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Ideas for Soccer Practice

Informal Phase One

Informal phase one participants should first be introduced to the concepts of "space," "personal space," "group shared space," and "general space" in soccer.

The Concept of Space in Soccer
  • The child in her/his movement becomes familiar with and is comfortable in the field of play or the practice grid.
  • The player's body is the instrument of movement and may be used in a wide variety of ways--with or without the use of a ball.
  • Space, force, time, and flow are the factors of movement.
SPACE Space is the medium for motion, manipulation of ball, and play.

Personal space -- is the immediate area surrounding the body and its outer limit is the farthest reach of all body parts, and their extensions via equipment, at all levels and in all directions, while stationary or in motion around a pivot point.

Group Shared Space -- is a portion of the general space that is specifically defined for the exclusive use by subgroups, e.g., the grid, or drills in duos, trios, etc. in partitions of a grid.

General space -- is the common or shared area surrounding the personal space, and its outer limit is artificially defined by lines, walls, fences and any other accepted or real boundary. A general space may be shared by all members of one team or by members of several teams at the same time.


Modified and adapted in part from Chapman, S., Frankl, D., Harris, T., McGrogen, M., & Jackson, N. (1992). AAF Coaching Program: Soccer workshop manual. Los Angeles, CA: Amateur Athletic Foundation. (pp. 4 & 21-24)

Activities in the Personal Space (ages 5-7)

Static and Dynamic Balance related activities:

Get the feel of the ball (# 3 inflated at no more than 8 pounds per square inch; typical inflation ratio for #5 balls is between 9 and 10.5 pounds per square inch) with hands and feet while sitting on the ground.
  • Get the feel of the ball with hands and feet while in a kneeling position.
  • Manipulate the ball with hands and feet while standing in one spot (throw in air and catch, bounce on ground, bounce [once] on different body parts; push ball gently with in and outside of foot, retrieve with the sole of the foot...).
  • In a 4 X 4 feet personal space dribble/manipulate the ball using hands and feet (be carful not to enter somebody else's space).
  • Manipulate ball in personal square or circle, at a signal, change personal spaces with your closest neighbor to the right (or left, repeat drill several times).
  • Play "musical chairs" (Brazilian Samba music tracks provide great rhythms for soccer!) moving between personal spaces (do not remove spaces).
  • While keeping one body part as a pivot point in your personal space, exchange balls with individuals around you.

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Sample Activities in Personal Shared Space (ages 5-7)


activities at this level should be designed to develop cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, muscular strength and endurance through progressive drills and lead-up games.

Emphasis should be on the acquisition of the fundamental skills:
  • sprinting (without & with ball posession changing directions with ball
  • receiving and trapping ground & air borne balls
  • controlled stationary and on the run passes
  • stopping, falling, landing, rolling over shoulder to prevent injury
  • dribbling the ball
The concept of team sports should be introduced through low key competitive and co- operative activities, low organizational and lead-up games.

Learning new skills, sportspersonship, having fun, adhering to rules and giving one's best effort should be emphasized.

There is an ongoing need for continuous positive reinforcement along with specific feedback referring to successive approximations of skilled performance with little or no emphasis on performance outcome.

Soccer Equipment: Children need to be introduced to the goal as a target, the ground markings, and a ball appropriate to their age, size, and ability.

Soccer Rules: Children at this stage should be introduced to a modified version of the game's rules (see modified rules' handout, and let's not follow the steps of baseball, football, & basketball--see quotable quotes for Gary A. Fine's observation).

Drills for Soccer: Of the three specific categories of drills (A) Fundamental, (B) Match-Related, and (C) Game Conditions, use only categories A & B. Use a wide variety of drills and keep executing each drill for the length of time most kids remain active and engaged. Move quickly to the next drill and cut waiting and organizational time to the absolute minimum.

Offense and Defense: Introduce children to positional play, explain and demonstrate the creation and use of open spaces in order to 'shake off' a defensive player, to receive a pass, and/or to create a two on one or three on two situation.

The following is a description of the three specific categories of drills used in soccer practice1:


Practice of fundamental skills should take place in a pressure free environment and involve little movement. The emphasis here is on building self-esteem and the acquisition of the correct technique.

For Example: Inside of the foot frontal pass and trapping.

Two players with one ball 5-10 yards apart. Alternating between both feet and/or the dominant foot, pass the ball back and forth.


