At its core, soccer is a game that is about dribbling, passing, tackling, and shooting. Everyone has these basic skills built into them at some level. Some players have a natural talent that enhances these skills as well.
In the end, it is those who practice consistently that will be able to take their game to new heights. One can have all the talent in the world, but never fully achieve it without an emphasis on drills for skill-building.
I’ve been playing soccer since before the United States had a fully organized youth program. Using the modern structure, I was playing U12 soccer when I was 8 years old. I went to an NAIA college to play because I didn’t want to be red-shirted and have been a professional trialist more than once.
Throughout all of those experiences, I’ve had my fair share of soccer drills that coaches asked me to follow. I’ve run my fair share of laps around the field for not following them in the way they were intended. Some of those drills were excellent and shaped me into the player I turned out to be. Others, however, were poorly structured and something that should never be required of a player to complete.
Whether you’re a youth soccer coach, a parent who wants to help their children become a player, or you have some advanced football skills, here are the drills you’ll want to practice.
#1. Soccer Volleyball
The ability to one-time a pass on a volley is a skill that continues to be under-rated in the modern version of the beautiful game. It requires an ability to judge the flight of the ball and strike it accurately either on the frame of the goal or to an open player.
A good volley doesn’t require a perfect pass to be successful, but you do need the ball headed in your direction at the very least. There must be some level of directional control with the pass.
This is why soccer volleyball is an excellent drill to consider using. It highlights three important skills that must be developed for the modern player.
- Individual ball control.
- Accurate passing ability.
- Flight awareness and judgment.
For youth players, you might want to take the team out to the local tennis courts so they don’t need to try to get the soccer ball above a volleyball net. For high school players or beyond, use the volleyball court for sure.
Score the game as you would a volleyball game. The rules are also like volleyball, except you can’t use your hands since you’re working on soccer skills. Winners hit the showers. Losers take a lap or two.
#2. Triangle Combinations
If you’ve ever watched a soccer match, you’ll see most players will work together to form triangle patterns on the field. This is done for a specific reason. In the triangle shape, it becomes easier to complete short passing combinations while isolating at least one defender. If the players can maintain this shape, ball possession is more likely to be in your favor.
For this drill, create a triangle that is about 8 yards on each side by setting down training cones or markers. Then place a player on each cone, but have them stand about two yards outside of the triangle.
Then have the first player pass to the second player, keeping the ball outside of the triangle. Player #2 then passes the ball to Player #3. Once everyone has had a touch, encourage the players to pass the ball in the direction that makes the most sense, based on the movement of the ball.
At all times, the ball should be kept outside of the cones. Encourage players to open up so they can receive the ball and make one-time passes. You will want to see quick movements.
You can also lengthen or shorten the triangle based on the speed and ball control skills you wish to work on.
There are dozens of other variations you can include with this drill as well.
#3. Penalty Placement
In soccer, ball placement is the key that will unlock the success of a player. When they can accurately place a ball into a specific location, then they can hit the top corner of the goal, offer a good lead pass when a diagonal run is being made, or send in a stinging cross.
For this drill, you will place the ball on the penalty spot. Then you will direct the player to hit a specific target that is on the goal. It is good to use shooting targets that can attach to your goal for this process, but you can also verbally specify as a coach where you’d like the ball to go.
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Players can also work on this drill at home with relative ease. Just pick out a spot on a home goal or even a specific target on a wall or fence and attempt to hit it.
If you need to work on physical fitness as a team, then a missed target can result in a lap needing to be run or a requirement to fetch the ball. Always reward a hit target in some way.
You may also wish to incorporate this skill-building exercise with other shooting drills so that a better understanding of ball movement can be gained.
#4. Dribblers Anonymous
Ball control can be difficult for players when they’re moving at full speed down the pitch. Add in a defender or two who might be on your heels and staying composed is often the last thing on the mind of the player.
Here’s the problem: if a player is not composed on the ball, then they are likely to turn it over. You don’t want that.
So being able to work on short-range ball control skills is an essential component of a player’s development. When there is confidence on the ball, the rest of a player’s game tends to develop at a quicker pace.
