Youth soccer varies very little from professional soccer in the way you train young athletes. You need to stay aware of younger athlete’s physical needs, especially athletes under ten, but other than that it remains very similar. Success is a mix of skill and repetition. Talent is great, but it's no substitute for practice and coaching.
Shooting and finishing drills are essential if you want your team to succeed. Shooting is how you score, so moving the ball down the field is useless if your shooters can’t attack and score successfully. We want to help you improve the shooting skills of your team or kids through drills. Build muscle memory and have fun at the same time.
Let's debunk a few myths before we get into the drills like why shooting is much more than just scoring. Many coaches train kids to shoot and don't spend enough time on getting to the shot. While shooting drills are essential, don't forget to teach them how to get within shooting distance. It doesn't take massive power to score. You're not trying to break the goalie in half, just get the ball by them.
A good shooter is a complex mixture of several talents. Athletic ability aside, power and speed don't matter much if you can't control the ball or anticipate the other team's movements. The drills we're going to talk about help with every aspect of shooting including:
The mental game is just as important as speed and power. If your head isn't in the game, you're not going to perform well or on par with your usual game. That's a key reason we've included drills that force players to contemplate what they plan to do before executing it. Without some form of plan, they're just rolling the ball down the field and hoping they'll get it in the goal.
Shooting from Square Passes
In a fast game like soccer, players may not have time to touch the ball or get their body in the perfect position to shoot. It may come down to reading the field and know this is an excellent time to shoot or as a matter of desperation when you know the tide is shifting in the game. It's a simple drill and offers something for the entire team rather than just your shooters.
Line all your players up parallel with the goal line except for one player to act as the striker. The striker needs to be positioned in the center of the field about 20 yards from the goal. The other players that are lined up should do so near the corner of the penalty area. This helps your team practice passing and your strikers get to shoot the ball.
The first player in line passes the ball to the striker who shoots it at the goal. The striker moves to the back of the line, and the passer takes over the shooting position. The next player repeats the process until everyone has had eight or so turns at shooting. You may wonder why the entire team is taking a shot at playing the striker when you probably won’t let them in a game, and we have a reason.
Good athletes know how to play their position and how they must do their job. The problem is players can't see themselves play and that's why we have coaches. Letting the strikers be part of passing the ball while watching others try their skills at shooting encourages them to watch the other player. They'll see mistakes and note them for discussion later. It helps everyone get better and promotes leadership.
Once you’ve successfully worn out your players using this drill, swap to the other side of the field and make them repeat the process. You’ll increase their stamina and force the strikers to use the opposite foot. All players tend to favor one foot over the other, but they need to be able to shoot with either foot. Make sure you have them swap feet with any drill where it’s applicable.
One Touch Shooting Mini Games
This drill works best with either three versus three or four versus four in a small area. Don't use the entire field to run this drill or you'll wear out your players too early, and they won't feel the urgency of the game. Move two goals to opposite ends of a 30-foot by 20-foot area. You can leave out the goalkeepers for the moment and let all the players work on their shooting, dribbling, and passing skills.
Serve the ball to one team and let them work around the field like they would in a typical game. The only rule is that they can't shoot the ball unless it's a one-touch shot. Force them to pass the ball to a striker and make the striker shoot right away. This is a drill for everyone on the team because it helps strikers a lot but also improves the rest of the teams understanding of how to set up strikers properly.
It’s second nature to keep score but instruct your players not to keep score during this drill. Instead, have them focus on form and accuracy. Run this drill for about ten minutes for each team and rotate the players out. If you really want to annoy your players and hone their skills, use some cones to mark off one or two four-foot by four-foot areas of the field.
The marked off areas are off limits, so players must work around them while following the one-touch rule. It helps the defending team know where the ball is coming from and it helps the attackers get creative in their approach. Practice one-touch shooting for a while before adding in the cordoned off areas. You want the players to master one skill before moving on to another.
Shooting Off Your Wingman
This drill promotes accurate passing and shooting along with teamwork. Place a server about five yards behind the center spot to pass the ball to a crosser who must remain within ten yards of the sideline. Have the server pass to the crosser then the crosser puts the ball in for the striker to run by and shoot. The players must time each pass and shot, so the striker is in the center of the field in front of the goal.
