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It’s crucial that sporting practice of any kind is fun and engaging for young children.
Whether an experienced youth footballer or a recreational player, technique practice is essential to building confidence and skills development. It’s also a super way to keep children active at home.
For a young player keen to improve their footballing ability, school sport, extra-curricular football hobbies or weekend football practice are a good place to start.
However, for those wanting to brush up on their football skills in a home environment, we have some fun and engaging practices which are the perfect way to polish their passing or refine footwork.
The beauty of home practice is that it provides a good opportunity to give dedicated focus to the child (or children) who are practising.
After all, young children have a short and limited attention span, so varied and exciting activities which capture their imaginations are ideal.
Creative expression should be encouraged at all times. For young players it’s not about formality or striving to be ‘perfect’. Similarly, it’s not about securing a win.
As a coach, avoid talking about rules, boundaries and limits. For example, don’t stipulate how many times a child may touch the ball. It’s about enjoying the process of learning new skills, developing confidence and keeping their minds and bodies active!
So often we read about football drills, or drills for kids. At Premier Education, we’ve made a conscious decision to avoid talking about drills.
The term ‘drills’ has negative connotations and conjures images of punishing routines, which are enforced or repeated time and time again.
At Premier Education we don’t use ‘drills’ or talk about football drills for kids because it goes against everything we want our sessions to be – fun!
So, when talking to your young players about some of these practices, avoid calling them drills. Rather than drills, talk about them more positively – they are skills development, learning of skills or technique practises. Any good coach will do the same.
It’s natural for young kids to pick up the football with their hands, especially in readiness to take a shot at goal. While this goes against the actual practice of playing football, it shouldn’t be discouraged. The child will eventually start relying on footwork more and more. So it’s fine for them to use their hands at times – just NEVER their head!
Whether it’s defending, dribbling or ball control, these fun games will help kids to develop their football skills in between their PE lessons or football coaching:
This is a staple football practice and for good reason. It’s adaptable, so it’s easy to scale up depending on ability and age group, and can cost nothing more than the price of a football! It can be practised in the back garden or park, and if you don’t have cones simply improvise with flower pots, toys or even wellington boots!
Coach tip: Keep adapting the layout by moving the cones closer together or further apart. This can make it more challenging and require the child to adjust their touch of the ball accordingly. This will allow them to progress and improve.
Traffic lights is a favourite game with football coaches because it enables an entire class to keep active at the same time (forget waiting in line for a turn!) It’s also equally as successful with one child and it encourages kids to use both feet, dribble with speed and to stop quickly.
You’ll notice that, initially, your child will watch the ball continuously. This is totally normal as they learn to develop coordination, control and special awareness. However, over time they will look at the ball less and start to intuitively move the ball around with greater confidence.
This simple activity provides an excellent opportunity to practice ball mastery and technique in the absence of a partner.
As the practice requires the player to kick a ball against a wall before receiving the rebound it’s fantastic for strengthening reflexes as well as perfecting passing and control. It also emulates passing in a match situation.
If a rebound is missed, simply start the process again.
Coaching tip: As it starts to get easier for your child, challenge them to only return the ball by progressively getting further away. You could also use pavement chalks to mark out a couple of circles on the wall which the child should aim for to attempt to score goals. This will help to improve accuracy.
This is a football twist on a classic playground favourite, which also provides an opportunity for a parent or guardian to participate in the action!
If space allows, divide the garden into three sections across. The sections on the right and left are safe zones, the section in the middle is where a parent/guardian can stand. That parent/guardian becomes the ‘defender’ of this middle section.
Starting on the left-hand side, the player must try to dribble from the left-hand safe zone through the middle section to the safety of the other side, without the defender getting hold of their ball.
Start by simply obstructing their pathway, but without actively tackling. This will challenge the player’s ability to dribble around a defender and will improve spatial awareness.
Once the player gets the hang of evading the defender, you can try to gain possession of the ball as your child moves through the middle section.
It’s an easy game to play with other players. You can challenge two players (or more) to complete the same exercise.
This fun game encourages the football player to think on their feet while perfecting dodging, dribbling and ball mastery.
Not only will this activity provide great exercise for both kids and defenders, it is guaranteed to inspire fun and laughter. Plus, by joining in, that parent or guardian is role-modelling the importance of being physically active.
Scoring goals is the hardest skill to master in the sport of football.
In the absence of match practice, turn and shoot is a great activity for emulating a goal scoring situation and is best played by young players keen to hone their shooting ability.
Start by marking out a goal area. You may already have a net or goalposts. If not, use cones, upturned flower pots or sticks to mark out the edges of the goal.
Kids should place their football in a penalty spot position then turn around so they’re facing away from the goal and have their back to it.
With their back to the goal, they’ll knock the ball to the side, turn towards the goal and shoot, trying to make as few touches as possible.
Start by practising this directly in front of the goal before moving on to turning and shooting from the side.
Coaching tip: Try to keep the movement slow and controlled, building up confidence before trying to turn faster. Focus on turning and getting their body into a shooting position and shooting with both feet.
Once this has been mastered, advance the game by dribbling up to the goal before taking a shot. Games like this will help to develop a number of skills essential for kids football.
It’s easy to introduce one other player to act as a goalkeeper or defender. These players can represent two teams and take it in turns to practise shooting and defending. Whichever team scores the most goals gets to select the snack at half-time!
If your child is playing against an opponent (a sibling or friend) encourage them to search for a free space around the goalkeeper when scoring a goal. For the goalkeeper, they’ll want to protect as wide a part of the goal mouth as possible.
Coaching tip: For added inspiration, why not watch videos of professional footballers taking shots or penalties? Watching football videos of a professional game is not only fun, but it provides ideas for improving kids’ skills. Some football coaches also post football videos containing top tips – search for fun football drill or best drills for kids (not that we like to call them drills!) and you’ll find plenty of inspiration!
To make home football sessions enjoyable remember to use the correct ball size for the kids you are working with.
Make sure equipment is ready for use (football fully inflated!) and that you’ve already cleared the space in advance. Kids can lose interest if they have to wait for action to commence.
Perfect your coaching approach by taking a genuine interest in your young football player. Ask them questions to ensure they fully understand the game.
Keep explanations really simple to avoid confusion and be positive and happy in everything you say. The way you say, sign or act out a particular activity can affect the way kids react to it.
Above all, have fun and enjoy every game you play together! Remember, at the end of the day, you’re on the same team!