling and possession skills
- Hat-trick makes attackers think of how to make use of different scoring positions
- Two-goal, two touch trains attackers in two-touch finishing
Drills To Block Goals
If no one has yet made themselves known as a natural goalkeeper, these drills can help you find who has the talent:
- Agility hands encourages soft hands for better catching
- Deflect and dive improves speed across a goalmouth
- Goalie wars is a high-intensity game that builds reflexes and agility
- Goalkeeper reaction drills improve decision-making speeds
- Move with the ball trains goalies to anticipate shots from any angle
- Rapid-fire trains the goalie in blocking as many shots as possible
- Tip the ball over is an agility trainer to save goals by pushing balls up and back
- Traffic crosses boost goalie confidence in a crowded penalty box
- Turn, find, dive training helps goalies quickly identify target balls
- Under pressure develops confidence and teamwork
Skill Evaluation Drills
To find out which players are best suited to which roles, use some tryout drills and let their skills declare themselves:
- 1-on-1 defending showcases both attacking and defending skills
- An 8-on-8 game allows skills to come to the fore on a smaller stage
- Agility tryout will give you a sense of who’s better suited for what role
- Crossing and finishing will find you your natural attackers
- Four in, four out will show you who has some possession and decision-making skills
- Four line finishing will identify your core finishers
- Passing pattern shows you precision in dribbling and passing
- Plus 2 possession will show you who can keep possession when faced with other players
- Technical warm-up will give you a sense of some general passing skills, but also lets you evaluate fitness levels across the board
Drills For Agility
Agility is key to winning soccer matches. These drills will boost agility all round:
- 1-on-1 change of direction will improve flexibility
- Agility course increases speed and balance
- Four cone patterns teach speed and footwork
- Ladder work will instill coordination
- Mirror boxes develops better body control by following a leader
- Red light, green light improves sprint speed and body control
- Star agility improves balance at speed
Elite Fitness Drills
To be a successful soccer team, you need a high level of fitness across the team. These drills will help you get there:
- 3-on-3 force making give short bursts of intense exercise, to boost fitness
- 4-on-4 touch the line factors long, fast sprints into a possession game, for extra speed and focus on possession
- ABC 150s are three different 150-yard running patterns, for speed and accuracy of position
- Alternating box sprints give your players on-off jog-sprint training around the whole outside of the pitch
- Dribble patterns train players to run at speed, under control, while dribbling a ball
- Rectangle stations are like circuit training with a football. Players race from station to station, perform an action and move on
- Tempo runs make players run 90% of the length of the pitch, jog from one side to the other, and repeat the sprint back to their ‘home’ location
- Tic Tac Toe sprints involve a giant game of jersey-colored Tic Tac Toe, with team members sprinting to and from the ‘board’ each time they want to place a ‘counter’
Soccer drills not only bring the fun for younger players, they actively help hone the skills of your team members in the roles most suited to their skills and inclinations.
They’re how a team improves to the point of winning more and more of their matches. Try out some of these drills at your next training session and see how your team enjoys them!