This suggestion describes the best way for your children to improve as individual players at this point in their soccer career. Once the players get the individual skills, the team game comes very naturally. All these drills were covered at the Boy’s G’dola League and Girl’s Leagues Pre-Season sessions. So, to the children that attended these sessions, your speaking to these drills should be a review.
Juggling – Have the boys and girls juggle a ball. Juggling is keeping the ball in the air without using your hands. i.e., kicking the ball in the air with your foot and, when it comes back down, kick it up again, etc. When they start, they may only be able to do one juggle, but, over time, they’ll improve. Start with one juggle, then two, then three, etc. Juggling may be the best way to improve ball control. If the child is struggling with the ball not touching the ground at all, tell them it can bounce once before juggling it again.
Dribbling – Have the kids dribble the ball. Dribble around chairs, cones, each other, etc. Just dribbling helps a players game. But, dribbling creatively does worlds more to help the player’s game. The children should be changing pace/speed, changing direction, using both feet, faking left and going right, faking right and going left, etc. They should just dribble a ball whenever they can.
Passing and Shooting – The most efficient way to improve one’s passing and shooting skills is to play against a wall. Playing with a friend is more engaging, but playing against a wall gets you more kicks and allows you to focus much more on your personal skills. This is very similar to playing tennis against a wall. Either way, with a friend or against a wall, the players should be passing the ball with the inside of both feet, with the “shoelaces” of both feet and with the outside of both feet. The outside of the child’s opposite foot can be all but impossible at a young age, but all the other kicks are very much the basics of soccer and very do-able.
When shooting, you use the exact same surfaces of the foot as the pass except your “pass” is not to your teammate but to the back of the goal. (When shooting, always emphasize accuracy over power. Both are important, but goals are primarily scored by the players with the most accurate shots, not the hardest.)
A critical note for all these drills is that all players should be practicing with both feet. This is a very important part of the game. If you only have “one foot”, you are at a huge disadvantage. And, when you have two, you are at a huge advantage. Also, improvement happens slowly. e.g., a player will not juggle the ball ten times immediately. But, over time, they will. And, this new found skill will help their overall game dramatically. If your children get great at these three basic skills, they will shine as soccer players and will enjoy the game much more.
With all this said, far and away, the best way to get good at playing soccer is… playing soccer. One player vs. one player. Two vs. two. Seven vs. seven. Just play lots of soccer. Watching soccer helps, talking soccer helps, reading about soccer helps, but, playing soccer, particularly against and with players that are better than you, is the key to developing from a good soccer player to a great player.
Hope this helps and good mazel to all the kids,
The Coaches of Hapoel Soccer