Coaching soccer is both exciting and rewarding. However, you need effective and engaging coaching drills to draw the best out of the players you are training.
I’ve used many practice drills over the years, and I’m going to share my top 10 coaching drills here with you now.
These drills will work at youth soccer training sessions as well as for coaching adults. They are simple to use whether you are a new coach or have been coaching for years.
Planning a soccer practice can be tough, and I hope these options make things a little easier for you.
Why These Are the Best Soccer Coaching Drills
Several areas in soccer are important to focus on as a coach.
I’ve chosen what I believe are the ten most important areas in soccer, and I’ve listed a drill for each one.
Implementing these drills in your coaching should help your players see an improvement in their skills and abilities.
These drills will also give your players the solid foundation they need to go on and develop into even better players.
The best soccer coaching drills are:
- “The Weave“ for ball control
- “Defend the Line“ for defensive skills
- “Move and Shoot” for shooting practice
- “Dribble-Sprint-Dribble” for improving fitness
- “Looped Passing” for improving passing
- “Ball in the box” for dribbling practice
- “Pass and Cross” for crossing ability
- “Beat the Defender” for developing attacking skills
- “Catch and Move” for the goalkeeper
- “Head the Ball Clear” for heading the ball
(Click on one of the above links to jump straight to a step-by-step guide to each drill.)
Keep reading for an explanation of how each drill is laid out and what equipment you’ll need before I take you through a step-by-step guide to each individual drill.
How Each Coaching Drill Is Laid Out
To help you visualize how each drill works, I’ve written out a step-by-step process for setting up the drill and running through each one.
There’s also an image or video in each section displaying how the drill works.
Take the time to go through these drills, understand what they are asking you to do, and get out there and start using them in training sessions.
You’ll be amazed at how much your players will improve.
Equipment Needed for the Drills
One last thing before we look at the drills…
You will notice that you need two pieces of equipment for most drills – a soccer ball and cones.
I can tell you from experience that getting hold of good quality soccer balls is much better than settling for poor quality ones.
The lesser quality ones never quite feel right. They are harder to kick where you want them to go and often need replacing.
I recommend the Senda Valor DuoTech soccer ball not only because it’s a great ball, but it’s also Fair Trade certified which is a huge bonus, in my opinion.
You can check it out on Amazon here.
You should also check out these cones on Amazon. They are well worth getting as there are a lot of poor-quality cones out there, but these should last a long time.
Now, let’s look at what you’re here for…The ten best soccer coaching drills!
1. Ball Control Drill – “The Weave”
Staying in control of the ball under pressure is a skill that every player needs. It is the foundation of almost every other skill and why I have put this drill first on the list.
Players on your team who struggle to control the ball can become a weak link in the team. Therefore, focusing on this area can have a significant impact on a team’s all-around performance.
The best way to teach soccer ball control is to increase the amount of time your players spend with the ball at their feet.
Work with your team on drills that focus on contact with the ball. Create time for them to practice this skill regularly.
Purpose of the Drill
The aim of this drill is to improve a player’s ability to control the soccer ball and move it in the direction they want.
As a player becomes more confident with the ball at their feet, they will improve at keeping the ball under control for longer periods.
This should dramatically improve their ability to use the ball effectively during a game and to control it when it comes to them.
I love this drill because it’s relatively simple, but you can adapt the difficulty of the drill depending on the player’s ability.
Equipment needed: A ball and six cones
Step-By-Step Walk Through of Ball Control Drill – “The Weave”
Step 1 – Set up the cones.
Place six cones about 1 yard apart in a straight line.
Feel free to change the distance between each cone over time as your players’ level of skill and confidence increases.
Reducing the distance will present more of a challenge to the players as they perform this drill. Alternatively, if your players are struggling, try increasing the distance.
Step 2 – Player position
Have your players stand in a line approximately 5 yards from the first cone. The first player starts by dribbling the ball up to the right side of the first cone.
Step 3 -- Weave through the cones.
This drill is called “the weave” because a player “weaves” through the cones with the ball.
As the player passes the first cone, they should gently kick, or dribble, the ball between the first and second cone then follow it through.
Once the player and the ball are on the opposite side of the cones, they should gently kick or dribble the ball between cones number two and three.
The player should continue up the line of cones moving the ball between cones three and four, four and five, and then five and six.
At the end of the line of cones, the player dribbles the ball back to where they began.
Step 4 – Restrict the options.
Once your players are used to this drill, increase the difficulty level by restricting what they can do with the ball.
