We have all done it, being that soccer kid in the backyard dreaming of hitting the winning goal in extra time. We run around daydreaming we are our dream soccer athlete because we just saw them on TV. Kids need to remember that soccer drills help lay the foundation for skills needed that make the difference between good and great players. The sooner we can start soccer drills the more developed kid’s game play is going to be and the great thing about soccer is that a smaller, quick player with technical skills can excel compared to bulkier players without those skills.
Choosing soccer drills for kids will vary according to the skill level and age of the kids who are participating. Even though the lower the skill, the less options we have in drills, there are tons of small, short distance, low level drills that can be used for kids under six. Older kids, as skills progress, can do more complex drills to continue growth and development.
Drills that incorporate in-game scenarios, meaning the drill is related to a scenario in soccer, will have the benefit of developing muscle memory. Muscle memory is one of the greatest tools a soccer player can have because when the situation gets tight or they are under pressure, there muscle will know what to do because of the drills. It can happen faster than the player can even think about what to do and muscle memory is often not emphasized enough.
We all know that kids need praise and to have fun while playing the game of soccer. Praise comes in many formats and players will spend weeks developing a good skill and then in the last three games they have not gotten the opportunity to display that particular skill. Will they need that skill, of course, but it can be discouraging when players don’t get to use that skill in a game, so how can we help? I can’t change the course of the game, but what I can do is continue working with that skill so the player can see progress. When a player sees that they are getting better and making progress, it is just like praise.
Drills can be done individually or in groups depending on the skill and resources available. If the skill is low and we can identify a majority of the team needs to work on a certain skill we can do the same drill in small groups. Individual drills are great for beginners or those acquiring a new skill as they can go as slow as needed for themselves. An individual drill could cover passing, shooting, and ball control or we could move to position specific drills like a goalie. Kids could learn how to dive for a ball or work on penalty shots.
Another benefit for having beginner drills at a young age is the ability to get players learning a variety of skills before they get settled into playing a particular position. We are trying to develop all-around players who understand the game and the best way to do that is to have players develop skills at all positions. You never know when a backup attacker might have to be thrown back as a defender after two injuries.
The trick to drills regardless of the age is to make them lively and fun and younger the kids, the more critical this element will be. Of course, the essence of drills are repetition, but they must endure a way to motivate and include praise. Enough group drills will build a cohesion of the team and start to have a team mold together with good teamwork, which is every coach’s dream.