Keeping younger kids’ attention can be difficult, especially for a soccer coach or anyone trying to teach kids how to play soccer. Below, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite dribbling and ball control drills specifically crafted for young soccer players aged 4-7. I would regularly use these drills at my soccer practices because they teach kids fundamental offensive skills while also ensuring they have fun on the field.
1. Dribble Tag
Duration: The timing of this drill is up to you but I have found that 5 – 10 minutes works best unless you have a water break in the middle.
2. Red Light Green Light
Focus: Teach players how to dribble while running and how to stop/trap the soccer ball.
Set up: Have the players line up next to each other on one end of the field. Each player needs a soccer ball. Depending on the practice environment, you can either yell the commands, red light (stop) and green light (go), blow your whistle, or, for an added challenge, use signs to force players to look up while dribbling.
Rules: The two commands for this drill are red light (stop) and green light (go). When players hear the command green light, they will start running towards the other side of the field while dribbling the soccer ball. When they hear the command red light, they will immediately stop and step trap the soccer ball by placing the top of their foot on the soccer ball. You can say the commands as frequently as you want, but the drill ends when the players reach the other side of the field.
Duration: This drill can go pretty quickly depending on the frequency of commands but I usually had my players do the drill 5 – 10 times.
3. The Dragon Tail
Focus: Teach players ball control and how to dribble while running.
Set Up: Start this drill by using cones to create the “dragon tail.” You can space the cones as close or as far apart as you like and whatever shape you like. The closer the cones are and the more shaped they are the harder the drill is. Once the cones are in place have the players make a line behind the first cone. If you have several players or want to keep the kids more engaged you can create multiple lines and multiple tails,
Rules: On your whistle have the players take turns dribbling and weaving through the cones. Once the first player has made it through a few cones the next player can go. Emphasize control over speed and make sure players are trying to weave through the cones not just run them over.
Duration: Because of the built-in rest periods, this drill can go longer. I have my players do ten minutes of this drill and I periodically change the shape of the dragon tail to mix it up.
Focus: Teach players how to dribble and control the ball.
Set Up: Have players spread out along the boundary lines on the field. You can do the whole field or half the field. Each player needs a soccer ball and they need to be evenly spaced out. Pick one or two players to be the Pac-Man and place them in the middle of the field.
Rules: The goal of the game is to avoid being tagged by the Pac-Man. On your whistle, the players will start dribbling along the boundary lines, trying to avoid being tagged by the Pac-Man, and the Pac-Man will try to tag the other players. If a player is tagged, they are out, and they must come to the sideline. You can also play where they sit down and become a barrier like in the original game. The game ends when there are only a few players left or the Pac-Man has tagged everyone.
Duration: Because of the slower pace, I usually do 3-5 rounds depending on how long each round takes.
5. Relay Races
Focus: Teaches players how to sprint with the ball, change direction while dribbling, and ball control.
Set Up: There are several variations that you can do but I usually had players form two lines and stand behind the start cone. You only need one soccer ball per team. Then I spaced three cones along the field on each side, one for each team.
Rules: On your whistle, the first player will start running and dribbling. When they get to a cone, they have to circle the cone and keep running. They will repeat this until they reach the last cone. At the last cone, they will change direction and run back towards the team, while circling each cone again. Once the player makes it back to their team, the next player will go. The drill ends when one team wins the race.
Duration: Because of the built-in rest periods, this drill can go longer. I have my players do several races and I periodically change the shape of cones to mix it up.