Category Archives for Drills

Possession focused on 1v1 duels

By David Johnson

Objective
This session will focus on passing and maintain possession.  The focus needs to be on proper weight and direction of the pass and the quality and creativity of the runs. Communication including calling for the ball and what areas are open such as calling “switch” are critical.

Set Up
In a 20x 20 grid, there are 2 teams of players.   There is 3 players from each team in the grid forming a 3v3 situation.  There are 2 players (1 from each team on the outside of the grid).   The pairs on the outside are not allowed to enter the grid but are options for maintaining possession for the 3v3.

Execution
The 3v3 begins with normal possession games.   The outside players can be options to maintain possession.   The outside players are restricted to 2 touch and the opposing team member on the outside can only intercept the pass to the outside.  Once the outside player touches it – no pressure from the outside players.  The focus is to anticipate and intercept passing lanes not 1v1 defending.  This exercise continues for 3 minutes before rotation of the 3v3 inside players.

The next iteration is for the outside players to be able to play each other with more active defending on the outside.  Again only passes can be intercepted – there is not challenges on the ball in possession.  However a bad touch that results in the ball not in control can be taken by the other team.  See diagram 2.

Coaching Points
• Change the middle 3 players frequently.  Every 3 minutes or so
• Passes must be weighted properly and sent to the correct foot of the receiver
• Remind players of in game situations where this is valuable and how the decisions of your teammates affects your decisions and options.
• Add touch restrictions – 2, 1 touch
• Add more defensive pressure by allowing 1v1 attacks on the outside
• Points awarded for consecutive passes or playing a certain outside player.

By David Johnson

David Johnson has been a high school coach for more than 20 years.

Pre-Season Fitness

By David Johnson

Objective
This session will focus on overall fitness of the player.   These sessions can be done with a ball or without a ball focusing on balance and acceleration.  The key to this session is for the player to operate at game speed.

Set Up
Position 6 agility poles in two lines.  The lines are 10 yards apart with the poles being 15 yards apart from each other in the line.  The players are lined up behind a cone at the end of the two lines

Execution
The first run through the poles is to simply weave around each pole.  Ensure the player slows down as he reaches the pole to make the turn with balance and control.  Then once he has completed the turn to burst toward the next pole.  This repeats until the end of the lines.  After they reach the cone on the far side, the player jogs back to the line.  As shown in Diagram 2.

The next progression is for the players to sprint straight ahead to the end of the line and side shuffle in a “Z” pattern to the other line.  Once at the other line then sprint to the end.  Be sure to change the lines the players start on so the side shuffle will reverse the “Z” pattern.   See diagram 3.

The next progression is to change to backpedal as the players reach the first pole in the line.  At the next pole they reverse back to forward.  This pattern continues alternating between forward and backpedal through out both lines.  See Diagram 4.

Variation
• The players can run 360 degrees around each pole before sprinting to the next one.

• The players can form 2 lines and race alternating forward and backpedal across the poles.

Coaching Points
• Ensure the players have good balance and control as they reach each change of direction station.

• Ensure the players accelerate with a tremendous burst of speed.

• The players can complete each progression more than once.  3 runs per set is a good benchmark.

• At the end of each set have the players perform push-ups, jumping jacks, etc to increase the workload

By David Johnson

David Johnson has been a high school coach for more than 20 years.

Combination Play Part Two

By Gregg Gillies –

This drill builds off of Part 1 by adding more live pressure and more decision making by the players themselves.

Set Up: Size (20 yds x 10 yds up to 30 x 20 depending on age, skill level, etc.)

The rectangle is divided in half with cones (see diagram 1 below) so a 20 x 10 field would be divided into a 10 x 10 and 10 x 10 next to each other.

The Drill: The drill starts with two defenders. One defender is in a mid pressing position, standing in the middle of the first box. The second defender is in a low pressure position, standing on the far endline of the second 10 x 10 box.

There are two offensive players. One starts with a ball in the bottom right corner of the first box. The second offensive player stands on the opposite sideline off the shoulder ot the mid pressure defender.

