The key to developing kids’ skills at a young age is to make sure they are having fun and enjoying themselves, so they actually want to come back to soccer practice.
The most important skill to develop at this age is their dribbling skills. Passing is not a concept that players understand quite yet, so they are mostly limited to stealing the ball from their opponent and dribbling.
In general, you want kids to learn how to dribble in a zig-zag pattern, so they can dribble around defenders.
The following drills will help players improve their fundamental skill of dribbling and become more confident while having fun and enjoying the game of soccer.
These drills can also be used as a practice plan as well. For the first practice, do just two to three drills. Then add a new drill each practice, so the kids will get into a routine and know what to expect.
Coaching points to develop kids dribbling skills:
-Keep the ball close, so don’t kick it super far ahead.
-Change of pace and direction
-Go slow and then fast while dribbling in a zig-zag pattern
One of the best drills is to just let the kids have free play by scoring in one goal and then getting the ball out of the net and going to score in the other goal. Kids will naturally be creative and try new moves. As a coach, there are a couple things you can do to encourage creativity as well as develop their dribbling skills. You can be chasing kids encouraging them to go score a goal. You can be in the middle of the field to act like you are playing defense so kids have to dribble around you. As you do both these, say your coaching points (see above).
Simon Says/Soccer Gymnastics
Another good warm-up drill is Simon Says, but don’t say “Simon Says” and try to get kids out. You want everyone dribbling and working on their soccer skills. Have the players dribble around while you call out skills to do. Call out “dribble slow.” “dribble fast,” “change direction.” Then “FREEZE.” Have them stop the ball with the sole of their foot. Then continuing having them dribbling and stopping. Every time you have them stop, have them perform a skill. Here’s a list of skills to do when you stop the players: Perform a stretch, toe taps, pendulum taps (kicking the ball between your two feet), touch the ball with a body part, jumping jacks, squats, balance on one foot, hop on one foot, etc. This is also a good time to take suggestions from your players.
Red Light Green Light Game
For this activity, have the players start on the endline with a soccer ball. When you say, “Green Light” the players need to dribble as fast as they can to the other endline. When you say, “Red Light” the players need to stop the ball by using the sole of their foot. Keep saying “Green Light” and “Red Light” until each player makes it to the other endline. To spice up the game, throw in a “Yellow Light” which means they must go slow. This will help the players with their change of pace.
Coach, what time is it?
This game is great because the coach gets to chase the players like they were during free play. The players start at half field or on the endline and then the coach starts towards the opposite endline with their back to the players. The players shout, “Coach, what time is it?” The coach says a number like “3 o’clock.” The players must take the number of dribbles the coach said towards the coach then stop the ball with the sole of their foot. The players shout, “Coach, what time is it?” and the coach responds with a number. This cycle continues until the coach turns around to chase the players back towards their goal.
The Crab Game
In this game you will NOT be moving like a crab, but instead the coaches and guardians will be the crabs with pincers spread out vertically up the field sliding laterally across the field trying to “pinch” the players trying to dribble in a zig-zag pattern from one goal to the other. Remind the players to keep the ball close and not just kick it and run after it. As the players feel more comfortable, then they should try to dribble faster but not kick the ball too far ahead.
Lightning McQueen/Racing Car Game
This game is great because the kids will naturally practice cutting the ball with the inside of their foot. Additionally, they will need to keep the ball close to them to make it around the circle faster. Have the players start inside the pits (the goal). The players need to start their engine by doing a specified number of toe taps. Say, “Start your engines.” Tell them the direction and how many lap(s) they are doing. (Start with one lap.) Then say, “On your mark get set GO!” As the players make their way around the circle track in the middle of the small sided soccer field, make sure the players don’t dribble through the middle. As they close in on the finish, have the players come back to the pits. If you are going around the circle counterclockwise like NASCAR, then encourage the players to use their right foot to keep the ball close to the inside lane. *Make sure you change direction so they work on cutting the ball with their left foot.
Sharks and Minnows
This classic game keeps all players involved and as there are more sharks, the players need to keep the ball close so the sharks don’t get it. Start with one or two sharks depending on the number of total players. Bring the sharks to the middle of the field. Here you can ask the players what kind of sharks and have them show their shark teeth to the minnows. Have the sharks yell, “Minnows, are you ready?!?!” The minnows should be spread out on the endline and respond by yelling, “YESSSSS!!” If the minnows don’t yell loud enough, then have the sharks say, “I can’t hear you. Minnow, are you ready?!?!” The minnows will yell a really loud “YESSSSS!!” Then the coach should yell, “GO!” The minnows are trying to dribble to the other endline without getting their ball kicked out of play by a shark. If the minnows ball gets kicked out of play by a shark, then the minnow gets added to the sharks. As more minnows become sharks, the remaining minnows must dribble quicking in a zig-zag pattern around the sharks keeping the ball close. Once your team has mastered this fun game, then your team is ready for Dino Egg Snatch.
Dino Egg Snatch
The game really teaches your players to try and win the ball back once it’s lost. The game is very similar to Sharks and Minnows. However, instead of the shark just trying to kick the ball out of play, the dinosaur is trying to get its stolen egg back and return it to its nest, which is their attacking goal or the goal that they are facing. The players with the eggs are trying to keep the egg and dribble it to their attacking goal or the goal that they are facing. If one of the players gets their egg taken by the dinosaur, then they need to try and get it back before they get “scored” on. If the player’s egg gets stolen and put in their defending goal, then the player becomes a dinosaur.
1st – Dribble around the volcanoes
2nd – Plug the volcanoes
3rd – Ice Cream Cone
Pick the cones and put them on your ice cream cone.
There are endless ways you can make dribbling skills fun for your young soccer players. We hope this article has given you some good ideas, and let us know any questions or comments you have below!