Football Drills & Skills

As a coach, it is your job to provide the football drills that will boost the skills and technique of your players. The football drills in this section will help you coach your players in the core skills of the game. We’ll tell you what to look out for, how to get the ideas over to your players, and we’ll give you games and exercises to really power-up their skills.

  • Shuttle Passing - This is a passing, receiving and conditioning football drill for groups of three or four players. Shuttle passing can also be used to practice heading and a variety of other ball skills.

  • War! - A very popular game for children (and fun-minded adults) that emphasises beating the player. Some of them will want to play this one all day!

  • Breakout! - This is a drill designed to improve dribbling skills and get players to keep their head up at the same time. It's easy to set up and fun to do. You need every player to have a ball and as many cones as players.

  • Manipulating the ball - This session looks at core ball control skills. You only need six players to complete the session, though it can easily be expanded to meet your needs. With lots more players you could have a number of grids working at the same time.

  • Get your wingers dribbling - If you reckon your wide men's dribbling skills could do with some polishing up, there are several areas you can work on to improve effectiveness.

  • Distance passing - This session looks at how to properly coach distance passing. You only need six players to complete one of his sessions, though it can easily be expanded to meet your needs. With lots more players you could have a number of grids working at the same time.

  • Get Back To Basics And Keep Possession - The fate of football lies in YOUR hands. A leading football club manager doubts his national team can compete with the very best at international level because youth development in the country is "flawed" and coaches at junior and senior levels are keen to see players "play with their hearts rather than their heads". But you have the power to change that.

  • Throw-ins For Juniors. Make Them Quick! - Everyone in your team must be able to throw the ball in. Don't opt for dedicated throwers.

  • Coaching The Step Across - This is the most basic shielding move - but probably the most useful. The player simply steps over the ball to put either one or both legs between the ball and an incoming opponent.

  • How To Coach The Roll - We've already looked at the basic step across used to shield the ball from an oncoming opponent, where you teach your players to simply step over the ball to put either one, or both legs between the ball and the opponent. But what happens next?

  • How to score more goals - To enhance your team's chances of hitting the back of the net, get them to have more shots and be more accurate.

  • Take the fear out of heading - Lots of kids don't like heading the ball - but there's a surefire way of helping them to overcome the fear factor.

  • How to Coach the Perfect Free-Kick - There is nothing more satisfying than bending the ball from free-kicks over the wall into the back of the net. Get yourself down to the practice field so that at the next training session you can show your free-kick takers how it's done. Watch their faces as you curl it into the top corner!

  • Tackling to Win - Tackling is an essential skill every player - not just defenders - should execute correctly, otherwise the consequences could be disastrous.

  • Lose Defenders With The Cruyff Turn - We continue our crusade to put skills back into junior football and at the same time turn your players into winners. This week we show you how to coach simple dribbling coupled with a great trick.

  • How To Coach The Tackle Of Last Resort - In the second and final part of our focus on tackling we look at a skill that should only be used in an emergency - the slide tackle.

  • Get Inside the Mechanics of Dribbling - If your players understand the basics of dribbling, then it's time to teach them to evade tackles and use fake moves to open up defences,

  • Seven Steps to Perfect Ball Control - Good players can bring the ball under their control in an instant - no matter how it arrives to them.

  • Improve Your Players’ Short Passing Skills - One of the great advantages of the 4v4 training programme is that your players get used to passing the ball and it becomes second nature to them. It creates goals, gets them out of trouble and is great to watch. But to do this you still have to make sure they know what a short pass is and when to use it.

  • How to Pass the Ball Out from the Back - Good teams can pass the ball out from the back in a structured controlled manner. Tony Carr, Academy Director at West Ham United, explains how to coach your players to do it.

  • How to Coach the Art of Beating Opponents - Beating an opponent is a vital skill to teach your players, says Tony Carr, Academy Director at West Ham United.

  • Coaching Quick Feet to Dummy the Opposition - No matter how young your players are they should practice ball manipulation. This is the ability to push, move, drag or manipulate the ball and become its master, says Tony Carr, Academy Director at West Ham.

  • How to Coach Perfect Passing Technique - There has been a bit of a debate going on between some of our readers and on our forum, The Dug-Out, over how to coach the simple pass. So here's our take on it.

  • How to Coach Football Vision - Coaches should encourage players to play their first touch away their body and into a position that will give them time to weigh up the options for their next pass. It's all about vision.

  • How to Coach Movement Off the Ball - I am always looking for good ways to coach movement off the ball. The best way I've found is to set up a system which needs good fitness and penetrating passes.