This drill is quite simple, but it does require every player to have a soccer ball.
- Have the player stand directly over the soccer ball. It should be between their feet.
- The player then moves the ball from one foot to the other, using the inside of the foot.
- Keep the ball moving at all times, passing the ball from foot-to-foot, maintaining the action for 10-30 seconds.
Not only does this soccer drill help make the ball become one with the player, but it also helps to stretch out the hip flexors that can tighten up after a few minutes of running. Before executing this drill with the team or at home as a player, make sure you have properly warmed up.
Here are the 5 essential soccer dribbling drills that every player should be able to master.
#5. Lap Drill
Physical fitness must be part of a player’s routine when playing the game of soccer. Some players will cover nearly 7 miles on the pitch over the course of a 90-minute game. Being in game-shape will help players be able to maintain their skills and decision-making abilities throughout the entire game.
This is why running a minimum of 2-3 miles every day is often included with a player’s training regimen. The cardiovascular exercise helps the player’s body be able to withstand the rigors of a game environment.
If you’ve ever played soccer, then you’ve probably run on the local oval track for several laps. You might have been told to go run street miles. That’s good, but you can do better by turning the need of physical fitness into a skill building drill.
Go to a local field, an oval track, or some other secure location where you can run. Have cones or markers placed around the field or track at various points. Then have the players take a soccer ball and slalom through the course, weaving between the cones and markers.
This gives you three specific benefits over plain running.
- Players are able to work on high speed ball control movements.
- Concentration must be maintained at all times so the course can be properly navigated.
- Running together on such a course forces a player to be aware of their spacing and movement.
If a player misses a cone or marker, then they must go back and navigate the course as intended before they can proceed.
Here are some more conditioning drills you may wish to incorporate as well.
#6. Non-Dominant Passing and Crossing
Most soccer players have a dominant foot which they prefer to use during the game. This also means the average player will attempt to shift the ball to their dominant foot to pass or shoot, which means their movements become predictable to the defender.
If a player is at least somewhat comfortable with their non-dominant foot, then passing and crossing opportunities can open up more often.
That’s why spending some time at every practice focusing on only the non-dominant foot is time that is well spent.
Start with a crossing drill. Line up players on both sides of the field. Then, one at a time, have them cross a ball into the box using the foot that equates to the side of the field they are on. If a player is on the left, then they use their left foot – and so on.
Run the drill so that each player gets at least a half-dozen crossing attempts on both sides of the field.
You will also want to focus on non-dominant shooting so that a player isn’t trying to shift the ball when there’s an open opportunity to score. Have players attempt to score a goal with their non-dominant foot from the top of the key on the penalty arc.
Then here are some more ways that you can work on developing the weaker foot.
#7. Keeper’s United
Although you’re only going to have one keeper in the net at any given time, any player may be called upon to defend the line at any given time. Even the best keepers get caught out of position from time to time. If a player has practiced the skill of keeping a ball out of the net without using their hands to do so, then the scoreline can be preserved.
For this drill, have each player keep their hands behind their backs. A stray arm while defending the line could result in a red card and a penalty, so you want to avoid that at all costs. Then have one of your strikers send in the ball toward the goal. The defensive player succeeds when they are able to stop the ball.
You can choose to let the defensive player attempt to charge the offensive player in this drill or you can ask them to remain on the line. Each has its own strengths that can be worked on from a skill perspective.
Charging the offensive player requires timing and visual comprehension, especially through the watching of the hips to determine movement or shooting decisions.
Staying on the line requires a judgment of ball flight and the physical ability to stop the ball without a rules violation.
And let’s not forget about the goalkeepers in this scenario as well. They have specific skills that must be built as well. Speed and reaction training is a good place to get started.
The best soccer drills to practice for skill building require repetition to be successful. They may not be glamorous moments in practice, but they can help to create those moments of success on the pitch that will never be forgotten.
If you’re practicing at home, you may also wish to purchase some of the best soccer training aids to help with your development. Coaches will want to look at team training aids as well.
When everything gets put together, each player will be able to read the game better and know the role they need to play. And that is really all you can ask for if you’re a player or a coach.