When you're coaching 10- to 12-year-old soccer players, you're working with kids on the cusp of being teenagers. This age group is just becoming aware of the complex place the world can be, and your players might have moments of worry and anxiety. At the same time, they're becoming smarter at the game. This age group is able to begin playing soccer cooperatively to a much greater degree.
Try Cooperative Drills
Simple pass-and-play rules drills work well for younger ages, but U12s can manage more sophisticated cooperative soccer drills that take the team to the next level. This is a sophisticated drill and is best done by freezing play every few minutes to discuss placement on the field and what each player's role is given the activity on the field.
To work a cooperative drill, split the team into attackers and defenders. Using half the field, select a goalkeeper and assign one defender to work with the goalkeeper. Have the rest of the team work in support of each other, passing the ball and maintaining a player who is in control of the ball and a player who is supporting the ballhandler. If a player doesn't have the ball or isn't assisting, have them practice fooling the defenders and keeping them off-balance.
Explain Shape Concepts
Many soccer teams use shapes to maintain team position and set up attacks and defense. Players 10 to 12 years old have enough abstract understanding to make this a reasonably easy concept for them to grasp. Use a whiteboard to diagram different patterns to help the players see how best to use diamonds and triangles to their best advantage in team play. Start the workout with a diagram and practice it on the field to take it from the abstract to the concrete.
Keep the Basics
U12s might be ready for more abstract concepts, but the basics of ball control, passing, shooting, dribbling and keeping goal are still critical to skill development. Include basic drills in every workout to ensure that the team's ball handling continues to improve.
Make it Fun
Soccer is a demanding sport that requires focus and fitness. U12s also need a good helping of fun to keep them engaged in the sport. Schedule fun days on a specific day of the week and play games that are silly and engaging, such as crab crawling with a ball on your stomach or passing the ball without using your feet.
Because this age group is also invested in social behavior, plan team outings to watch a local high school soccer team or set up an ice cream social to let the players have off-game time together.