Get back to basics by teaching your young soccer players the soccer skills necessary to maintain possession of the ball. Coaching soccer 'must-have' skills, such as ball holding, ball shielding, ball stealing (defence) and basic take-on skills (attack), is an investment for the future of your team.
Leading figures in football point out that a lack of guidance in the junior set-up could have a long term impact on a national side’s prospects. An international soccer club manager believes that sub-standard coaching at junior level – with the emphasis on the long ball game rather than a more skills-based game where the team maintains possession – is at the root of the problem.
What the players say
When ex-England international Chris Waddle went abroad training, it was not about just scoring a goal but keeping the ball. Hold it up shield it, wait for support. He found it a revelation and urged all coaches to adopt this at junior level.
Shielding the ball skills
So how do you do it? The first step is to bring the ball under control quickly. Then, you use your body/legs to get between the opponent and the ball to protect it. This is a basic soccer skill like simply stepping over the ball to shield, as well as somewhat harder like rolling/pulling the ball back behind you or to your side.
The rolling/pulling of the ball requires some work, as you need to learn to use both feet – and to switch feet. However, one of the key factors is to learn to bend the knees; get the arms out; and use body weight to push back into the opponent.
Get players to keep their bottoms down; bend the knees and push hard back into the opponent. Keep body weight on their support leg to be able to free their far foot and use it to roll the ball around.
How to coach a ball-shielding soccer drill
In your soccer (football) coaching drills, start with two equal-sized players with a single ball in a grid about 3-yards square and have them work on holding the ball by using simple rolls, pullbacks and other touches to shield the ball.
If you teach your players ANYTHING, give them the soccer coaching skills to keep possession. Once they realize they have the skills to keep an opponent from stealing the ball, they will gain the confidence to lift their heads up and find another player to pass to.
Before they gain this confidence, you can expect terrible passing simply because they will get flustered at the first hint of pressure (and might even “feel” panicked at pressure which is 10 metres away). Until your players can hold a ball 1v1 in a grid for a count of around 7-8, they are not going to have enough confidence to do very well on the field.