Category Archives for Drills/Exercises

Competitive Cone Dribbling with Finishing and 1v1 Play

By Gregg Gillies –

Set Up: (20-30 yds by 10 yds per group) You’ll need 6 to 24 cones, depending on the number of players you have and how many you want in a each group so they can maximize the number of touches they get. See the diagram below for how you set up the cones.

The initial 5 cones are 2 to 5 feet apart (depending on player age and skill level). The 6th cones is 5 to 8 yards beyond the 5th cone. Every player in line has their own ball.

Coaching Points:

The focus is good control, with quick, soft touches at speed, utilizing the inside and outside of both feet.

After the 5th cone they use a quick acceleration, pushing the ball a little further ahead of them, but under control enough to make the sharp turn at the final cone.

It’s important to focus on the following with regard to all foot skill drills.

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 or do they just focus on the next cone? Sometimes you can let them know that you will be holding up fingers and they will need to tell you how many, while they are performing the drill.

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:
There are many ways to progress this drill. How many, and which ones, you use will depend on the age and skill level of your players, as well as how much time you will spend on this drill. I recommend doing this drill for no more than 10 to 15 minutes. You can break up the variations amongst different practices.

Some progressions include:
– Left foot only
– Right foot only
– Inside of the foot only
– Outside of the foot only
– Transition Touch (Inside Left to Outside Right to Inside Right to Outside Left)
– Touch Across and Forward (2 Touches Inside Right to 2 Touches Inside Left – First touch forward, Second touch across)
– As many touches as possible between cones
– As few touches as possible between cones

To get more touches for everyone and allow for a change in dribbling pace, have the dribbler, once they are around the final cone, to speed dribble back to the start (to the side of the cones. This way, the next player can start after the person ahead of them goes through a few cones and you can allow all players to be dribbling almost continuously.

The next progression is to turn this competitive. While we must spend time utilizing some drills to develop technique, it’s not what our players signed up for. If you want to get the most out of them, find a way to make almost anything you do competitive in nature. It will help to accelerate the development of your players.

You want them to develop great technique, but more importantly, you want them to develop great skills. And you don’t do that without adding competitiveness and pressure.

That means, turn this into a relay race. Before the next player can go, the one dribbling must stop their ball next to that player, and then they slap hands.

It is easiest to have no rules in terms of touches but if you have enough coaches to keep an eye on the players (the most competitve get creative about cheating!), you can use rules like left foot or inside of foot only, as mentioned above..

In order to maximize touches, better to keep the teams small and have each player go two or three times per relay race.

Now let’s add another layer of competitivness, while also adding another technique, accurate passing and finishing. As you’ll see in the diagram below, add small goals about 10 to 15 yards after the final (6th cone).

Here’s how this variation works. The players dribble through the 5 cones and then they must shoot/pass into the small goal from beyond the final (6th) cone. As soon as they shoot, the teammate behind them can go. Miss or make, they grab their ball and hustle to the back of the line. First team to a set score wins, whether that’s 5, 10 or 15.

You can also add a simple condition on the finish, sush as left foot or right foot. If your players are at a higher skill level you could even do outside of a foot (and move the goal closer if necessary, to 5 or 8 yards).

Finally, we are going to add one more progression in terms of competitiveness and that’s adding an actual defender.

As you can see in diagram 4, utilzing 3 teams (you may have more or fewer depending on space available and number of players). Try and keep it to 3 to 5 players per team if possible.

This is the same as diagram 3 but there are two slight changes. The big change is now there is a defender waiting at th 6th cone. As you can see in the diagram the defenders are from the other teams. A player from team 2 is defending against team 1 and so on.

The defender is triggered to play when the dribbler gets through the cones. The dribbler then attacks 1v1 and tries to score in the goal. Once the ball goes out of play or a shot is taken, you reset. The player that just played offense now becomes a defender against another team.

In this drill, with a quick reset after each attempt, it’s not a race to a number. Instead, allow each player to go 3 times and the team with the most goals wins. To add another layer of competitiveness and get the defenders working hard, you could also keep track of defensive stops and then add the two numbers together for a total score.

For example, if a team scores 4 times and makes 8 stops they get 12 points.

Coaching Points

The coaching points from previous variations apply. The big change is the 1v1 attack. Most players, especially younger ones, try to self pass around defenders and beat them to the ball. There is no space for that in this drill. The coaches should really focus on helping the players learn that they don’t need to completely get around a player when in goal scoring range. They just need to slightly unbalance them to create a shooting angle around them.