For example, you may decide to have your players perform the drill using only one foot to touch the ball (Practicing this drill using only your weaker foot is a great way to improve your ability with your weaker foot.)
You may restrict your players to only one touch of the ball on either side of the cones.
Or you may have the players practice this drill using only the outside edge of their feet to go back and forth between the cones.
Be creative with this one and increase the challenge for your team as their ability increases.
2. Defensive Drill – “Defend the Line”
One of the most successful soccer coaches in the history of the game, Sir Alex Ferguson, once said:
“Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles”Sir Alex Ferguson
He understood the importance of having a strong defense if you want to have a successful team. Defense is the foundation of any team, and as the coach, you need to focus on this area.
There are several qualities that every good defender needs to possess if they want to perform their role to the highest standard.
- Anticipating what will happen next
- Ability to slow down a attacker
- Ability to takle effectively
This drill helps a player work on each of these areas.
Purpose of the Drill
This drill aims to improve a player’s ability at keeping another player away from the goal they’re defending.
Your players will learn how to close down the space the attacker wants to move into and improve their timings when making a tackle.
I really like this drill for helping soccer players of any ability to improve their defensive skills. I included it in my list of the 10 Best Soccer Drills for Beginners for this very reason.
Equipment needed: 2 players, ball, and cones
Step-By-Step Walk Through of Defensive Drill – “Defend the Line”
Step 1 – Set up the cones
For this drill, you need to set up the cones in the shape of a rectangle. The drill works best if the rectangle is fairly small.
A width of approximately 6 yards (5m) and a length of 15 yards (14m) works well. The entire drill takes place within the rectangle.
Step 2 – Player’s get in Position
This drill involves just two players—one as the attacker and one as the defender. While the focus is on the defensive player, this drill will also improve the attacker’s offensive skills.
One player starts with the ball at one end of the rectangle, and the defender starts at the opposite end of the rectangle.
Step 3 – Begin the drill.
When the coach shouts “play!” the attacker will run with the ball from one end of the rectangle, aiming to dribble the ball through the cones at the opposite end of the rectangle.
The attacker shouldn’t view the opposite end of the rectangle as a goal but rather a line to run across while still in possession of the ball.
Meanwhile, at the same time, the defender will run towards the player with the ball and try to tackle them or stop them from making any progress towards the opposite end.
Neither player may leave the rectangle during this drill.
The drill is over once the defender tackles the other player or takes control of the ball, or the offensive player passes the defender and dribbles the ball out the end of the rectangle.
For more defensive drills, check out my article – 10 Best Defensive Soccer Drills.
3. Shooting Drill – “Move and Shoot”
Along with defensive capabilities, scoring goals is another fundamental element of soccer.
You won’t win a game unless you can score a goal!
Scoring a goal is also one of the most exciting parts of a game. So you will have to make sure your players don’t want to spend all their time practicing their shooting technique!
Shooting accurately and effectively takes many hours of practice to be ready to make a difference when you’re team is on the soccer field.
Purpose of the Drill
This drill is great for developing player’s ability in three main areas:
- Being able to hit the target with a shot on goal,
- Taking a shot with a moving ball,
- and dribbling with the ball past an opponent before shooting at goal
To be able to hit the target when kicking the ball is a huge asset to any soccer player.
As you use this drill while coaching your players, they will learn how to shoot well and hopefully score more goals.
Equipment needed: Two cones, a ball, and a goal
Step-By-Step Walk Through of Shooting Drill – “Move and Shoot”
Step 1 – Place the cones
Place one cone on the line of the semi-circle on the penalty box and another cone 10 yards back from there. Both cones should be in the center of the field.
Step 2 – Position of the player
A player begins with the ball at their feet next to the cone furthest from the goal.
Step 3 – Dribble the ball towards the goal.
When the coach says “play,” the player dribbles the ball toward the cone nearest the goal. Just before they arrive at the cone, the player should push the ball with their foot to either side of the cone in front of them.
Step 4 – Take a shot
Once the player has moved the ball to the left or right of the cone, they must take a shot on goal with their next touch of the ball.
You may choose to have a goalie positioned in goal for this drill or play with an open goal. It doesn’t really matter. The purpose of this drill is to help players improve their consistency at hitting the target with a moving ball.
Possible variations of this drill include:
- Having players shoot with a specific foot
- Have them run from further back
- exchange the nearest cone to the goal for a defender that the player with the ball has to beat before taking a shot.
For more this on scoring goals, check out my 11 Essential tips to scoring more goals in soccer.
4. Fitness Drill – “Dribble-Sprint-Dribble”
Staying at peak fitness is critical for any soccer player.