The goal is to play 2v1 in the first box, and beat the defender into the second box. The first defender can not move into the second box. If the two offensive players successfully possess the ball into the second box, the second defencer is now “live” and can come off the endline to defend. It’s now a 2v1 in the second box, with the goal of beating the defender over the endline with a dribble and stopping the ball under control.

Diagram 1

As you can see by the set up above in Diagram 1, the start of the drill is designed to encourage the 1-2 combination play in the first box, similar to Part 1. However, the set up and rules are different enough to make this drill more difficult, as well as include quick decision making as part of the process.

First, the defense is live and playing at 100%. Also, the two offensive players are a little futher apart, so both players, with and without the ball, will need to make decisions and move, not only to set up the 1-2, but to make another good decision if that play is not available.

Diagram 2

As shown in diagram 2, the offensive player is dribbling toward the defender to commit them to the ball while the second offensive player moves closer, off the defender’s shoulder, to allow an angle of support to the ball carrier.

Diagram 3

In diagram 3, you can see the two offensive players context on the 1-2 practiced in part 1. The player with the ball dribbles into box 2, with player two taking a supporting angle off the ball.

Diagram 4

Here you see another 1-2 set up, as the defender comes out to close down the ball carrier, who lays it off to the second player, who is moving off the ball to keep a constant angle of support.

Diagram 5

The second offensive player finishes off the game by dribbling across the endline.

Diagram 6

This diagram shows another option for the offensive players. While the main purpose of the drill is to continue work on the 1-2, it has added the element of decision making and creativity. The defensive players know the idea as well. If they look to cut off the 1-2, the offensive players must recognize this and change tactics. In this example, the ball carrier drives toward the defender. The teammate, instead of staying off the defender’s shoulder, makes a diagonal run behind the defender and the ball carrier plays a pass up the line into that space.

Diagram 7

Here you see the continuation of the previous diagram. The original ball carrier continues his run to the other side. The two offensive players have now switched sides in their attack. Many players at young ages struggle with only making runs up and down the field in their lane. This helps to encourage different runs and players switching positions.

Diagram 8

This diagram shows one other effective option. The ball carrier drives toward the defender, makes a fake toward the second offensive player and then cuts back, dribbling into space and across the line. The ball carrier needs to drive hard at the defender and commit them to cutting off the play to the second offensive player.

The second offensive player, when recognizing the dribble move, reverses their run from off the defender’s shoulder, into space to support the ball carrier in the second box.

Coaching Points:

The coaching points for the 1-2 are the same as Part 1.

Quality of the Pass – The intial pass (from Player 1 in diagram 1) must be accurate and weighted properly. Player 1 needs to be close enough to the defender before making the pass so the defender can’t easily drop off to cover the run but not so close that the defnder can easily intercept the pass.

Once your players are comfortable with the drill, the initial pass should be practiced with the outside of the foot, as this can be quicker and easier than a pass that brings the right foot across the body and closer to the defender.

The weight and accuracy of the second pass (in diagram 3 this is Player 2) is key so their teammate who made the initial pass to them can run on to the ball space without slowing down.

In order to player a quick 1-2 in small spaces the outside player (again Player 2 in Diagram 3) must be off the shoulder of the defender and get into an open body position. This way, the ball can roll across the body so they can take it with the outside foot, allowing them to play an accurate one touch return pass.

Whatever decision they make, whether it’s the 1-2, the ball up the line, or beating the first defender with the dribble, the ball carrier must aggressively commit the defender by going at them.

Encourage communication between the two offensive players. If player 2 is going to make that run in behind the first defender, they need to let the ball carrier know that’s the ball to play.

Timing, speed of play and accuracy and weight of the pass are extremely important.

Progressions / Variations

If you want to encourage passing over dribbling, you can limit the touches.

For the second box, you could make it so dribbling across or receiving a pass across the endline results in a score. Or it could be just one or the other, depending on whether you want to emphasive a finishing pass or a dribble into space.

Competitive

Divide them into groups of 2. Each offensive group goes X number of times, they get a point for each successful completion of the drill. High score wins. You can make it easier or harder to score by making it a point for successfully getting through both boxes or a point each time you get through a box. For example, get through box 1 but not box 2 could still be a point.

