Under 6 soccer training can be a tricky task. The kids are eager to move about, but less interested in following instruction. While keeping them active isn’t difficult, getting them to pay attention is rarely easy.
Drills are used to teach basic skills and keep children engaged, all while having fun. Rather than standing around and waiting for their turn to kick, these drills should keep kids busy all the time.
U6’s need to learn to love the game before they attempt anything too complicated. The drills below are active and engaging, while hiding basic skill training behind fun!
What should U6 soccer drills teach?
The first main priority of U6 coaching should be getting the kids to have fun! They’ll never be able to improve as soccer players if they aren’t eager to train. Make activities fun, and don’t be afraid to change them up as you go.
Respond to the players abilities and attitudes, rather than following a strict set of rules.
A huge focus of training should be building relationships. At this age they’re growing friendships and beginning to understand teamwork. Use drills that have the players working together, rather than too many 1 on 1 activities.
Agility and balance are two other key priorities. U6’s are generally an active bunch, so you probably won’t struggle to get them going. Use drills that encourage natural energy.
Finally, think about basic ball skills and coordination. By this age they should be beginning to get a sense of the ball, and starting to move with greater confidence.
Use drills that give every player a ball, so they all have a chance.
5 Fun Drills for U6 Players
Drivers and Passengers
What is it?
A game to encourage teamwork. Players are divided into pairs with one player as the driver and one as the passenger. The driver moves without the ball, and the passenger follows behind. As well as working together, a player will become better at controlling the ball, responding to movement, and stopping the ball.
- Mark out a pitch. Every partnership needs space, but they shouldn’t be too far away from other pairs and avoid all contact.
- Divide your players into teams of two.
- If you have multiple different colored vests, hand these out amongst the teams.
- Give each team a ball.
- Assign a player as driver, and one as passenger. One player stands in front, without a ball. This is the driver. One player stands behind, with a ball. This is the passenger.
- Blow your whistle to start the teams moving. The driver in front starts running, and it’s the duty of the passenger behind to follow the movement. They must keep the ball close to them at all times.
- As the players move around, they need to learn to avoid each other while keeping control of the ball.
- Once the passengers are used to the movement, switch them with the driver. Both players should be given a chance with the ball, and a chance to lead.
- Combine this game with the traffic light system. Shout out red to stop, green to go, and yellow to slow down. Mix things up by shouting purple to get them to change direction. Add some fun by shouting ‘disco!’ When they hear this, all players have to stop and dance.
- Shout out instructions for the passengers to follow. For example, only using the inside of the foot, only using the left foot etc. Once the children have mastered the game, the driver can begin to give these limitations to their passenger. They’ll quickly learn not to give too complicated instructions, or the passenger will have their revenge.
- Switch partnerships. Play the game in quick rounds, and change partners, so the players learn to work with everyone. Do this during the middle of a round, by shouting ‘change’. The children will then need to find a new driver or passenger to work with.
Tips for coaches
Start slow and build up. The initial aim should be to get the kids to work together to control the ball.
Encourage the teams to communicate. The passenger has to tell the driver when they’re falling behind. The driver may also choose to shout out where they’re going next, especially at the start of the game.
Sharks and Minnows
What is it?
2 players are designated ‘sharks’, while the rest are assigned ‘minnows’. The minnows are all given a ball. The minnows attempt to dribble the ball up and down the field, while the sharks try to gain possession. When only one minnow remains, the game is won.
- Mark out your field of play. Around 20 x 25 yards should do it, but adjust larger if there are more children.
- Assign your sharks and minnows. The two sharks must stand in the center of the pitch.
- Line the minnows up along one edge of the pitch, with a ball each.
- Vests should be used, so the teams can tell each other apart. Have the minnows wear one color, and the sharks another.
- The minnows start the game at one end of the pitch. When the whistle blows, they try to dribble the ball to the other end.
- Sharks can move freely around the pitch, attempting to steal the minnows’ balls. If they can successfully kick the ball out of the field of play, they’ve won.
- A minnow without the ball becomes a shark, and starts chasing other minnows.
- The game ends when only one minnow remains. This minnow is the winner!
- There are a few variations that can be used to adapt the game for different groups.
- When a minnow loses the ball, rather than having them become a shark, they have to leave the game. This makes the sharks work harder. Players who are out can practice dribbling around the edge of the pitch.
