Soccer coaches of children ages five and younger face a unique set of challenges. Not only are their athletes equipped with a short attention span, their lack of maturity and underdeveloped muscle structure leave this group of athletes lacking.
But for most soccer coaches of this age group these aren’t shortcomings, just apart of development. As a coach of these vulnerable youngsters, your focus isn’t on their athletic prowess instead coaches should be focusing on the true spirit of sportsmanship for children this age; which is having fun, learning great soccer skills and teamwork.
Helping your soccer players’ focus on these skills will help them not only become better soccer players but better athletes in general. Each of these individual drills is designed to focus on soccer players’ ages five years old and younger. Children will learn the basics of soccer while also learning to enjoy the sport and the camaraderie that accompanies it.
We all know that five-year-olds can get misdirected pretty easily, that’s why this is a great drill to use for your team of youngsters. This exercise is fun, simple, easy, and teaches youngsters about changing direction and feints.
Requirements: Everyone on the team can join in.
Equipment: Field marked by 20 x 20 yards with plastic cones. Plastic disks should be scattered throughout this area, one per player.
How to Play: Start by directing your players to run around the grid on your signal. When they approach a “volcano,” (i.e. plastic disks), tell them they must quickly move in the opposite direction of the volcano to avoid its dangerous lava. As a coach this should give you an ample opportunity to who players how to flex one lightly slightly in order to change direction quickly.
Follow the Leader Drill
A great way to teach your players excellent dribbling skills, Follow the Leader is a drill even the professionals use. There’s never anything wrong with going back to basics. This drill is fairly simple for most five-year old will teach them a lot.
Requirements: All players can participate, but must be divided into groups of four or five.
Equipment: 20 x 20-yard grid, and balls
How to Play: After dividing your players into groups of four or five, line them up along the same 20-yard grid from the previous drill. Each player at the first of each line will lead each line dribbling the ball throughout the grid. Each player in the line will then follow the leader of their respective lines all dribbling their balls as well. On the coach’s signal, the last player pushing their ball will dribble it to a spot approximately five yards in front of the leader of the line. That player will then sprint to the original starting point, effectively becoming the new leader. In addition to teaching dribbling skills, this exercise will also teach young players the proper way to control their walls and the way to use their given space.
An awesome drill to inspire the Sci-Fi youngsters on your team, Zombie Attacks is an easy drill for five-year-olds and probably one of the most fun. The objective of this drill is to teach children about dribbling at pace, attacking space, disguise, and most importantly change of direction.
Equipment: 40 x 30 yard with 5-yard end zones. 11 soccer balls
Requirements: 12 players split into two teams of 6
How to Play: Once players are split into two teams of six, one team will begin play in the middle of the field while the other will go to the end zone. The team in the middle is zombies; while the players at the end zone must run from one end zone to the other without being bitten. In order for the zombies to “bite,” a player they must tag a runner with their hand while dribbling their ball close to them.
Players who can’t make it to the other side and are bitten must then become zombies by grabbing their own ball and dribbling it.
From zombies to aliens, what five-year-old doesn’t like these two terrifying creatures? Fortunately, this drill resembles a regular game of chess but is beneficial for your budding soccer athletes. The game teaches agility, speed and change of direction in addition to timing and accuracy.
Requirements: 12 players and 11 balls
Equipment: 40 x 40-yard square with five-yard safety pods placed in each corner
How to Play: One player will be nominated as the alien, while all the other players will be space cadets. In order for the alien to progress, he/she must pick a ball from the side and play it against any chosen space cadets below knee height. The space cadets must attempt to run around the area in order to avoid the alien from biting him/her.
If a player is bitten by the alien then he/she must collect a ball from the side and become an alien as well, attempting to bite more space cadets. The safety pods are intended to protect space cadets from being bitten, however, they can only occupy one for up to ten seconds at a time and cannot reuse the same pod.
Nothing quite describes this soccer drill like its name. Funny turns are exactly that, a drill inspired to teach young players about turning the ball under strict control.
Requirements: 10-yard radius circle, 8 players
Equipment: 12 cones and 8 balls
How to Play: Not only is this a great drill to evaluate where everyone’s performance on your team, it’s also a great ice breaker, especially for those players who tend to be shyer. To begin players, stand in the diamond each holding a ball. The first player nominated will demonstrate their funny turn. This can be demonstrated in any way, no matter how they know how to turn the ball, they must show their skills.
When nominated this player must first dribble the ball to one of the outside cones and demonstrate their funny turn. When the player returns all the remaining players get one minute to practice the turn they just observed. Once they’ve practices, players then have to work around the clock performing their turns and returning to the diamond at each cone.
As each player demonstrates their turn, the coach and initial player can nominate a winner to perform their own funny turn for their other players to imitate.
Star Gates Drill
Perhaps one of the most complicated drills for five-year-olds, this drill is a lot of fun nonetheless. The main objectives of this drill is to teach youngsters the basics of dribbling, passing, and timing skills. This drill also helps teach players about switching play and how to perform angle of forward runs.
Requirements: 10 players split into two teams of five.
Equipment: Cones, ball and 45 x 30-yard area
How to Play:In a 45 x 30 yard area divided into 3 15-yard zones, two teams consisting of five players each face off against each other. The basic objective of this drill is move from one end of the field area and back again through a series and combinations of gates.
The team in possession of the ball must make a set number of passes, for instance 3 or 5 passes, before they can attempt to break into the next zone. In order to pass through the next zone, one player must pass or dribble the ball through the zone. The player who plays the ball must be the one to pass through with the ball in order for the rest of the team to pass through into the next zone.
When a ball and player have broken through the zone, only then can the rest of his/her teammates pass through the zone with them and begin the process all over again. Coaches can supervise this drill through specific drills such as “Stargate open” when the passing target has been met. “All clear,” indicates that players are cleared to move through the gates into another zone. And “switch to another gate,” can be used when advising players on maneuvering techniques.
There’s no doubt that soccer coaches face plenty of challenges, especially for an age group so young and dynamic. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t teach these youngsters the love and passion for soccer in addition to the basics. Teaching these youngsters how to be wonderful sportsman who both enjoy and honor the game of soccer is a rewarding experience in itself and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
It’s important for any coach to keep in mind that having fun, learning about teamwork and coming away from the game with strong soccer skills are the best thing you can give to a person so young and eager.
While these drills may seem simple, they’re an excellent way to get your team of youngsters off to a great start for their season. Good luck in all your games and remember the most important thing is having lots of fun and amazing teamwork.