By Gregg Gillies

Gregg Gillies is a nationally licensed coach through the USSF and is a Youth Athlete Development Specialist and Head Coach at Mount Laurel United Soccer Club, where he currently coaches a u14 girls team, the MLU Raptors. He also is the owner of www.NoLimitsSoccerTraining.com, where his focus is on maximizing a player’s individual technical skills, soccer IQ, and overall athletic development.

Combination Play

By Gregg Gillies –

Set Up: 20 yds x 10 yds up to 30 x 20 depending on age, skill level, etc.

The Drill:

  • Players 1 and 4 stand at opposite ends of the 20 yard rectangle. Player 5 stands in front of Player 1 as a passive defender. Player 2 stands on the side, off the shoulder of Player 5 (the defender). Player 3 is on the other side, diagonal from Player 2.
  • If you have more than 5 players, you can have lines where player 1 and player 4 begin.
  • Players 2 and 4 stay in their positions for the entire drill, so swap them out every few minuts so eveyone gets a chance at those positions.
  • Player 1 starts with the ball.

Diagram 1

Diagram 2

Player 1 passes to Player 2 and makes run around Player 5 to receive a return pass from Player 2.

Player 2 should receive the initial pass with an open body shape, letting the ball roll across their body to play a one touch return pass to player 1 with the outside foot (in this diagram that would be the left foot). Initially, especially with younger players, allow for a first touch to control the ball before the return pass but eventually make it one touch only.

Diagram 3

Player 1 takes the return pass with a directional touch toward Player 3 waiting on the other end line and passes Player 3 the ball.

Player 5, the intial defender moves toward the endline where player 1 started (essentially replacing player 1).

Player 1 follows their pass to player 3 and stops in front of player 3 to become a passive defender.

 

Diagram 4

The drill now restarts at the other end and works its way back. Player 1 has become the passive defender at the other end. Player 5 is now where Player 1 was. Both outside players, Player 4 and Player 2 stay in their respective locations.

Now Player 3 makes the pass to Player 4, who lets the ball roll across their body to play it with the outside food. Player 4 makes the run around Player 1 to receive the return pass.

Diagram 5

Player 3 receives the pass from Player 4, takes a directional touch toward the other end line and plays a pass to Player 5 waiting on that endline.

Diagram 6

We are now back in the original starting position, with Player 3 as the passive defender and Player 5 starting the drill again with a pass to Player 2.

Coaching Points

Quality of the Pass – The initial pass (from Player 1 in diagram 1) must be accurate and weighted properly. Player 1 needs to be close enough to the defender before making the pass so the defender can’t easily drop off to cover the run but not so close that the defender can easily intercept the pass.

Once your players are comfortable with the drill, the initial pass should be practiced with the outside of the foot, as this can be quicker and easier than a pass that brings the right foot across the body and closer to the defender.

The weight and accuracy of the second pass (in diagram 3 this is Player 2) is key so their teammate who made the initial pass to them can run on to the ball space without slowing down.

In order to player a quick 1-2 in small spaces the outside player (again Player 2 in Diagram 3) must be off the shoulder of the defender and get into an open body position. This way, the ball can roll across the body so they can take it with the outside foot, allowing them to play an accurate one touch return pass.
Progressions / Variations

You can make the first pass have to be taken with the outside of the foot
The return pass from the outside player must be 1 touch
You can increase the pressure from the passive defender. For example, in diagram 1, when Player 1 collects the return pass on the intiial 1-2, he must only take a touch and then pass to the other endline, and then run to pressure the endline player with the ball as a live defender.

Competitive

If you have at least 10 players, you can break up into groups and they can compete against each other for the most number of successful 1-2’s in a specific time period, such as 2 minutes. Every time the ball goes from one end lines to the player at the other endline, that’s one.

Have a coach at each group doing the counting and enforcing the rules. For example, if the rule is outside of the foot for the initial pass, one touch for the return pass and two touches max to play to the other endline, then the coach does not count a 1-2 that violates those rules.