Each shot should be a one-touch shot with no time for the striker to get set up. It should go from serving to setup to shot as fast as possible. That said, stress to your players that speed is less critical in this instance than accuracy and timing. Swap side and make the striker use both feet for this drill in succession. This drill is all about teamwork and precision.
Once your players master this drill, add obstacles to the pitch. Use other players or cones to force the striker and the passers to work around obstacles while staying within their zones. Don’t’ clutter the field like a minefield and tell the other players to stand still during the drill. Their job is just to create some resistance. Add a goalkeeper to the mix at this point as well.
Shooting the Volley
Kicking a soccer ball accurately is hard enough while the ball is safely rolling across the turf but add some air under the ball and it throws everything off. Players should practice striking the ball on a bounce or in the air. Don’t bounce the ball to them or toss it like a softball but get creative and add some air underneath the ball to promote accuracy and situational awareness.
One of the best ways to practice this skill is by just dropping the ball in front of you. This drill is for every player, but it benefits strikers more than anyone else. Pair your strikers up with another player and have the player hold the ball in their palm with their arm stretched out parallel with the ground. Have them rotate their hand, so the ball drops almost straight down.
The striker's job is to kick the ball before it hits the ground but not before it's about level with the other player's knee. The other part of their job is to shoot the ball into the goal accurately. Rotate positions and angles on the field and have them run this drill from the penalty box to the halfway line. Be prepared with instructions on how to keep the ball down instead of sending it higher.
Rapid Fire One Touch Shooting
If you don’t have one, buy a soccer dummy to use as a defender in this drill instead of another player. It's safer, and the model won't get tired and move around on the field. This drill promotes passing control for the team and awareness for the striker. You'll need about 30 soccer balls each time you run this drill. If you only use a few balls, the sense of urgency is lost, and the exercise doesn't work as well.
Put a player to act as a passer on the two corners of the 18-yard box opposite the goal. Your striker needs to be centered between them and about four yards closer to the goal. The players on the corner pass the ball to the striker who shoots the ball with no more than one touch. As soon as they shoot another ball is passed in from the opposite direction.
Once they master this drill, add a dummy where the striker stands and force them to work around a stationary defender using both feet to shoot. The final stage of this drill adds a third player about 10 or 15 yards behind the shooter that passes a ball in rotation with the other players. Try to get them to run this drill as fast as they possible without sacrificing accuracy.
Don’t Forget Dribbling
Dribbling isn't always part of shooting, and most of these drills focus on one touch shots, but dribbling is essential. Your strikers won't have a perfect pass or great conditions to make a rapid one-touch shot every time. In some cases, they may need to move the ball around and wait for an opportunity. So, don’t forget to add in a few dribbling drills.
Dribbling is something most soccer players master reasonably early in their career, but everything fades without practice. Even simple drills like dribbling in between cones or dribbling parallel to the goal for a few feet then shooting will help. Practicing dribbling and shooting is critically important to young players since they don’t have years of soccer training under their belt just yet.
One of the best drills for dribbling and shooting is a simple cone weave across the edge of the 18-yard box. Setup cones a few feet apart based on the size of your players and let them dribble in and out of the cones all the way across the box. Pile balls at each corner so they can turn and shoot at each corner and pick up a new ball to dribble to the other side. It’s a simple drill but highly effective in youth soccer.
Some Final Notes
Make sure you have enough gear for the players to participate in drills without waiting very long. Younger players are ready to get into the action and spending a lot of time standing around might turn them off to the game altogether. Get enough extra soccer balls, cones, goals, and soccer dummies to keep everyone busy on the team.
Put pressure on young soccer players to learn the game and practice hard while making it fun. Look for inventive ways to turn these drills into fun ways to practice to keep younger athletes going. Kids tend to get bored of repeating the same thing over and over. Setup drills all around the field and move the kids to another drill if they get frustrated and start slacking off. It happens, they’re kids.