- When a minnow has successfully crossed a line, they can either stop or return. Holding them at the line until every minnow has crossed or lost gives the players time to regroup. Having them attempt to cross back and forth across the field can be chaotic, but results in a fast-paced game.
- Give the minnows limitations. For example, they can only dribble with their left foot.
- Another way to play this game is to make all players minnows. Have them try to dribble the ball and steal another player’s ball at the same time. If your ball is kicked out, then you’re out of the game.
This is good for players with a higher skill level, as it teaches them to guard their own ball while staying on the lookout.
Tips for coaches
The minnows need to learn to keep the ball close, or risk losing it.
Remind the players to stay cool and in control when a shark approaches. Otherwise, they’re likely to panic.
Encourage players to use their bodies to avoid the sharks, making cuts and evasive turns.
Protect the Castle
What is it?
The game centers around a soccer ball balanced on top of a large cone. This is the ‘castle’. Teams of three attempt to knock the soccer ball off by passing another ball, while one player defends. A point is scored when the attacking team can topple the castle using passes alone.
- Mark out a small grid. 12 x 12 yards is a good size, but adjust for different skill levels.
- Divide the group into teams of four.
- Within each team, one player is assigned ‘defender’. They should wear a different vest color.
- In the center of the square, place a 9” cone. Carefully balance a soccer ball on top of the cone. This is the castle, and must be defended.
- The three attacking players start the game with one soccer ball.
- The attacking players begin by passing the ball between each other.
- With each pass, they can aim to knock the ball off the castle.
- The defending player must try to intercept the ball, and keep the castle safe.
- When the ball is knocked off by a passing kick, or the cone falls down, a point is awarded to the attacking team.
- A point is only awarded if the castle is toppled by a ball being passed. If the castle is knocked down with a foot or other bodily contact, no point is awarded.
- When the attacking team has scored 3 points, the defender is switched.
- Change the pitch size to respond to the player’s skill level.
- Set up a ‘no-go’ area around the castle. A small grid, roughly 3 x 3, is used to keep players further from the cone. This requires more passing and accuracy to score a point.
- Add a rule that the ball must be passed a certain number of times before an attempt can be made on the castle. If the castle is knocked down before the passes are made, no point is given.
- Play the game 1 v 1 as a dribbling drill. Without the passing requirement, the focus is on ball control.
Tips for Coaches
Players will need to keep their heads up to find passes, rather than always watching the ball.
Although passing is the focus, be sure to instruct the players to dribble the ball to find better spaces and passing angles.
To knock the castle down, players will need to pass the ball with weight behind it.
Encourage the kids to move. They need to think about where to go in order to pass, and where to receive a pass.
Bowling Soccer Balls
What is it?
A fun drill that can be used as shooting practice. Cones are set up in a goal post to act as bowling pins, and teams of players have to shoot the soccer ball to knock them down. The drill encourages them to think about accuracy in a low-pressure situation.
- Mark out a goal line. Using a kid sized goal is easier, but you can make the space as wide or small as you like.
- Arrange 9” cones within that goal. Either in a line, or adding rows of cones.
- Repeat this action, so you have two sets of cones in two goals.
- Divide the children into two teams, and give them each a ball.
- Mark out a spot for the players to take their shots from.
- The children are then encouraged to shoot, one by one, at the cones. The aim is to knock all the cones down. The first team to achieve this is the winner.
- Once the goals are set up, the players take it in turns to aim at the goal.
- After each shot, any knocked over cones are removed, and another child sets up to shoot.
- If the player doesn’t knock over any cones, they head to the back of the line and wait for the next turn.
- The first team to knock over all the cones is declared the winner.
- Add more cones or make the goals bigger for a more difficult game.
- Rather than shooting from a marked spot, have the players dribble to approach the goal. Set up flags to move around, making them work harder.
- Adding a goalkeeper can get the players thinking, but be sure to compensate with the number of pins. Children like to score, so don’t make the game too difficult.
- Play an individual game within each team by having the players collect the cones they knocked down.
Tips for coaches
This drill encourages basic shooting skills. Teach the children where on the foot to kick from, so they know to use their laces rather than the big toe. They should also be aware of correct posture, lock their ankles, and have a strong plant foot.
Make sure the players are putting weight behind each kick, so the cones will be knocked over completely.