By Gregg Gillies

Gregg Gillies is a nationally licensed coach through the USSF and is a Youth Athlete Development Specialist and Head Coach at Mount Laurel United Soccer Club, where he currently coaches a u14 girls team, the MLU Raptors. He also is the owner of www.NoLimitsSoccerTraining.com, where his focus is on maximizing a player’s individual technical skills, soccer IQ, and overall athletic development.

Passing Patterns

By David Johnson –

Objective

This session will focus on passing and game like patterns of play.  The focus needs to be on proper weight and direction of the pass and the quality of the runs.  The focus is also on moving without the ball.  This should be done as close to game speed as possible.  Communication including calling for the ball and what areas are open such as calling “line” are critical.   Over emphasis is very critical for players to remember not only the passing patterns but the verbal commands as well.

Diagram 1

Set Up

There are 2 lines facing each other with 2 players facing the line with the ball.  The drill begins with the players nearest the ball calling for the ball.

Execution

The first pass is to the nearest player.   The passing player moves to the right or the left opening up space for a pass back.   This determines the angles of the rest of the drill.  The second player checks to the same line as the passing player.  The ball is played back to the original player.

Diagram 2

The next movement is for the player to pass a long ball to the checking second player.   Once that pass is made the original player makes a diagonal run through the space calling for a return pass.   The player on the line plays it to the feet of the diagonal run.

Diagram 3

The drill then flips to the other line and the drill flips.   The most important movement is the first decision by the passing line as to the which direction they go – that determines which line the pass is made to and what angle the diagonal run is made.

Diagram 3

Coaching Points

  • Change the middle two players frequently. Every minute or so
  • Passes must be weighted properly and sent to the correct foot of the receiver
  • Remind players of in game situations where this is valuable and how the decisions of your teammates affects your decisions and options.

By David Johnson

David Johnson has been a high school coach for more than 20 years.

Heads Up Game

By Steven Smith

Area Size: 40 X 35 Grid

Teams:  Everyone on the team in groups of two

Time: 10-12 minutes

Objective:  Increase passing skills in teams of all developmental levels

Narrative
This warm up activity can take away the boredom that often comes with warming up. It is a gradual progression of passing and receiving with partners that turns into a fairly intense and fun way of getting your athletes to focus and be fully prepared to go hard once you hit the main training phase.

Set Up
A large grid of 40 X 35 is constructed for players to pass and receive with their partner. Every player finds a partner to pass and receive with inside of the grid.

This activity is a three step progression of intensity.

The activity begins with each set of partners having a ball. The ball is passed and received only with their own partner. After intervals of passing and receiving with intervals of stretching and range of motion activities the intensity is increased by inserting a set of rabbits (defenders who chase down ball). The rabbits simply attempt to knock the ball of the partner passers out of the grid to eliminate the partners.

The activity momentum increases with the number of defenders that the coach chooses to insert into the grid.

The final progression is where the intensity reaches it’s peak. Two sets of partners give up their balls and are joined together by holding onto a towel. The defenders with the towel must work together to tag a player without the ball. This means that the partners who are passing and receiving must pay attention to the defenders with the towel and when their partner is being chased they must get the ball to their partner. Once a player has the ball on their foot they cannot be tagged. If a player is chased out of bounds (grid) then they have been tagged. Once tagged the chasers drop their towel and the tagged player picks up the towel and his partner joins him or her to become the taggers. The former taggers become passers and receivers. It is a continuous game until the coach ends the activity.

Variations:

Goalkeepers can be introduced into the game with the restriction that they pass and receive using their hands to catch.

By Steve Smith
Steve Smith has been a men’s college coach that holds an NSCAA Advanced National Diploma and a Doctorate in Physical Education.

Developing Confidence on the Ball

By Gregg Gillies –

Warm Up:  Grid Dribbling

Set Up: Size (30 yds x 25 yds) Field size can vary depending on the number of players you have.  You only need four cones but can add a few more if this helps keep the players in the playing area.