  • Crossing and Finishing. Play to Your Strengths - When you are preparing for matches make sure you practice crossing and finishing during training so that the crossers of the ball are playing to your strengths not your weaknesses.

  • Five Ways to Devastate a Defence - Two-man attacking moves can be used to devastating effect to prise open tight defences, writes Tony Rock, a Fulham FC Football in the Community coach.

  • Cross the Ball Early When Attacking a Flat Back Four - You often find with young football teams that the defenders are drawn forward when they are on the attack, leaving space behind them for your team to exploit. An early cross is the best way to do it, says David Clarke.

  • How to Coach Your Players to Beat Opponents - Getting players to use skills is hard enough, sorting out the best ones is even harder. So we asked Tony Rock, a Fulham FC in the community coach, who reckons every player should have at least three turns in their armoury that will help them withstand pressure and create space to pass, shoot or dribble.

  • How Goalkeepers are Crucial for Good Passing Moves - Successful distribution from the keeper is a hallmark of a good side. This means that building up from the back is better than launching the ball up field hoping one of your players can get it, says David Clarke.

  • A Great Way to Coach Passing and Receiving - Constant passing using match-like situations and a bit of competition to give it an edge is the best way to coach your players to be ready for football matches. And it should be fun too, says David Clarke.

  • Have Fun With Headers and Build Player Confidence - Players shouldn’t be scared of heading a football. You need to get them used to doing it and build up their confidence so they can do it in matches. Don’t spend too long on it, but do make it fun, says David Clarke.

  • How to Keep Attackers at Bay - When your defender is the last man, if he jumps into a tackle and doesn't win it, the attacker is through on goal. So, you need to teach your players ways to hold up an opponent until help arrives, says David Clarke.

  • How Chasing Footballs Helps Player Concentration - The best sessions are when you can get your players to use their skill, technique, fitness and most of all their concentration from the word go. Keep them moving and learning with this great exercise, says David Clarke.

  • How to Coach Your Team to Switch Play - Get your team to keep the game flowing and split defences by swinging the ball from one side to the other to create space and outnumber the defence. You can also release pressure by switching the ball, says David Clarke.

  • Try Alternative Kick-Offs to Keep Teams Guessing - Kick-offs are particularly important in junior football because if you’ve just given away a goal, or you are starting the first or second half of a match, you need your players to take the initiative and catch your opponent out, says David Clarke.

  • Get Better Quicker by Passing Under Pressure - We’ve all been at matches where your player has the ball in an important area, he looks up only to see an opponent bearing down on him and he is powerless to keep hold of the ball. You need to prepare him, says David Clarke.

  • Coach Your Team to Pass Past Players - There is a direct relationship between overall team success and both the total number of passes and the passing success rate. In combinations of twos and threes you can pass your way to goal, says David Clarke.

  • How To Coach Ball Control - Using this simple set up to practice ball control is an excellent way to teach young players of all age groups how important being able to control a ball is. It is one of the keys to winning football matches, says David Clarke.

  • Wham Some Slam Into Players’ Kicking Skills - It’s very rare that I advise coaches to use training sessions that need something like a wall because not all of you have access to one, but this is one game that deserves going out of your way to find one, says David Clarke.

  • The Secret to Beating Defenders - Quick footed attackers look great when they run at defenders and leave them tackling thin air. You can teach your players how to do this and give them the confidence to go on match winning runs, says David Clarke.

  • Cone Wars - Often very simple exercises can be very effective for your players. A simple 1v1 where the players have to stay either side of a line and beat each other to a cone helps your players’ match day skills, says David Clarke.

  • The Only Time to Dive - The first goal that really made me sit up and think football was the best game in the world was a diving header. Back in 1972 Leeds United beat Arsenal in the FA Cup final when Alan Clarke scored with one, says David Clarke.

  • What To Do With Three Players - Strikers and goalkeepers work well together in threes. Quick shooting keeps your goalkeeper on his toes and tunes your strikers into the best place to put their shots to beat the opposition keeper, says David Clarke.

  • Dutch-Style Counter Attacking - There is such an emphasis on everyone trying to play a short passing game that many youth players cannot play an accurate long ball. But the best players can hit 40, 50 or 60 yard passes, says David Clarke.

  • Coping with Aerial Bombardment - A great way to put your defenders under pressure at training is to get your players to bombard your best three defenders with high balls into the penalty area so they are constantly having to clear them, says David Clarke.

