Most young soccer players 8 years old and under are still learning how their bodies move and are still developing their motor skills. Learning how to dribble, pass and shoot the ball can be challenging and frustrating to some players. If you find yourself in a coaching role, it’s important to help your players learn these basic skills through fun games and drills. Parents can also help with the skill-learning process by repeating the drills at home.
The drill builds basic dribbling skills. Each player gets a ball. With their knees bent and their weight on the balls of their feet, the players one-touch the ball back and forth from their right foot to their left foot and back. The challenge is to maintain control of the ball with the inside of the feet. Once players become adept at moving the ball back and forth quickly, they should do the drill moving forward. Advanced players are able to do this drill moving forward with their heads up.
Passing Through Gates
This drill improves passing accuracy. It features a line of cones arranged 3 yards apart. Players line up on either side of these cones and pass the ball to each other "through the gates." Each player receives the ball, moves it into passing position and advances through the cones to the other player. As player skills improve, the gap between cones may decrease, the distance between players may increase and the tempo of the drill should quicken.
Obstacle Circuit Drill
This drill improves dribbling skills. It features cones arranged in an obstacle circuit in front of a net. Players dribble through the circuit, alternating feet as needed. On their first touch after getting through the circuit, players shoot the ball into the net. The spacing of cones can be adjusted to the skill level of the players. By arranging different circuits for each practice, a coach can create fresh challenges. The circuit should force players to use both feet equally. By shooting on the first touch coming out of the circuit, players get used to firing quickly when they get free near the net. This can be a timed drill, forcing players to pick their dribbling speed.
Power Shooting/Finesse Shooting
This drill develops scoring ability. Players line up 20 yards from the goal. A goalkeeper sets up in the crease. From the side of the net, a coach rolls the ball toward the first player in line. That player must receive the ball, control it and shoot. After the shot, the player continues forward as the coach rolls a second ball in front of the goal. The player controls the ball and tries to beat the keeper. The distance of this drill can vary, as can the difficulty of the setup passes. Players improve their distance shooting and their ability to score in close.
Keep Your Yard Clean
This drills works on ball retrieval and passing. Set up two adjoining fields, or yards. Half of the team goes into one yard, half goes into the other. Each player has a ball. Coaches and parents stand along the perimeter of the yards to keep balls in play. When the coach blows the whistle, players kick the ball into the other yard. Players retrieve the balls and kick them back. Play continues back and forth for a set period of time, usually about three to five minutes. At the final whistle, the team with the fewest balls in its yard wins. Coaches can spice things up by ordering left-footed passing or by deducting points for passes that are too high or wide.