The Rules:

  • Each player has a ball and must stay within the grid
  • They dribble the ball at top speed, while keeping the ball under control, avoiding collisions with other players, and continually changing direction with their dribble
  • Players work at maximum effort for 15 seconds and then perform a recovery dribble, slowly dribbling within the grid for 30 seconds
  • After each round give the players 30 to 60 seconds (or more, if needed. The less rest, the more conditioning involved, the more rest, the more technical oriented the drill) of total rest.
  • Have the players perform 4 to 10 total rounds.

For the first round or two, allow the players to change direction any way they like.

After that, perform a few rounds with any of the following moves.

  • Simple Outside of the Foot touch
  • Lunge fake – when approaching the defender step out hard to one side as if you are about to accelerate around the defender in that direction but do not touch the ball.  Then, using the outside of the opposite foot, take a touch the other direction around the defender.
  • Scissors
  • Double Scissors
  • Step Over
  • Matthews
  • Matthews with Scissors
  • Fake Kick and Go (fake a kick to the left with the right foot, place the right foot on top of the ball, take a slight backward hop on the left foot, and then accelerate away to the right by touching the ball with the outside of the right foot).  You can also do the opposite.
  • 180 Pull Back
  • Cruyff
  • 180 Chop Cut (inside and outside of the foot chops)

You would not use all of these every time you do this drill.  Pick three or four and focus on them in one session.

How many moves or the difficulty of the move is left up to you, the coach.  You know your players skill level the best.  Obviously you won’t be using the Matthews with Scissors, or the Maradona with 4 year olds.

Coaching Points:

The focus is good control, with quick, soft touches at speed, as well as rapid change of direction.

Players should have slightly bent knees when they change direction and should be keeping the ball close, so that they are balanced and under control, ready to go in any direction.  They should not be reaching out with one leg, extending it too far away from them to make a cut and change direction.

Technique (Footwork) – Players must be able to dribble with both feet, while making short, sharp touches on the ball.  The ball can not be allowed to get away from them or they will lose control.

Technique (Vision) – Does the player have the ability to get their head up and see what’s around them?  If they don’t, they will constantly run into other players, or get run into by other players.

Positive Attitude and Confidence – It’s very important to be supportive of your players and encourage them when it comes to their dribbling.  Most players take way too big a touch and always want to use speed to basically pass to themselves (especially at younger ages) and use their speed.  It’s important that they become confident with the ball at their feet.  It doesn’t matter how good they become at one touch passing, if they can’t have the ball at their feet, they will not be successful at the game of soccer.

Progressions and Variations:

Every player dribbles on their own, constantly changing direction.  The coach yells out a move and the player must perform that move as soon as possible.

Another variation is to have the players dribble for 30 seconds, performing as many moves as possible in that timeframe.  Give the players three to four moves to focus on.  They can perform the same move multiple times but not in a row.  So the could do a scissor, then a cruyff and then do a scissor again.

This adds a bit of a competitive element into a non-competitive drill.  The players will work harder and enjoy it more.

 

Exercise:  Multi 1v1 With Extra Defenders

Set Up:  Size (30 yds x 25 yds) Field size can vary depending on the number of players you have.  You only need four cones but can add a few more if this helps keep the players in the playing area.

The Rules:

  • Depending on your numbers and skill level, have 6 to 10 players in the middle. The players are divided into groups of two, with each group having one ball.
  • The remaining players are outside of the grid and are defenders. They stay on the imaginary sideline line but patrol up and down that line.
  • The pairs play 1v1 in the grid. This means their are multiple 1v1 games going on at the same time.  The object for the player with the ball is to “score” by dribbling across any of the four sidelines and stoping the ball under control.  The “defenders” on that sideline can knock the ball away, being careful not to venture onto the field of play.
  • Games last 30 to 60 seconds. When a game is finished send the 1v1 players to the outside to become defenders and the defenders enter the grid and are matched up into pairs to play 1v1.
  • After each round give the players 30 to 60 seconds (or more, if needed.  The less rest, the more conditioning involved, the more rest, the more technical oriented the drill) of total rest.

 

Coaching Points: – same as above.

