As a coach, building skillful soccer players requires training on drills that are in accordance with the players’ age.
Children under the age of 12 are considered to be in a stage of development where they can make their own decision; therefore, the primary focus for u12 soccer drills is on nurturing teamwork.
As much as they can decide on whether to tackle, hold the player, pass or shoot the ball; they need to learn the importance of playing as a team.
Learning to play collectively will help them make a better decision for the benefit of the team while playing.
Moreover, u12 soccer drills should be geared towards nurturing the love for the game and thus you should make sure the players are exposed to a variety of drills as they quickly get bored with too much repetition.
With the love the game ignited, players at this age group need to start looking more seriously at skills and tricks for gaining confidence with the ball.
Drills that encourage ball control and creativity with the ball are a great way to improve the skills of the players.
With that said, here is a well-rounded practice plan for u12 players that capture all the necessary drills to help build skillful players.
Warm up Drills
Like any other sport, a great warm-up is essential so as to prepare the body and the mind for the activities that lie ahead which goes a long way into setting the tone of the practices and games.
But most importantly, warm-ups help reduce the risk of injuries and activate cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
In turn, the heart rate increases and blood vessels dilate to transport nutrients to the muscles needed for soccer activities.
Basically, warm-ups fall into two broad categories depending on whether you are preparing the players for a game or for a training session. Let’s start with warming up for a training session.
Dynamic warm-up drills
Dynamic warm-ups involve a variety of movement patterns that are aimed at preparing the players’ entire bodily muscles for a game.
There are plenty of dynamic warm-ups suited for 12-year-olds; from forward jogging, sideways jumping jacks, leapfrog to all kind of lunges.
Generally, dynamic warm-ups are best performed in line where all the players go through different physical exercises together in a line.
Nevertheless, you can also try different arrangement patterns such as in a square, circle or eight-figure patterns for diversity in order to avoid monotony which may reduce the drive of the players.
From dynamic warm-ups, it is easy for players to transition into relay warm-ups especially if the dynamic warm-ups were performed in-line arrangement.
This because, in most cases, relay warm-ups are best performed in line which is makes it great for players to work on their speed and agility due to the competitive aspect of relays.
To get started on this warm-up, you need to set up relay lines with cones and divide the players into even teams.
Now have the players compete in relay races using different movements and exercises. You can also integrate a variety of exercise in the relay warm-ups, from racing to dribbling and passing in a relay.
Another fun variation of a relay is to have players play tic-tac-toe against each other in two teams.
The cones are set in a grind similar to the classic tic-tac-toe and players divided into even teams. The first player in each line is given a pinnie which is to be placed on the tic tac grid.
After placing, the first player is then supposed to run back and tag the next player in line who runs down to put their pinnie into play.
Once the team has placed all the pinnies, they must move one of their pinnies to a new location and the game goes on until one team wins.
This game emphasizes mental preparation since the players have to make a decision on where they want to place their pinnie.
When warming up for a game, the focus is on helping players get sharp on the ball and take on the opposition.
In order to achieve this, you need to practice with drills that replicate the movements in the field. Here are some of those drills.
Rondo keep away drill
The set up for this drill is easy, all you have to do is set up grids and get the players into groups of four to six. Give each group one or two pinnies and a soccer ball.
Each group should then form their own circle in which they play keep away with the one or two players in the middle.
If the players in the middle win the ball, they switch with the outside players. From this drill, the players will learn how to improve their speed and communication especially by the offensive team as well as teamwork by the defensive team.
Three grid possession drill
The three-grind possession drill not only serves as a warm-up drill but also incorporates some of the crucial movements required during the game.
It mainly focuses on improving the players’ quality of passes as well as teamwork. Set up a playing field with three distinct zones; two equal zones and one middle zone.
The zones on the outside should be wider than the middle zone, usually 20 by 10 yards for the outside zone and 20 by 5 for the middle zone.
Divide the players into three teams each with an even number of players and place these teams each on the three zones.
The team on the outside is supposed to connect passes among them and successfully cross the ball to the opposite on the other outside zone.
Meanwhile, the team in the middle should strive to gain control of the ball by countering the passes and crosses of the outside team.
If one of the outside team gets their passes intercepted by a player from the middle zone, the two teams switch positions- the outer time gets into the middle zone while the team from the middle zone plays now from the outer zone.
