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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.

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.