This means a focus on quick touches and moves like a simple lunge fake, step over or scissors to send a defender slightly offbalance in one direction so the player can take a quick touch the other way and finish.

The moves to beat the “defender” should utilize what I call foundational 1v1 moves to beat a defender.

Some progressions include:
– 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 directio 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.

Common Mistakes

Most players, when learning moves like above will do a combination of three things. They practically come to a stop when they are going to make the move, such as a scissor. Encourage them to keep their speed dribble. They don’t need to slow down to performa lunk fake or scissors.

Another common problem is they make the move too late. They get way too close to the defender before making the move. One way to work on this is to have coaches stand in the middle as defenders. Don’t actively defend, but if they get so close to you that you can stick your foot out to knock the ball away witout moving, do it. This will help them learn proper distancing when it comes to these moves.

Give these a shot. You’ll be surprised what the competitive variations do to the intensity level of your players during a simple, boring cone dribbling drill.

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.

Throw Catch – Getting Pressure on the Ball

By Sean Reed –

Objective
This session will focus on getting pressure on the ball using throw-catch (directional), which can be used within the warm-up.

The session can used to engage the players, work on their movements, working together giving players responsibility to manage and organize a way of playing (strategy).

Set Up
• 2 Teams within an area approx
• If GK are available or use outfield players and rotate them
• Pitch area 40 x 25 6v6 + GK (depending on number of players)
• GK area 3×3 / 5×5

Constraints
• Working the ball into the GK hands, within the area
• Players can run with the ball
• The opposition gains possession from an interception or when the ball hits the ground
• If the team scores, they regain possession starting with the GK

Progressions
• If the defending player can touch the player whilst in possession of the ball they gain possession
• The ball can not go over head height, but a pass can be made with one bounce

Progressions
• A half way line is introduced
• The team in possession can only score in the attacking half
• Players can not run with the ball
• The defending team must touch the ball when a player has possession to gain possession

The coach can progress and change the constraints depending on how they want to challenge the players. Above are some examples of changing the session to see how the players adapt and manage each of these situations.

Some Coaching Points
• Nearest player to apply pressure
• Support, balance and cover from other players
• Recognize when and how to apply pressure
• Acceleration and deceleration on approach
• Tracking runners
• Working together to develop a plan / strategy on how the team wants to defend, especially when the team attacking can only score in the attacking half

By Sean Reed
Former First Team Coach of Championship side Fulham FC. Sean is a UEFA A Coach with a Masters in Sport Coaching. He has over 15 years of experience working in professional football from Academy through to First team in the Premiership and Championship.

Web – www.seanjreed.com
Twitter – @SeanJReed

Scenarios – Changing the Pitch

By Sean Reed –

Objective
I have continued from my last session focusing on scenarios. For this session I am focusing on changing the pitch and I have used different examples of how this might occur.

The main focus is that the players are presented with a problem and they are required to solve it. They need to manage the plan according to what they are working towards, communicate, work together and adapt to the changing environment.

Set Up – Scenario 1

• 2 teams (can be with any number of players
• Team 1(Black Bibs) have 8 players
• Team 2 (Red Bibs) have 7 players

You create the scenario: Team 2 has had an injury or a player sent off
• Score is 0-0
• Team 1 have to win the game
• Team 2 with less players can’t afford to lose, but can either win or draw
• Provide the teams with 30secs – 1min to plan how they choose to manage the game
• The game is 10mins
• The pitch is shallow and wide, very much about defending your area
• The balls are positioned around the pitch so as to get the ball back into play quickly

Some Coaching Points
• Getting up to the ball
• Blocking shots
• Being responsible for players / space
• Strategy and game plan

Set Up – Scenario 2

• As with the previous session
• On this occasion the pitch dimensions have changed. The pitch remains the same length, but has been narrowed up
• You can keep the score line as previously, or changed to challenge the players in different ways

Progressions
• Within 1 period of the game, the pitch size can change from one to the other. This is dictated by the coach. Place an additional line (flat cones) to enable that change to occur
• The focus for the players will be to manage the change and manage the space available whether in or out of position
• This might change their strategy or game plan
• The main thing is the players take a lead role and manage the game

Some Coaching Points
• As with the previous session
• Using the time available
• Managing situations – if the score line changes
• Managing the emotions and the supporting of players
• Being brave when required

By Sean Reed
Former First Team Coach of Championship side Fulham FC. Sean is a UEFA A Coach with a Masters in Sport Coaching. He has over 15 years of experience working in professional football from Academy through to First team in the Premiership and Championship.