  • Street-wise players are winners - Many of the top coaches and players in modern-day football will tell you how they grew up playing in the back streets with their friends. Playing back street football means you try your hardest or your friends will soon get on at you. That means constantly trying skills, techniques and ideas that you wouldn't normally do at training - there are no grown ups to tell you not to do it. But it’s a dying trend so you have to create an atmospere and give them coaching sessions that bring out those skills.

  • First 15 minutes - your key to successful training - Success breeds success. Successful training sessions create successful teams... teams that win.

  • Use shapes to make your team stronger - Shapes are important in soccer. They happen all over the pitch and you have to make sure your players know how to use them.

  • How to coach throw-ins in three easy parts - How many times have you seen or had a referee award possession to the opposition after a player has carried out a throw-in incorrectly? Unfortunately, it’s a frustrating and regular occurrence, but it least it can be remedied easily.

  • The secret to scoring more goals - The game’s all about scoring goals, so if you encourage your players to take more shots and aim the ball at the areas goalkeepers find trickiest to reach, the chances of success will improve. Here are my secrets to scoring more goals. One of the best ways of getting your team to take more shots – and therefore score more often – is to adjust their ATTITUDE to shot taking…Many young players won’t shoot when in a goalscoring position. Why? There are two reasons:

  • Three kicking tips for pitch and weather conditions - Kicking tips for rain, wind and long grass

  • Secrets of Dribbling - Get your players running down the street on the way to school beating lamp posts...

  • How to get your players heading - Taking the fear out of heading can have positive results on the pitch

  • Older players should be heading the ball in matches - Use Tony Carr's session to coach players once they have become aware of the way a header can influence matches.

  • Dribbling technique for wingers - How to use your wingers to stretch defences.

  • Square Passing - A great way to coach accurate passing and good technique.

  • Football passing drill - A great practice for young teams to aid decision making.

  • Square passing - A simple passing square is a great way to coach accurate passing with good technique.

  • Passing under pressure techniques - Three games for young teams to improve passing decisions.

  • How to play in triangles - West Ham Academy Director Tony Carr believes that beating your opponent is a vital skill to teach youth players. One of the best ways to get players to pass past an opponent is to teach them the wall pass. This means your team can play in small triangles all over the pitch to gain advantage and create goal scoring opportunities.

  • Possession versus pressure - Using the same pitch as above you can play this game. It's all about one team keeping the ball and the other putting pressure on and winning the ball to create goal scoring chances.

  • Football drill to show how to score in 1v1s against the keeper - He should have scored! When a player is through on goal with only the keeper to beat, it can be nerve-racking because they are expected to score. However, there are two ways the football coach can do to help a player handle that expectation: 1) Encourage them to be calm. 2) Equip them with the right techniques for the job.

  • 1v1 football drill for shooting skills - Use this drill to improve your attacker's chances of scoring in 1v1s you need to put the theory in the article How to Score in 1 v 1 Against the Keeper to the test.

  • Football drill to practise turning with the ball - It's impressive when you see footballers receive the ball with their backs to goal and in a quick movement, turn with the ball to either shoot or run at the defence. But you can get your team practising these skills with the help of this football drill.

  • Football coaching tips for long passing skills - It is important to be able to pass the ball over long distances because it is often the quickest way to exploit the space behind a defence, or the fastest method of switching the point of attack. Use these football coaching tips and drill to help.

  • Small sided football coaching game to develop passing with purpose - This small-sided football coaching game is a great way to get your players passing with purpose when they're under pressure. Clever, disguised passing makes all the difference in this game as teams stop the opposition from scoring points.

  • Colour react football warm up drill - This is a great football warm-up drill. It not only gets your players' muscles working, it is also aimed at making them more alert before a match.

  • Football coaching tips to get young players shooting more accurately - Getting players to concentrate on accuracy rather than power is one of the first problems any football coach faces. Young players believe scoring involves blasting the ball into the net but often a shot hit with less power, but on target, will get the goal.

  • Football drill to develop dribbling the ball skills - Coaching young players to look up when they are dribbling the ball is not easy. However many times you tell them to do it, they will keep looking at the ball. These football coaching tips and small-sided game are helpful for correcting this habit.

  • Step jumps football warm up drill - If you're looking for a football warm-up drill to use when space is limited, the step jumps warm-up is a good one to try.

  • Football coaching session to improve passing to keep possession - Passing the ball is a key element for your team keeping possession and vital to progression on the pitch. A poor pass will often result in poor control and losing the ball. A poor pass can also lead to interceptions by the opposition and a counter attack which could give a goal away.

  • Football coaching game making full use of the neutral player - This is a great psychological game because it teaches players to look for other options on the pitch, be that playing a ball out of defence or looking to fashion a chance in the final third.

  • Football coaching game to test players' abilities in unfamiliar space - This game, "angled goals",  tests your players' abilities to create and combine in unfamiliar space.

  • Football warm-up drill for dribbling and passing - This drill is called "Dribble and avoid the pass".

  • Football coaching session to improve game communication - Communication is the buzzword here, and you may well discover your next club captain through this simple game!

  • Football warm-up for goalkeepers - This is a simple warm-up for your goalkeeper, named "One passes, one throws", to get him alert and ready for the match ahead.

  • Football drill on defenders moving goal-side - Here is a tactic for your players to understand that getting goal-side may be one of the basic must-dos of the game but it can also be used as a tactic to stop the opposition breaching your defence.

  • Football game to improve skill and technique - Jailbreak is a great game to give your players a bit of fun on training night. It gets them using skills and techniques to shield and hold the ball, improve quick passing and develop the art of closing down to win the ball.

  • Football coaching drills focusing on accuracy before power - Getting players to concentrate on accuracy rather than power is one of the first problems any coach faces. Kids believe the idea of scoring is by blasting the ball into the net but often a shot hit with much less power, but on target, will get the goal.

  • Football tips on the defensive midfielder position - A strong player who wins the ball and passes it to the feet of the attackers... I'm sure everybody wants one in their team but don't worry, you can create your own.

  • Football passing game - Although this game is heavily weighted in favour of the passing team, the need to make 10 consecutive passes puts pressure on the players in a tight area.

  • Football coaching game for communication and coordination - In this game, players move at walking pace, like Robocop, but with a ball. The main objectives are to improve communication, co-ordination and getting a feel for distances.

  • Football coaching warm-up getting your players to challenge for the ball - This is a great warm-up to get your players challenging for the ball so they are ready to play in matches.

  • Football coaching session for the covering defender - When a defender is applying pressure to an attacker with the ball, it's important they have support in the form of a second or "covering" defender. That's to ensure that if the attacker beats the first defender, any progress is stifled by the second one.

  • Full backs attack from deep with a wall pass - Intelligence on the pitch isn’t something that comes naturally to all players. Many will make good passes or strong tackles but won’t think about what follows. Smart players are those who learn there is more than one part to a move – they must link, support and anticipate.

  • Football game focusing on space on the pitch - Is your team giving away silly goals because the second wave of attack catches your players resting on their laurels? Or are your attackers giving up when their first attack breaks down?

  • Master the stepover and shoot in this football drill - If attackers are having trouble losing defenders, they can wrong foot the opponents between them and the goal by using a simple stepover to create space for a shot.

  • Football session on keeping the ball in different situations -

    The direction of modern football seems very much about making it become as free-flowing and multi-dimensional as possible. The game is increasingly being built around ball retention, superior technique, lightning-quick passing and the ability to utilise wide open spaces on the pitch.

  • Football coaching session for back to goal basics -

    This is a really good session from David Newbery and Tony DiCiccio. It is about playing with your back to goal and how strength and presence play a big role in making the technique work. Before you know it, your players will be setting up chances with their backs to goal.

  • Football coaching session to put pressure on opponents -

    A good defence will be able to pressure its opponent into making a mistake. The rule of this session is that the nearest player to the ball must go to pressure the player in possession.

  • Football coaching session on the lay-out pass - This session is called the "Lay-off pass" by Tony Carr. When performed with the right weight and timing, a lay-off pass speeds up attacking play and creates opportunities your team can exploit.

  • Practise wing play with your football team -

    Getting players to take the ball wide and change attacking angles can help pull defences out of shape, which can create space for well-organised forwards to exploit.

  • Creating space on the football pitch with throw ins -

    Creating space is something coaches talk about all the time because if your team has space to work in, it is easier to keep possession of the ball.

  • Football coaching session on how to create space when tightly marked - In the old days of coaching, players were told to never pass the ball to another who has a marker tight on them. Nowadays, you see the top teams passing when players are surrounded by the opposition, and they can still receive the ball, control it and move it on. By Tony Carr.

  • Tactics session for your football strikers and midfielders - Using unopposed exercises for build-up and combination play in attack is a good way of coaching your players to move the ball, and encourages movement to support the ball as play moves around the pitch. By Michael Beale.

  • Pass the ball to team mates to keep possession - Younger players tend to want to attack the opponent's goal at every opportunity. This enthusiasm is a good quality in young players but it can often affect the team's rhythm because each player that receives the ball wants to immediately dribble or run forward in search of a goal.

  • Changing numbers to defend the early ball - Often young defenders will go to the ball rather than stick with the attacker they are marking, which leaves big gaps in the defence.

  • Football coaching session on volleying to score - There are some skills that your players need to make them better players. One of these is the ability to volley the ball when it is bouncing or from a flighted pass.

  • Small sided football game to get your players heading - Heading is the key skill of this small-sided game. Heading can often be overlooked in training because it is something that very few players relish, but a simple, yet focused, activity such as this can make youngsters appreciate what an art it can be.

  • Football warm up encouraging passing and receiving - This warm-up encourages passing and receiving and is again simple to set up and play.

  • Football coaching session for strikers to control the ball - Strikers playing with their backs to goal must move around to create space to receive a pass to feet. However, once this pass is made, a striker must ensure he controls the ball and uses his body to shield the ball from defenders.

  • Simple defending and attacking warm up session - You can use this session to warm your players up before they take part in a training session or use it to warm your players down afterwards.

  • Football attacking game for quick passing and positive attacking - When teams win the ball they need to use it quickly to take the opposition by surprise. This game helps your players recognise when and where they should counter attack.

  • Football game to improve communication and coordination - In this game, players move at walking pace like the 80s film character RoboCop – but with a ball. The main objectives are to improve communication, co-ordination and getting a feel for distances.

  • Training players to play short and long passes to win the match - One player I never get tired of watching is Yaya Toure of Manchester City and Ivory Coast. The attacking midfielder has built his reputation on his ability to thread a pass long or short that can split defences wide open and create space for an attacker to work in.

  • 3v3v3 session on defending from the front - Closing down opposition defenders in their half is a job for your forwards and midfielders to do.

  • Fun Christmas game for top goalscoring and goalkeeping abilities - It's freezing outside and training on hard pitches is probably the last thing your players want to do, but it's important to keep them fresh, and no doubt they'll have a few excess calories to work off during the coming weeks as well!

  • Football coaching game to improve players' performance - If this game (called Box to box) is rerun regularly during the course of a few weeks, you will quickly see players picking up methods and ideas they can easily transfer in to match situations.

  • Practise and perfect changing direction - I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Alf Galustian, the Coerver Coaching co-founder, who is also a skills coach to the English Premier League.

  • Football game using teamwork, strength and balance - This game, called "Chain Gang", uses teamwork, strength and balance. Players have to link up in a chain and keep together around the course.

  • Attack from the back and move forward - This practice looks at attacking movement that begins with every team's last man – the keeper.

  • The free player in a formation - The "backbone" is the spine of the team. If you can play matches with a strong backbone, you can fit other players into the formation that have a role with more freedom. They can roam all over the pitch.

  • Football coaching game to get players thinking - Changing team shapes by changing the number of players during a game is a fantastic way to get your players to keep their concentration and adapt the team shape and tactics to suit the situation.

  • Dribble and shoot football drill for kids - This football dribbling and shooting drill will help your players improve their basic skills.

  • Football session to develop shooting skills - This overload transition game is called 'Mixed doubles', it will improve your players shooting skills.

  • Counter attack - Counter attacks cause problems for the opposition defence but they also cause problems, although more welcome, for the attacking team. Can they make the most of having the ball in so much space?

  • Possession and penetration football session - Here's a session, divided into two parts, that benefits players in three core elements.

  • Take control in the penalty area - It's important to try to get players taking control of their actions when inside the penalty area.

  • Football game to get players passing with purpose -

    This is a great small-sided game to get your players passing with purpose.

  • Continual heading -

    Like throw-ins, headers continually occur in matches and are a great way to score goals. If you go to the trouble of getting your wingers to cross the ball into the penalty area, then you want an end product.

  • Pass and turn your way to fitness -

    At this stage of the season in England my players are preparing for a rush of games which will come thick and fast because we had to cancel so many in the past few months. They are beginning to tire and I feel we need a few sessions to get their fitness up.

  • Heads you win... -

    Heading is about more than just finding the net, so here's a session that rehearses players on how to best execute a header into the path of a team mate, be that in the opposition's box or in your own!

  • Have some fun with Jailbreak -

    Jailbreak is a great game to give your players a bit of fun on training night. It gets them using skills and techniques to shield and hold the ball, improve quick passing and develop the art of closing down opponents to win the ball.

  • Double Crossers -

    Scoring from crosses is something every team needs to practise. Rather than just a "hit and hope", successful crosses involve skill, timing and teamwork. 

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