Soccer Drills That Are Practice Games

"Dribble Across A Square" * * * *

(Control dribbling, speed dribbling, to look up while dribbling, turning, peripheral vision, instinctive reactions, getting used to traffic and shielding the ball in traffic, looking for "Open Space" & how to use Open Space, acceleration into Open Space, how to "Breakaway", "Field Vision", to naturally dribble with both feet, poise & confidence when dribbling the ball, U-8 & up)

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Watch Video of a young Rec player who has played the Dribble Across a Square game for 3 seasons effortlessly dribble through 6 defenders who have "depth". Notice how she starts by one-touching the ball into open space between 2 defenders - How she looks up while dribbling and uses both feet - Her instinctive reactions and ability to split defenders - How she cuts right, then left, then right again to get thru defenders - How she instinctively shields the ball in traffic - Her composure in traffic EVEN when they bump and grab her - and How she sees open space and accelerates into it - all Without hesitation. She learned those skills by playing this Practice Game. Play this as a warm-up and you will see results within 2 practices.

"My daughter also wanted me to personally thank you for making her a better player especially a much better dribbler and a brave soccer player. She takes the Dribble Across A Square Game very seriously and does it before practice sometimes with a couple of the other players and also wants to win it which she does most of the time. She is CMF converted to CF. In our last 2 games, she displayed amazing dribbling. My proud moment was after two of our midfielders collided and were down for a little bit (they were not injured and got back up), she took the ball and dribbled past and around four of the opposing players along with the player who had been assigned to guard her (box and one technique) and passed it to our CMF who scored. Last year she rarely could get around one player. She was below average last year and now is one of the best players in the league. The other coach told me she is the toughest player in the league." Mark, U10G, CA

"We played Dribble Across a Square and Dribble Around the Cone and Pass Relay Race at every practice, and the results were phenomenal." Coach Greg, U-9 Coach and Premium Member

"Amazing is the only word I can think of as to how my U8 girls played. I definitely saw them to kick the ball to an open space and run onto it. This obviously is a result of playing the Dribble Across a Square practice game." Coach Troy, SC, Premium Member

"We use Dribble Across a Square as a warm up for practice and before games. During one game I saw one of my timid players perform a pullback and then score." Coach F, U8, Premium Member

"My U12 girls won the end of year tournament. The main thing I saw in my girls was a huge increase in their confidence while playing. Some of that was better skills, but more important was being used to playing under pressure and in chaotic conditions due to the Soccer Help practice games." Philip, U12, WA, Premium Member

"Many thanks are owed to you and your website. I have coached my daughter since she was 4 years old. I had never coached and wasn't a player but I found your website and signed up for Premium. This past week, my U12 daughter tried out for 2 different soccer travel teams in this area. She was quickly offered a spot for the U13 rising and was also offered a spot on the other club's U12. I attribute her success to her hard work and time put into the game. But I also think that without the " Dribble Across a Square " game that I found on your website, she would not have the foot skills that she has. She is well known in our rec league as someone you have to double and triple team if you don't want her to score. And even then, she is capable of making the 1st, 2nd, and sometimes the 3rd defender miss on her way to scoring. I recommend coaches play "Dribble Across a Square" at every practice." Jason, Premium Member

"The Dribble Across a Square game is genius, it teaches so much." John, KY, U6, U8, U10, Premium Member

"My players love the soccer patches and are always eager to earn a patch. I am seeing amazing results from the patches and Premium soccer drills. Dribble Across a Square, the Defensive Footwork drills and Chips/Lofted passes drills have helped my players and I see it in games. My U8 team just beat the best team in the league which last season beat us easily." Kevin, MD, U8 and U10, Premium member

Tip: The best way to get your players to play this game is to tell them that it's part of "Warming Up" and play it at the start of practice.