 

This one is especially important.

Positive Attitude and Confidence – It’s very important to be supportive of your players and encourage them when it comes to their dribbling.  Most players take way too big a touch and always want to use speed to basically pass to themselves (especially at younger ages) and use their speed.  It’s important that they become confident with the ball at their feet.  It doesn’t matter how good they become at one touch passing, if they can’t have the ball at their feet, they will not be successful at the game of soccer.

Progressions and Variations:

Depending on age and skill level you may make this a rule or just encourage it.  It’s important to encourage players to try moves when attacking 1v1, not just using a simple touch to the side and trying to dribble past a defender.  Encourage and support your players to be creative and make mistakes.  That’s how they get better, build confidence and eventually use these moves in games.

Exercise:  Multi 1v1 With 4 Goals

Set Up:  Size (30 yds x 25 yds) Field size can vary depending on the number of players you have.  You only need four cones but can add a few more if this helps keep the players in the playing area.

The Rules:

  • Depending on your numbers and skill level, have 6 to 10 players in the middle. The players are divided into groups of two, with each group having one ball.
  • The remaining players are outside of the grid and are “walls”. They are there to keep the ball in play by stopping it and letting the 1v1 continue.
  • The pairs play 1v1 in the grid. This means their are multiple 1v1 games going on at the same time.  The object for the player with the ball is to score in one of the two small goals in the direction in which they are going.  This drill is direction specific, just like a full sized game.
  • Games last 30 to 60 seconds.  When a game is finished send the 1v1 players to the outside to become the “wall” and the “wall” players enter the grid and are matched up into pairs to play 1v1.

 

Coaching Points and Progressions and Variations are the same as above.

One added variation would be to make the outside players neutrals, giving the 1v1 offensive player someone to pass to, so they can add off the ball movement to the drill.  You can increase the difficulty level by giving the outside players one touch.

By Gregg Gillies

Gregg Gillies is a nationally licensed coach through the USSF and is a Youth Athlete Development Specialist and Head Coach at Mount Laurel United Soccer Club, where he currently coaches a u14 girls team, the MLU Raptors. He also is the owner of www.NoLimitsSoccerTraining.com, where his focus is on maximizing a player’s individual technical skills, soccer IQ, and overall athletic development.

5 v 3 to Score

By David Johnson –

Objective

This session will focus on shooting and service for the shooter.  The focus needs to be on proper weight and direction of the pass and the quality of the finish.  This should be done as close to game speed as possible.


Diagram 1

Set Up

Position 3 cones in a triangle on one side of the penalty area.  The exercise begins with one player at the side cone (service cone) and one player at the top of the penalty area (shooting cone).  The rest of the players line up on the end line cone with balls.  This drill can be done with or without a goalkeeper, but a goalkeeper is recommended.

Execution

The first passing pattern is the first pass to the player at the service cone who then plays a ground pass to the shooter for a finish. The rotation is the player who started the drill to move to the service cone. The player on the service cone to move to the shooting cone.  The shooter to retrieve the ball and return to the line. As shown in Diagram 2

Diagram 2

The next progression is for service cone player to send back a 1 touch pass to the starting line.  The starting line then sends a ground pass to the shooter for a finish.  Same rotation as before.


Diagram 3

The next progression is for the starting line to send the ball directly to the shooter who passes it to the service cone.  The service cone then can send a flighted or ground pass back to the shooter for a finish.  Same rotation.


Diagram 4

Variation

  • The same triangle cone setup can be placed on the opposite side of the penalty area to mirror these patterns so the players can work both sides.
  • The coach can call where the shoot should be placed – near post, far post, upper 90, etc.
  • The passes can all be 1 touch or 2 touch – there can also be a foot restriction (right foot only, left foot only)

Coaching Points

  • Ensure the players are opening up to receive and send the ball. The player must be in proper position in order to play the ball quickly
  • Passes must be weighted properly and sent to the correct foot of the receiver
  • The finish must be with direction and power – ensure the shooter follows their shot to the end.

By David Johnson

David Johnson has been a high school coach for more than 20 years.