Defenders are now introduced into the drill. Minimal or passive resistance is applied by defenders to allow the players with the ball to develop technique and confidence in low intensity pressurized environment.

For Example: "Numbers Up" lead-up game. Inside of the foot frontal pass and trapping- Two teams (one team has twice as many players as the other, i.e., four vs. two, three vs. One, or one vs. Two) in an area (grid) large enough to allow for success. The larger team starts with the ball and tries to maintain possession. You may limit the dribbling and /or number of contacts with the ball that the team with possession of ball may perform.


Full pressure is applied by the defenders.
Two goals are introduced to create a situation where a counterattack will occur. Actual scenarios from a soccer match are built into the drill.

For Example:Wall Pass, Reception, and shot on goal (with goalie defending).
Two against one or three against two fast-break drill with two servers behind each goal line.

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In addition to the reinforcement of the basic philosophy and activities performed at the previous level the teacher/coach should:
  • Introduce the mechanics of basic movement and its application to improved motor performance.
  • Emphasis should be placed on the following motor skills:

-ready stance

-focus on target

-setting body in motion prior to contact (movement into succession)

-follow through

-smooth transfer of momentum

Soccer Equipment: Essentially the same as in phase I.

Soccer Rules: Children at this stage should be introduced to game rules along with the introduction of each new element of the game (the KISS [Keep it Short & Simple] principle still applies).

Drills for Soccer: Emphasis should still be mostly on action and fun. Both fundamental and match-related drills can be now presented in ways that promote the development of cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and endurance, as well as agility and speed.

Offense and Defense one on one; two on two the ball carrier dribbles the ball until challenged player without ball moves to open space to receive a pass

work in tandem

person to person (man to man)

zone concepts

offense and defense systems

the defense player maintains a position between the attacker and the goal

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THE FORMAL PHASE I -- GRADES 9 & 10 (Ages 15-16)

In addition to the extension of the basic philosophy and activities performed at the previous levels the teacher/coach should:
  • Adolescent boys & girls should continue to master basic and intermediate skills and strategies in game situations; tactics must be taught as an extension of skill teaching.
  • Individuals begin to play specialized positions and take on greater team responsibility.
  • The mechanics of basic movement continue to be applied and practiced with increasing speed and intensity.
  • Competitive opportunities should include both mass participation and highly skilled involvement.
Soccer Equipment: Standard size of goals, balls and where possible, full size marked field of play may be used.

Soccer Rules: All game rules should be taught and enforced.

Drills for Soccer: Emphasis should still be on action and fun along with the introduction of game strategy. Fundamental and match-related drills should be exercised in ways that promote the development of cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and endurance, as well as agility and speed. Game conditions drills must become an integral part of daily practices.

Offense and Defense: Increase the emphasis on offence and defense systems and introduce some special play situations. Introduce and practice intermediate goal keeping techniques.

THE FORMAL PHASE II -- GRADES 11 & 12 (Ages 17-18)

In addition to the extension of the basic philosophy and activities performed at the previous levels the parent/coach may:
  • Continue to develop and maintain fitness components.
  • Refine specialized position skills.
  • Continue to develop team unity and team tactics.
  • Increase independence in individualization and training.
  • Initiate the practice of advanced skills and game strategies.
  • Maximize opportunities to participate in appropriate competitive situations.
To keep soccer as a fun activity for life-long enjoyment and participation, our kids would be best served if we kept the game simple. Let us not turn soccer into this:

The official rules of Little League baseball are given by adults--not subject to change by preadolescent negotiation. Little Leaguers are supposed to follow rules provided by the national organization, and coaches and umpires must be knowledgeable about these rules and enforce them without exception . . . Fore a game as simple as preadolescent baseball, these rules are extensive, filling sixty-two pages in 1984.

Gary A. Fine, "With the Boys: Little League Baseball and Preadolescent Culture," 1987. (Cited in Little 88, Eitzen & Sage, 1993)

Questions and/or comments? Thank you! e-mail gif

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© Some of the ideas presented in this Web page were modified and adapted to soccer from a team handball manuscript by Manitoba Team Handball Federation, Inc. 1700 Ellice Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3H- 0B1 (204) 985-4161.

Copyright © 1997-2011 Daniel Frankl, Ph.D.

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Last Modified: February 19, 2011