Web – www.seanjreed.com
Twitter – @SeanJReed

Game Related Scenarios

By Sean Reed –

Objective
For this session I have decided to focus on the creating scenarios for the players. Place them in situations, which will challenge them, require them to work together in order to plan and solve problems.

Set Up – Scenario 1
• 2 teams (can be with any number of players
• Team 1(Black Bibs) have 8 players
• Team 2 (Red Bibs) have 7 players

You create the scenario: Team 2 has had an injury or a player sent off

• Team 1 with more players is 2-1 down and they have to win
• Team 2 with less players is 2-1 up and they can’t afford to lose, but can either win or draw
• Provide the teams with 30 secs – 1 min to plan how they choose to manage the game
• The game is 10 mins
• After the game the teams can reflect • Then the situations for the team are switched round

Some Coaching Points
• How each team sets up
• How the team plans to manage the period of time
• The response if the score line changes
• Players communicating and working together

Set Up – Scenario 2
• As with the previous session
• On this occasion the team with more players is 3-1 down, but they can afford to win or draw, just not lose
• The team with a player less is 3-1 up and must win
• Split the game into 2x periods (i.e. 5 mins each), which then allows the team to re-group after the 1st period

Some Coaching Points
• As with the previous session
• Using the time available
• Managing situations – if the score line changes
• Managing the emotions and the supporting of players
• Being brave when required

By Sean Reed
Former First Team Coach of Championship side Fulham FC. Sean is a UEFA A Coach with a Masters in Sport Coaching. He has over 15 years of experience working in professional football from Academy through to First team in the Premiership and Championship.

Web – www.seanjreed.com
Twitter – @SeanJReed

Color Passing and Movement

By David Johnson

Objective
This session will focus on players thinking before the ball is passed and moving without the ball to open space.   Following a color sequence predetermines the passing but movement is player driven.  The players should open up to the passer as well as be in a position to pass immediately the next player in the pattern.   1-2 touch is the objective with constant ball movement and communication.

Set Up
Using the set up as above. 4 cones are placed in a diamond shape 10-12 yards apart.   4 players each wearing a different color practice jersey start at each cone.  1 player starts with 1 ball.

Execution
The coach calls out a color pattern such as RED, GREEN, YELLOW, BLUE.   This indicates to the players the order in which the ball must be passed to each player.  So the RED players passes to GREEN and then GREEN passes to YELLOW, and then YELLOW passes to BLUE.  The last color in the sequence then passes to first color to start the pattern again.  So in this example BLUE would pass to RED to start the pattern again.   The excrise begins with no player movement as the ball just passes around based on the color pattern.   The coach should change the color pattern every 45-60 seconds to make players adjust to new angles.

Progressions
After the ball is passed the passer must switch with the player on any other cone except the player that just received the ball.  So if RED passes to GREEN then RED must switch with either YELLOW or BLUE.  This requires thoughtful movement of the players without the ball.  Now the ball might be passed to a player on the move between cones.  This creates much more game like dynamics.

 Variation
Only have 3 players on the 4 cones.  The movement after the pass is then to the open cone.  The color pattern is then only 3 colors.

Coaching Points
– Open up to accept the pass and be ready to send it to the next color in the pattern.
– Ensure players are receiving the ball with the correct foot to ensure position to shield the ball from the defense
– A passive defender can be added to the middle of the diamond

By David Johnson

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

Team Finishing Inside the Penalty Area

By David Johnson

Objective
This session will focus on crossing and immediate finishing.  The focus needs to be on proper height, accuracy and direction of the cross and the quality and creativity of the finish. Communication including calling for the ball and what areas are open such as calling “switch” are critical.

Set Up
In a penalty area, there are 2 teams of players.   There are 4 players from each team in the grid forming a 4v4 situation.  There are 2 players from each team at the upper corners of the area with a supply of balls ready to send in immediately once the ball is out of play.  The service rotates between teams – the players on the outside can cross, play it on the ground to a checking player, or try to finish directly on net.  The players are rotated every 2-3 minutes.

Execution
The exercise begins with cross from the corner players.   The objective is to look for a creative finish immediately.  Passing is only there to setup a clear shot.   Defense is active meaning that all tackles and pass deflection is allowed.

Coaching Points
• Change the middle 4 players frequently.  Every 3 minutes or so
• Finishes should be fast and furious – your keeper will get many different looks
• Add touch restrictions – 2, 1 touch
• Restrict finishes only after 2 passes,  heading, pass backs from goal, etc.

By David Johnson

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

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.