Coaching young, developing soccer players is a big responsibility. You can help your under-14 players graduate to the next level by running them through drills to develop their skill sets. Drills for players under the age of 14 should emphasize the importance of ball possession, team defense, transitioning between offense and defense and set plays. This will prepare your players for county, school or travel competition and ready them to move on to U15 or high school teams.
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Pirates of the Pugg
To get your players used to transitions, set up a circle about the size of the center circle on the pitch, typically 20 yards across. Adjust the circle's diameter, depending on the skill of your U14s, recommends the online drill site SoccerXpert. Set up a Pugg goal, a 4-foot-wide portable goal with an arc shape, or two cones in the center of the circle to serve as a goal. Place pinneys on three players, who will serve as the “pirates.” These defenders play against nine other players on offense, who start with the ball on your whistle or instruction. The pirates try to steal the ball and score on the Pugg goal. If a non-Pirate scores, she too becomes a Pirate. Stress the need to keep the ball close to your players' feet, to perform heads-up dribbling and to recover quickly from turnovers.
Four Goals -- End Line
New Hampshire Soccer Association director of coaching Jeff Pill recommends a drill involving four players on each team for getting across defensive concepts to U14s. Mark out a rectangle 40 yards long and 25 to 30 yards wide. Place two goals at the corner of each of the 30-yard legs of the rectangle for a total of four goals. On your whistle, have the players begin a four-on-four game in which the defending team protects both of its goals. Allow the players to work out for themselves whether they're going to challenge the ball all over the field or hang back and try to defend the space in front of their own goals. Stress the importance of applying pressure on the ball to limit the ball handler’s options.
The Explode drill helps your players work on precisely that, exploding into space. Emphasize the need to keep the body low when beginning the move, recommends coach Bill Eaton at Coaching Soccer 101. Arrange a circle of cones 15 feet across centered within a larger circle of cones 15 to 20 yards from the inner circle. Start the U14 players dribbling inside the small circle of cones. On your whistle, the players explode to the outside and dribble the ball around an outside cone. The first player back to the inner circle wins. As the players return, have them keep dribbling until you blow the whistle again for another run to the outside.