Remind the players to look before they shoot. They should know where in the goal they’re aiming for with each kick.
Keep the game moving quickly. By making it a race rather than a strict focus on accuracy, the players will continue to kick the ball with power rather than worry about lining up a shot.
1 v 1
What is it?
This drill teaches players dribbling, attacking, and defense. The team is divided into groups, and they play 1 v 1 and attempt to dribble the ball across into the opponent’s end zone. This drill teaches players both attack and defense.
- Set up a 20 x 25 yard grid for each group of players.
- Mark out a 4 yard end zone at each end of the pitch.
- Separate the players into two equal groups, and give each player a ball. The teams should wear different colored vests.
- Line each team up in an ordered manner at opposing ends of the pitch.
- One player from each team steps into their end zone.
- One player has the ball, and will be attacking. The other player starts defensively, without the ball.
- Start play. When every member of both teams has had a chance to play, the round is complete.
- One player starts from each team, and attempts to score on the other. Only one player starts with a ball, and the other must play defensively.
- The attacking player attempts to cross the pitch and reach the opponent’s end zone, while dribbling the ball close to them.
- If the player does this successfully, they win a point.
- If the opposing player gets the ball, they can win a point by reaching their opponent’s end zone.
- When a point is scored, the players rotate to the end of the line and the next two start.
- The player from the team that was scored on starts with the ball.
- If the ball goes out of bounds, no one wins a point. Instead, the players on the pitch rotate to the end of the line, and a new game starts.
- A round is finished when every player has had a chance on the pitch. Play three rounds, and declare a winner.
- Instead of changing attacker and defender depending on who scored, have one team attack and the other team defend. Time the game, and after 5 minutes change positions.
- Add a goalkeeper. A player can only score if they beat the defender and the goalkeeper.
Tips for Coaches
Encourage the children to use the space available. Although the end zone is small, they should use the rest of the pitch to dribble and defend.
The players should be cutting and changing directions to beat the defender. Remind them to move quickly when a chance presents itself.
The defender needs to think about their posture. They should bend their knees and maintain a low center of gravity.
Quick warm up/ cool down drill
Musical soccer balls
A quick game to get players warmed up and ready for practice. Played similarly to traditional musical chairs, it encourages agility and alertness. This is easy to set up at the start of any training session, and will get the children going.
This game can be played with 3 players or more, but for large teams you may prefer smaller groups to prevent scuffles. They can come together at the end, as the groups get whittled down.
- Begin by marking a large circle. In the center of the circle place several balls. There needs to be one fewer than the number of players.
- The players move around the circle, either at a walk or light jog. They must stick to the edge of the circle, and can’t move into the center until instructed.
- At the whistle blow, the players must sprint to the center of the circle, and grab a ball. One player will be left without a ball, and this player is out. They must leave the circle.
- Remove a ball from the center, and start the game again.
- Keep playing until one ball remains, and declare a winner.
To the Coach
Another quick drill that aims to have fun, rather than work hard. Good for both the warm-up at the start, or cooling down at the end.
The drill can be played by any number of players, as long as there is a ball for each. This drill encourages speed and agility, but also makes the player think.
- Each player starts with a ball, and they’re spread around the pitch. The coach stands at the center.
- One at a time, each player brings their ball to the coach.
- The coach then throws the ball in a random direction, telling the player a way to bring it back.
- The player runs after the ball, but can only bring it back in the way the coach described. If they break the rules, they have to try again.
- Get creative! The player may need to carry the ball as they run, jump, or skip. Otherwise, give them one body part to move the ball with. Maybe they can only control the ball with their knees, or their elbows. Give them different ways to dribble the ball, to improve soccer skills.
- There is no winner, but make the skills progressively harder as the game is played.
Walk the dog
This game is played at the start of practice to get a U6 group used to the ball. It adapts well for younger children.
- Give every child an imaginary leash. This is to be used to control the ball, which is now a dog. You may find that the kids end up walking a menagerie of animals, but that doesn’t matter.
- Tell the children they’re now responsible for walking this ‘puppy’. It must not get too far from them, because they need to keep it on the leash.
- Set up a start point and an end point.
- Have the players dribble their ball/puppy from start to finish, making sure it doesn’t travel too far.
- At the end, the puppy magically transforms back into a ball, and the children have a little better ball control.