For more about this game and for another dribbling game, see "How To Teach Soccer Dribbling"

We highly recommend the "Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race" Practice Game

It is difficult to explain soccer skills in print. For demonstrations that you and your players can watch to learn the skills, and that show how to teach the skills, we recommend the following DVD's. You can read detailed reviews by clicking the links: SoccerHelp Foot Skills and Soccer Moves Training Program (Motor Memory Training and Aerobic Workout) DVD, Mia Hamm Soccer Secrets, Coerver Play Great Soccer2-DVD Set, England Skills Uncovered (19 skills are demonstrated by professional players), Soccer Success One On One Coaching, Gol! (Brazilian Foot Skills and Ball Control Training Program), Super Soccer Skills and Just Kickin' It

U6 & U8
This is now Available on SoccerHelp Premium. Use the Coupon 5offpremium to get a one-year subscription to SoccerHelp Premium for only $34.99. Premium has over 1,500 pages for youth soccer coaches - over 15,000 coaches have subscribed. Read 350 Testimonials from Coaches   A Video of this Game and Many Others is on Premium - See the List
This is the best way to teach dribbling and how to use the bottom of the foot & the inside & outside of the foot to stop the ball and turn. Easy set-up & everyone has a ball. This is a great warm-up. It is 10 times better than dribbling through cones & is a good way to evaluate dribbling skill. This game helps children's brains to learn to process a lot of activity, to use peripheral vision, and to make correct, instinctive decisions and maintain composure when under pressure and in heavy traffic..
  • Control dribbling, speed dribbling, to look up while dribbling, turning, how to dribble through traffic without panicking, shielding the ball, how to naturally find open space, "strength on the ball", dribbling under pressure, and instinctively avoiding other players. Players learn to use peripheral vision, to shield the ball when in traffic, and that they can speed up if they get in the clear. It is a "self-teaching" game and playing the game really teaches these skills and self-confidence & composure in heavy traffic & under pressure. It also teaches composure in chaotic situations and how to recognize openings in traffic and when it's safe to speed up. You will notice an improvement in "field vision" and "field awareness" (the ability to see opportunities in a crowd and across a field, and to make quick, instinctive, correct decisions). Playing this in a square that is 10 steps wide teaches "Control Dribbling", and making the square 15 to 20 steps wide will teach players how to look for Open Space, accelerate, Speed Dribble and "Breakaway" (how to look for Open Space, accelerate into it, and Speed Dribble). This is a practice game that is a drill.
Keep Score:
Remember to have the players keep score so it will be "Game-Realistic" (so there will be competition and pressure) and so you can monitor progress. Give "tips" at the end of each Game about how they can improve (see below for good tips).
This is now Available on SoccerHelp Premium. Use the Coupon 5offpremium to get a one-year subscription to SoccerHelp Premium for only $34.99. Premium has over 1,500 pages for youth soccer coaches - over 15,000 coaches have subscribed. Read 350 Testimonials from Coaches   A Video of this Game and Many Others is on Premium - See the List
The Game:
This is now Available on SoccerHelp Premium. Use the Coupon 5offpremium to get a one-year subscription to SoccerHelp Premium for only $34.99. Premium has over 1,500 pages for youth soccer coaches - over 15,000 coaches have subscribed. Read 350 Testimonials from Coaches   A Video of this Game and Many Others is on Premium - See the List
Teaching Points:
  • "Control Dribbling" - When in traffic, keep the ball close to your feet so you can protect it ("shield" it) and learn how to look up while dribbling by keeping the ball close to your feet so you know where it is.
  • "Speed Dribbling" - Keep the ball near your feet when you are in traffic, but look for Open Space and when you get "open", kick the ball into the Open Space using the inside of foot or the "laces" and run to it so you can go faster, but you must still keep it under control so you can turn, so don't kick it too hard. To Speed Dribble, you kick the ball forward using the outside top of the front of the foot (not the inside of the foot). For a video of the correct method of Speed Dribbling, see the Anson Dorrance-Tom Stone Soccer Clinic DVD at minute 19:15, "Dribbling for Speed".
  • How to do a "Pullback", "Stop/Turn", "Hook Turn", and a "Cutback".

With some games such as "Dribble Across A Square", a few players might win all the time unless the rules are adjusted. I don't think you would have that problem with the "Dribble Around Cone and Pass Relay Race" and similar games because you can balance the teams.