When a player’s fitness levels are higher, they can perform better in every area of the soccer field.
As a coach, you should be working on the player’s fitness in every training session.
But don’t focus on long-distance training such as long runs, as this is not relevant to a soccer game.
During a game, your players will be performing multiple short sprints. Your fitness training should reflect this.
Following my 30-Day Soccer Fitness Guide is a great way of building fitness training into your player’s daily routines, but for a great one-off fitness drill, have a look at this one below.
Purpose of the Drill
The aim of this specific drill is to increase a player’s anaerobic fitness.
Soccer players mostly use anaerobic energy during a game rather than aerobic. I’ve talked about this difference in my articles about long-distance running for soccer players and cycling for soccer players.
The beauty of working on this area of a player’s game is that it should improve every area of their performance on the field.
A player’s fitness levels determine how long they can keep playing, how quick they are to the ball, and how effective they are with the ball.
Equipment needed: A ball, and a soccer field or two cones
Step-By-Step Walk Through of Fitness Drill – “Dribble-Sprint-Dribble”
Step 1 – Positioning
For this drill, a player will start on the touchline, or sideline, of the soccer field. They should have the ball at their feet, ready to dribble.
If you don’t have access to a soccer field, any field or flat surface around 50 yards wide will do for this drill.
Just use two cones to mark the spots 50 yards from each other and then one more cone at the halfway point between the two.
Step 2 – Run halfway
With the ball at the player’s feet, have them dribble as fast as they can toward the halfway point of the field, parallel with the center spot.
At this point, they should leave the ball and sprint as fast as they can to the opposite touchline.
Step 3 – Touch, turn and run
When they have reached the 2nd touchline, they should bend down and touch the line with their hand. After this, the player should turn around as quickly as possible and sprint back to where they left the ball.
Step 4 – Dribble back
When they get back to the ball, the player should dribble back to the original touchline as quickly as possible.
Step 5 – Rest and repeat
When back to where they started, allow them to take 30 seconds or 1 minute to catch their breath and then repeat the drill.
Do this 5 times in a row.
As a player’s fitness improves, you may wish to repeat the drill consecutively more than 5 times in one go.
5. Passing Drill – “Looped Passing”
The ability to pass the ball accurately is one of the most crucial parts of playing soccer.
There are two reasons why –
- It allows your team to effectively move the ball up the field towards your opponent’s goal and hopefully create a goal-scoring opportunity.
- It keeps the ball in your team’s possession.
Every soccer player should spend time working on their passing. And every soccer coach should include passing drills in their practice sessions.
Purpose of the Drill
The aim of a passing drill is to develop the accuracy of a player’s passing ability.
If players can consistently pass the ball accurately throughout a game, then the whole team’s performance will improve.
Effective passing can also reduce pressure on the team, and this drill should help players become comfortable using both feet.
Equipment needed: Two cones and a ball
Step-By-Step Walk Through of Passing Drill – “Looped Passing”
Step 1 – Set up the cones
For this drill, you just need two cones laid on the ground approximately 10 yards apart. This distance can be increased or decreased depending on the abilities of the players you’re working with.
Step 2 – Position the players
Have one player stand about 1 yard back from the first cone and another player stand about a yard back from the other cone.
The two players should be facing each other with the cones between them.
Step 3 – Pass the ball
Allocate one of the players to start with the ball at their feet.
That player can choose to pass the ball to the other player with their right or left foot.
If using their right foot, the ball should travel past the right side of the cones, and if they are using the left foot, the ball should move past the left side of the cone.
Step 4 – Control the ball and pass it back
When the ball arrives with player number two, they should control the ball with one foot, roll the ball along the floor in front of their body with the same foot and then pass the ball back to the opposite player with their other foot.
For example, if player 1 passes the ball with their right foot, player 2 will control it with their left foot, use the same foot to roll it toward their right foot, and then pass it back to player 1 with their right foot. (Have a look at the video above for a demonstration).
As players become comfortable doing this, you can add variations by extending the distance between the cones or limiting the players to only one touch of the ball before passing it.
6. Dribbling Drill – “Ball in the Box”
Being able to dribble the ball and maintain control of it while it’s in your possession is necessary for any soccer player.
If your team can successfully dribble with the ball when faced with an opposition player, you stand a much better chance of keeping possession of the ball and creating opportunities to score goals.
It’s also a lot of fun for your players.
When they have the confidence to take on the player in front of them and move past them, they will enjoy themselves all the more.