Small Sided Games
Small sided games are games with a small number of players on each side, whose main emphasis is on team play.
The players also learn to be comfortable with the ball and gain ball control skills since the games involve few players, thus each player gets more touches of the ball.
Below are several u12 soccer drills that can be used to create small sided games to improve individual and team skills as well;
3 vs 3 drill
set up this drill, place the nets about 30 yards apart and split the field into half using cones, the center filed line or discs.
Just as the name suggests, it is 3 players against 3 players, as such the team should be divided into smaller teams each with three players and one goalie.
The team with the ball is supposed to pass the ball and create an opening to get a clear shot on the other team’s net, without crossing the center line.
On the other hand, the team that does not have possession of the ball will try to get in the shooting lanes to protect against a clear shot on net, without crossing into the other half.
This drill requires players to be agile so as to make quick passes and shots in order to get scoring chances. The defending team must then work together to minimize the clear shooting lanes.
3 v 1 drill
The idea of this drill is to get players to pass the ball and move around the pitch. The playing area is divided into 4 grids each with four players.
However, out of the four players, there must be one player wearing a pinnie who must try to intercept the passes made by the other three players.
Allow them to play like this for a few minutes before switching the player in the middle so that they all get to chase the ball.
For more effective training, you can make a variation in the sizes of the grids. The larger grids for skilled players and a slightly smaller grid for players who struggle with passing.
You can also shake the drill up a bit by making it two players against one player.
Explosive squares drill
This drill encourages players to create good supporting angles in addition to making sure that the players learn the basics of passing and receiving the ball.
Using cones, mark out an area with four grids measuring 12 by 12 yards. Players are then grouped in teams of four with each player having a number from 1 to 4.
The game begins with one team in each square from where they must pass and move the ball around their own grid. After each pass, the player runs around a cone and goes back into the grid.
The session should proceed in a sequence so that the ball is passed from player number 1 to player number 4.
Once they have done this for a few rounds, usually 5 rounds, call out any random player’s number and they must go into the next grid clockwise to create 3 vs 1s in each grid.
The defender scores a point for his team every time the ball is lost. Play for about 2 minutes and then return to the grid to pass and run around the cone before calling out another number.
Shooting skills are important especially for strikers to enable them to aim at the net with accuracy. Let’s look into some of the most effective and fun shooting drills for 12-year-olds.
One pass shootout soccer drill
Divide the players into two teams and place 2 nets about 40 yards apart. Each team forms a line on one side of the net and the first player of each team starts at the mild field from where he receives a pass from the next player on their team.
After a few touches, the player turns and shoots the ball and then sprints back to the end of the line.
The next player then runs to the midfield line and checks back towards his teammates to receive a pass.
It is important to make sure that each team line has an adequate number of balls to ensure the exercise flows smoothly.
1 v 1 diamond shooting drill
Set the cones 12 yards from each other to form a diamond shape about 20 yards from the goalpost. Place one player to start on cone 2, 3, and 4, as the rest of the players line behind cone 1.
There should be one player guarding the goalpost. The game starts with the player 1 passing the ball to player 2 and then moves to player 2’s position.
The new player 2 then passes the ball to player 3 and quickly moves into a defensive position. Player 3 passes the ball to player 4 and takes over his position.
Player 4 receives the ball and immediately takes on player 2 in 1 v 1 battle to score. If player 4 does not score, he becomes the goalie, if he scores the current goalie remains. This drill focuses on a good passing combination, shooting, and defensive skills.
Shooting box drill
Shooting a ball quickly off a pass is a skill that every player should learn. This enables them to quickly shoot the ball to score or even cross it to their fellow teammate.
The shooting box drill is focused on this skill by training the player to shoot the ball as soon as they receive it.
To set it up, create a box with four cones and divide the players into groups of four. One player stands in the box while the other three players form a line about 15 yards away.
The first player passes the ball to the player in the box who has to receive, turn and shoot the ball while staying in the box.
After receiving the ball from all three players, the player inside the box switches positions with another player from outside the box.
When training 12-year-olds, remember to keep the drills entertaining and a bit challenging to keep the players engaged. Give them time to practice on their own while observing them to note any improvements needed.