If the same few kids are winning a Practice Game all the time, here are some ideas to think about:

  1. Use an approach sort of like a golf handicap: start the weaker players with a few points. For example: everyone but the very best kids start with "1" or "2" or even "3".
  2. The best approach is to give the rewards for "individual improvement". A way to do that is similar to a bowling average. Let's say one kid's average was 7 in "Dribble Across". If that kid gets 9, they would have earned a patch based on their improvement. That way everyone could win one.
  3. For the "Dribble Across A Square" game, instead of a Square, make a rectangle and have your best players dribble across the long side and the weak players dribble across the short side. Adjust the lengths of the sides so it balances things out and creates a challenge for everyone (for example, make it 10 x 12 instead of 10 x 10). Let there be 2 sets of winners: a winner among the "Best" players and a winner among the "Weak" players, both of whom get a patch. That way everyone will be motivated to do their best and feel they have a chance to win a patch, and you can monitor improvement.

Benefits Of The "Dribble Across A Square Game (Premium Version)":

  1. It is the best way to teach dribbling.
  2. It is 50 times better than dribbling through cones.
  3. It is a good warm-up.
  4. It is quick and easy for one coach to set up and manage the game.
  5. It is a great way to evaluate dribbling skill.
  6. Based on the results we have had, we believe playing this game helps children's brains learn to process a lot of activity, that it teaches them to use peripheral vision, and that it teaches them to make correct, instinctive decisions and maintain composure when under pressure and in heavy traffic. In addition to improved dribbling skill, we have noticed significant improvement in "field vision" and "field awareness".
  7. You can monitor each player's progress by asking each player his or her score at the end of each game.
  8. Playing the game teaches "Control Dribbling", "Speed Dribbling" ("Running With the Ball"), shielding the ball, to look up while dribbling and the Premium Version teaches 4 types of turns (how to do a "Pullback", aka a "Drag Back", a "Stop/Turn", a "Cutback" and a "Hook Turn"). It is a "self-teaching" game and playing the game teaches these skills.

Monitoring Progress. Each player keeps count of his or her trips across the square. A player gets one point each time he or she turns. Have the first player to reach the target score (e.g., 12 or 10) yell "Done". As soon as a player yells "Done", blow your whistle and have all the other players stop as soon as they get back to the closest side of the square. Then, ask each player his or her score so you can monitor each player's progress. What I would do is start with one player and ask: "John, what was your score?" and then quickly ask each of the others. It is also an opportunity to praise anyone who has improved or to give tips such as "It is very important to keep control of the ball on your turns. If you lose the ball it will cost you several points". This only takes 2 or 3 minutes.

Remember to praise each player's improvement. For Recreational teams, we suggest not comparing players to each other, but judging each player's progress based on his or her individual improvement (it really isn't fair to compare unathletic players to athletic players). In our experience, praise is more motivating than criticism.

The "Dribble Across A Square Game" is a copyrighted SoccerHelp exclusive. It was created by us and is available only on SoccerHelp and SoccerHelp Premium.

Other SoccerHelp and Premium Practice Games That Teach Dribbling and Footwork Include:

  1. For All Ages: "Across & Back Ball Tag", "Attack & Defend Ball Tag", "Double Dare Attack/Defend", "Dribble & Tag/Reverse", "Dribble Around A Cone & Back Relay Race", "Dribble Around A Cone & Pass Relay Race", "Dribble Past Defender", "Dribble, Turn & Shoot Race", "Follow The Leader", "Race Around The Track", "Sharks And Minnows" and "Tick Tock"
  2. For U-6: "Animal Soccer", "Hit The Coach", "Monster Invasion", "Pick Up The Cones Race", "Red Rover Game", "Soccer Bees" and "Treasure Hunt"
  3. For U-6 to U-10: "Dribble Through Goals Race", "Driving School" and "Tag Pairs"
  4. For U-6 and older: "Inside/Outside Figure 8 Dribbling Race"
  5. For U-8 and older: "Ball Thieves & Ball Protectors Game", "Circle & Outside-Of-Foot Push", "Dribble Past Defenders No. 2", "Outside & Bottom of Foot Game", "Outside-of-Foot Reverse", "Pullbacks/Backward Race", "Push & Blast Off", "Relay Race On 3-Cone Course", "Side Roll Race", "Tap-On-Top Race", "2 Team Keep Away"
  6. For U-9 and older: "Steparounds"
How to Get Your Players to Listen to You (Tips for This Game):
This is easier than you think: Let's say you're playing "Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race". Play it once and ask "Who wants to win this game?" Tell them you will give them a tip that will help them win. Here's an example of a tip: Tell them that the player who starts with the ball can kick the ball in front and run to it as a way to go faster. Tell them they will just have to be sure to not kick it too hard. (Demonstrate or have a player demonstrate). Another tip: Pass the ball as soon as you can after you have rounded the cone. Another tip: The Receiver must stay on his toes and watch for whether the pass is going to his left or right and start to immediately move that way - the Receiver's most important job is to STOP the pass, because if one pass gets by him his team will lose the game (this will start to teach Receiver's that they can't just stand still and wait for the ball to come to their feet - the Receiver MUST stop the pass, just as they must in a real game). Another tip: The Receiver can start moving toward the ball as soon as it is passed (that's the rule in this game and probably would also be how you want the receiver to play in a real game), but the Receiver can't just rush at the ball... it's not that simple... he must be sure the ball is coming at him, because if it's a bad pass he may have to move sideways to stop it. Another tip: The Receiver can block the ball in front of him and run to it as a way to speed up (again, this is good training for a real game). Another one: The pass MUST be accurate... one bad pass can lose the game... the pass needs to not be too hard, but it can't be too easy either... they will learn the proper "weight" by playing this game. These are some of the things this game teaches, and your players will learn by playing the game. If you use this approach, it changes your role from a nagging coach to a guy who is giving his players tips so the can improve. The reason it works is that when they are playing our games they will see IMMEDIATE results... so they are getting immediate positive feedback and seeing that your "tips" really work. They will see that the players who follow the coaches' tips win more games than those who don't... those who listen will win, and those who don't listen will lose.

Letter From Coach Troy, U8 and U10:

The Dribble Across the Square soccer drill really helps with all the things listed below and it is the only drill that I know of that helps with all of them at once:

  1. ability to keep moving forward
    -in a crowd
    -in a limited space and
    -without losing the ball.
  2. make cuts without thinking or stopping
  3. perform a cut move without over-kicking the ball [soft touch]
  4. quick turns

Letter from Coach Glenn, U12 Mixed Rec

I have seen a ton of drills online and in books and videos. Some are good, and a lot are horrible. I really like the drills shown on SoccerHelp. I use the Dribble Across a Square game as a warm up for every practice. I accidentally dropped a couple of extra cone discs in the square as I was setting up the Dribble Across the Square game. A couple of players pointed it out, so just off the cuff, I said, "No, I meant to put that there. Its POO, so don't step in it or let your ball touch it." Of course my U-12 kids all giggled and got excited. But instantly that tiny little effort of putting some "poo" in the square had them laughing and having fun and running harder. Our team is the Bulldogs, so the 'poo' theme fits. Now I use the 'poo' cones every chance I get in drills and games. I randomly toss them out. I also walk through the games with a handful of extras and toss them out as we go. Tossing 'poo' out a few feet in front of a moving player makes them react and adjust. MUCH LIKE DEALING WITH A PRESSURE DEFENDER coming up. The kids have a blast and really respond to the fun by giving great effort. It's way too good to keep the secret to myself, so I had to share. HAVE FUN!

~Coach Glenn,
U-12 mixed rec

Whether children continue to play soccer will have a lot to do with whether it is fun at early ages. SoccerHelp Practice Games are designed to be fun, to teach important skills and concepts, and to keep players active. We don't use "knock-out" or elimination games which leave kids standing on the sideline and we don't use games such as "Crab Soccer" which are fun but have many kids crawling on the ground instead of learning to play soccer. There are thousands of drills on the Internet, but most are not well thought out, efficient, effective or fun. Most drills and games do not provide enough touches on the ball or the activity level is too low (i.e., there is too much standing around) to meet SoccerHelp standards. SoccerHelp Practice Games are selected from hundreds we have tried and less than 5% of the games we evaluate are selected for SoccerHelp Premium. We believe in positive motivation and don't believe in punishing a child who has tried their best but lost a Practice Game. Thus, we do not recommend punishing the losers or making the losers leave the game..

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