Purpose of the Drill
The purpose of this dribbling drill is to improve a player’s ability to dribble the ball effectively while moving at speed.
Often if a player dribbles the ball during a game, they will be moving fast to avoid the opposition catching them.
This drill adds a competitive element to encourage your players to keep the ball under close control but not move so slow another player may tackle them
It’s similar to another drill I use when doing soccer drills for kids, as it’s a lot of fun.
Equipment needed: 8 balls, 8 players, and 32 cones
Step-By-Step Walk through of Dribbling Drill – “Ball in the Box”
Step 1 – Set up the drill
You will need to set up two small squares using a cone for each corner approximately 10 yards from each other. The box should be big enough to contain four soccer balls.
As shown in the image above, place five cones in a line, 2 yards apart from each other, perpendicular to two edges of each small box.
Five yards from the last cone marks the player’s starting point.
Step 2 – Position of the players
Split eight players into two teams of four. Have two players stand at each starting point.
Each player starts with a ball at their feet.
Step 3 – Dribble the ball
One player from each team begins by dribbling the ball through the line of cones to the box in the center. They then leave the ball in the box in the center and sprint to the starting mark at the opposite end.
When they get to their teammates, the next player begins dribbling the ball through the cones.
Step 4 – Collect the ball
Once all the balls are in the central box, the players perform the drill in reverse.
One player sprints to the box containing the soccer balls and dribbles one through the cones to the starting point where the next player sprints to the box and dribbles their ball back.
The first team to complete the drill are the winners.
For variations on this drill, you may want to remove the line of cones to make it a little simpler or possibly include more players in the competition.
7. Crossing Drill – “Pass and Cross”
Crossing the ball from the touchline into the penalty area is an often-used option for creating a goal-scoring opportunity.
Many youth and adult players just kick the ball in and hope for the best, but if a team can cross the ball accurately to another player on their team they vastly increase their chances of scoring a goal.
Purpose of the Drill
The purpose of this drill is to improve a player’s accuracy when crossing the ball.
The players will have an opportunity to first pass the ball to another player, then control and cross a moving ball.
Equipment needed: A ball, a goal, and 5 or 6 players
Step-By-Step Walkthrough of Crossing Drill – “Pass and Cross”
Step 1 – Set up the players
For this drill, have two strikers start on a soccer field between the edge of the penalty area and the halfway line.
Have one or two midfielders start on the halfway line, and one winger by each touchline of the field.
Step 2 – Striker passes the ball
The drill begins with one of the strikers passing the ball back to one of the midfielders.
As soon as they have kicked the ball, both strikers turn around and start moving toward the goal.
Step 3 – The midfielders pass the ball to the wingers
Once a midfielder has the ball, they play the ball out wide to either of the wingers. The midfielder or coach can decide which one.
Step 4 – The wingers cross the ball
When the winger receives the ball they take a touch to control it. At this point, the strikers should be in the penalty area waiting for the ball.
The winger should look up to see where the strikers are, and cross the ball into one of them.
Encourage the winger to choose one specific striker at this point and not just kick the ball into the penalty area hoping for the best!
Step 5 – Shot on goal
When the ball comes into the penalty area, one of the forwards attempts to connect with the ball and score a goal.
If you want to use a goalie for this drill, this can be a good variation that provides more challenge to the players.
You could also include defenders if you feel it would be helpful.
8. Attacking Drill – “Beat the Defender”
Attacking players have a unique and important role to play in a team. Creating and scoring goals is often the difference between winning and losing games.
Becoming a great attacking team only happens when players are willing to put in hours of hard work.
As the coach, it is your responsibility to drill your players and prepare them for what this will be like in a real game.
Purpose of the Drill
The aim of this drill is to simulate the type of attacking scenario your players will experience in a game.
Your players will work together to try and find a way past the defender in front of them.
This may happen by passing the ball or taking on the defender themselves. This drill should give the players confidence in attack during a game.
Equipment needed: 3 players, ball, and cones
Step-By-Step Walk Through of Attacking Drill – “Beat the Defender”
Step 1 – Set up the cones
For this drill, you will need to set up the cones in a rectangle. Aim for a width of 10 yards and a length of 20 yards.
Use a small goal or set up a goal with two cones at one end of the rectangle. The defender will be defending this goal.
Step 2 – Starting positions
This drill requires 2 attacking players and 1 defender.
The defender starts by the goal they are defending and the 2 attacking players start beside the two furthest cones from the goal.
One attacking player stands on each side of the rectangle.
