Nine- to 11-year-old players are beginning to think abstractly and understand the team concept of soccer, notes coach Jeff Pill, women’s national staff coach for U.S. Soccer serving Region 1. They are able to handle complex sequences of skills. They haven’t lost the sense of humor of younger players, though, so fun games will be a hit your U-12 age players. “These players like crazy games with lots of action,” Pill concludes. You can find time when you practice with your kids to keep them engaged and amused.
To warm up your soccer players, a game of keepaway works like a charm, and you can also provide a challenge for the age group of 9 to 11. Set up a grid measuring 30 by 20 yards using eight cones in two long rows, recommends Sheldon Cipriani of Ultimate Soccer Coaching. Dress four players in red pinnies or practice vests and 10 players in blue pinnies. The blue team is allowed to take two touches including a pass to a teammate. The passer must sprint around a cone and return to the grid. If the red team swipes the ball, it can keep it as long as possible without a touch limit and without a requirement to sprint around the cones after a pass. Play for three minutes and then have four new defenders join the red team.
Reduce your grid to 15 by 15 yards for this drill, which teaches your kids how to dribble with control. Each child takes a ball and lines up on a side of the grid so that players are on all four sides, as described by Lindsey Blom in “Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Soccer.” On your command, players dribble swiftly straight across the grid and back, speeding up or slowing down to avoid collisions.
Enlarge the grid to 35 by 35 yards for this drill, also from Blom’s “Survival Guide.” Set up random pairs of cones about two yards apart to act as gates, much like a skiing slalom course. Each player pairs up with a buddy who stands outside the grid, counting and cheering. On your command, your children and their teammates try to dribble through as many gates as possible in a set time. Players can dribble through the gates in either direction but cannot go through the same gate twice in a row, Blom states.
Coach Debra LaPrath recommends this drill to develop quickness in your goalkeepers, and the fun comes from the mock battle to save the most shots. Place two portable goals 18 yards apart and divide the space between the goals in half with cones. Place one of your children, or a teammate, in each goal with a supply of balls. The first goalkeeper tries to score on the second by throwing, drop-kicking, volleying or shooting the ball in her goal. Each goalie stays in her own half and tries to score the most in a set period of time and to defend her opponent’s shots.