Make sure your coaching activities tick all these boxes

This checklist will help you avoid the “oh no” moment when you realise the game or drill you’ve planned to use is NOT going to work!

Before you play any new games or drills at your coaching sessions you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the drill appropriate for the age of my players?
  • Is it too easy or too hard?
  • Can all my squad take part at the same time or do I need to set up more than one game?
  • Can I use it with odd numbers of players?
  • Is it competitive?
  • Is it ‘soccer-like’?
  • Can I make the game harder or easier if I have to?

Let’s have a look at a passing drill you can see at lots of coaching sessions all over the world and see how it measures up.

It’s the type of drill that many coaches use to ingrain correct passing technique, especially in very young players.

Let’s say a group of eight year olds are divided into pairs and told to stand 15-20 yards apart, next to a cone and opposite each other. One ball for each pair.

The players pass the ball to each other with the inside of the foot while the coach encourages the players to use both feet, stay alert and on their toes. They shouldn’t be standing still waiting for the ball.

Tick the boxes

Why this is a good activity

  • It’s not hard to explain;
  • It is certainly within the capabilities of typical U9s;
  • The whole squad can be involved;
  • Odd numbers can easily be accommodated;
  • It can be made easier or harder by simply changing the distance between the players.

Why it’s NOT a good coaching activity

It’s not challenging enough for the average eight year old and that will quickly lead to boredom.

It’s not competitive and, crucially, it’s not “soccer-like” – when did you last see two players in a match standing next to cones and passing to each other?

There are changes you can make to this drill that will improve it. Adding a spare cone and getting the players to pass and move to it makes it more challenging. Getting them to check to the ball rather than wait for it and/or play one touch also makes it more interesting.

But there’s nothing you can do to this drill to make it “soccer-like”.

So while it’s easy to set up and it might allow you to observe passing technique and correct errors this drill (and drills like it) should be avoided.

If you want to focus on passing, far better to check and correct your players’ technique in the context of a game like the one I’ve described below.

Do you think this one ticks all the boxes?