Note: Although the defender is the lone player defending the goal, they are not playing as a goalkeeper and shouldn’t use their hands.
Step 3 – Pass the ball
One of the attacking players starts with the ball. With their first touch, they must pass the ball to the attacking player number 2.
As soon as the first attacking player passes the ball, the defender is free to leave the goal line and move forward.
Step 4 – Beat the defender
Once the 2nd attacking player is in possession of the ball, they have a choice of what to do next.
They can either take on the defender and try to get past, or they can pass back to the other attacking player and work together to pass their way around the defender.
Step 5 – Score or lose possession
The attacking player’s aim is to get the ball past the defender and score a goal. The defender’s aim is to tackle the attacking players or kick the ball out of the rectangle.
The attacking players should be encouraged not to shoot until they have passed the defender, as that is a significant part of this drill.
Once a goal has been scored or possession is lost, then the drill starts over again.
A possible variation of this drill is to adjust the size of the rectangle or the goal. A smaller space provides a greater challenge for the players.
9. Goalkeeper Drill – “Catch and Move”
The position of goalie is one of the most important in a game of soccer (and ideal for a tall player in your team!)
They carry the ultimate responsibility for keeping the ball out of their goal net and the last layer of defense for a team.
Spending time working with your goalies will reap rewards for the whole team.
Purpose of the Drill
The aim of this drill is to improve the footwork and awareness of your goalie.
Throughout a game, it is easy for a goalkeeper to become distracted by everything that’s going on around them.
As they move around the cones and watch the movement of the ball during this drill, they will increase their ability to concentrate on more than one thing that’s happening.
It will also help them to move quickly and always be anticipating the ball’s arrival.
Equipment needed – One ball and four cones.
Step-By-Step Walkthrough of Goalkeeper Drill – “Catch and Move”
Step 1 – Set up
Set up four cones in a line approximately half a yard from each other.
Step 2 – Coach and goalie position
The goalie starts to the side of the line of cones, and the coach stands about five yards in front of the goalkeeper with the ball in their hands.
Step 3 – The goalie starts moving
When the coach says “begin” the goalie steps behind the first cone and then immediately through the first and second cones.
The goalie should stay on their toes for the whole time and take small, shuffle-like steps as you can see in the video above.
Step 4 – The coach throws the ball
As soon as the goalie steps between the cones, the coach throws the ball toward them at chest height and the goalie catches the ball and throws it back to the coach.
Step 5 – The goalie continues
Immediately after throwing the ball back to the coach the goalie shuffles behind the next cone in the line and steps forward through the second and third cone. At soon as they are here the coach throws the ball again, and the goalie catches it and throws it back.
You can continue this drill as long as you feel is helpful.
The goalie can go back and forth through the cones or change direction at the coach’s command.
10. Heading Drill – “Head the Ball Clear”
Knowing how to head the ball correctly and effectively is an essential part of a soccer player’s skill set.
Using the correct technique is important if you don’t want to hurt yourself in the process and I explained how to do that in my article – How to Head a Soccer Ball (so it doesn’t hurt!).
Make sure the players you are coaching are OK to head the ball before using this drill, as some may be too young.
But once they reach an age where they are OK to use their head, you want your team to take advantage of this opportunity.
Purpose of the Drill
This drill will improve a player’s heading ability in the situation where they are in a defensive position.
Incorporating similar scenarios to what a player will experience in an actual game situation is a really helpful way of using drills.
This drill replicates a situation where the ball needs heading out of defense. Practicing this drill will help a team improve in this area.
Equipment needed: You need two soccer balls and three cones.
Step-by-Step Walkthrough of Heading Drill – “Head the Ball Clear”
Step 1 – Set up the drill
Place all three cones along the floor approximately two yards apart.
Step 2 – Player and coach positions
A player starts by standing at the middle cone facing the coach, who should be standing five yards away.
The coach will have one ball in their hands and the other at their feet.
Step 3 – Player starts moving
When the coach says ‘begin,’ the player will sprint to touch the ball in the coach’s hand and then shuffle back to their mark.
The coach will then throw the ball towards the player, who will use a defensive header to effectively and accurately head the ball away.
After this, the coach will immediately pass the second ball to the player’s feet to control and dribble around a cone on either side of choosing. The player should dribble around the cone and back to the center.
Once back in the center, the player passes back to the coach.
Step 4 – Repeat
The coach should repeat the drill at least 5 times and increase the intensity after each rep to see an improvement in the players.
Hopefully, there’s been a few drills in here that have caught your eye.
For more helpful information about coaching soccer drills, check out one of the articles below: