Competitive soccer drills
Here are two drills that I used to develop skills in my players. Each has worked well with players from the youth leagues up to the high school level.
1-on-1 ball possession
This drill promotes strong ball control and improves a variety of offensive and defensive skills.Coaches must have six cones and at least seven balls, then mark off a 20-yard square on the field. Balance three soccer balls on top of three cones on each side of the square. The coach tosses out a ball, and both players race for it.
Each player is responsible for defending the three balls on their side of the field. The players compete for possession and control of the ball to shoot at their opponent’s cones. Any time possession changes, players are forced to immediately alter their approach from offense to defense and back again.
When the ball goes out of bounds, players compete for the next ball that’s passed in by the coach. The drill is over when a player knocks all of the opponent’s balls off of the cones.
Offensively, this drill:
- Teaches players to slow the defender before accelerating.
- Improves ability to maneuver in limited space.
- Teaches players to take the defender where they want to go. For example, a right-footed player would take a defender to the left before accelerating quickly into the space on the right.
Defensively, this drill:
- Stresses closing the space.
- Teaches players to force offensive players backward and to the side.
- Improves patience. In a game, delaying the attacker for three to five seconds allows teammates enough time to recover and provide support.
Players must feel comfortable in these situations and find solutions when they’re on offense or defense. This drill also forces them to make quick decisions, which is critical in matches.
‘Get out of here’ drill
This is one of my favorite drills; I use it with players from the youth leagues to high school teams. It works on all aspects of the game and can be played 1-on-1, 2-on-2 or 3-on-3.
Coaches need a ball, two Pugg goals and cones to create a 20-by-40-yard drill area. If you don’t have Pugg goals, you can use cones.
Place two lines with three to five players behind two cones. The coach stands in the middle between the two lines with a bag of soccer balls.
Each line is assigned one goal to score on and one goal to defend. When the coach starts the drill, the first player in each line sprints into the playing area. The coach serves the ball onto the field and the players battle for it.
From there, the players go 1-on-1. If a player scores a goal, that player stays on the field and the other player leaves. Another player from the team that just allowed a score comes on to the field, and the drill continues. Think of it like playing “make it, take it” in basketball.
If, at any point, the ball goes out of bounds, the coach yells, “Get out of here!” Both players sprint off the field and the next two players enter.
Play this drill 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 with the same concepts to work on different skills, like player movement with and without the ball.
Aziz Haffar has been the varsity boys soccer coach at West Des Moines Valley High School in Iowa since 1992. During that time, his teams have won five state titles and 21 conference championships. He has been named Iowa State High School Coach of the Year four times, and NFHS Midwest Coach of the Year twice.