Photo by Adrià Crehuet Cano on Unsplash

4 Fun Soccer Drills, Volume 1

Soccer Tic-Tac-Toe, Volleyball, Horseshoes, and Cornhole

I love soccer drills that are fun, competitive and effective at teaching specific skills—drills that can be added to a training session and serve as both instruction as well as a reward. You can use them on “fun days” before a long break or a light practice before a tournament.

My players love these types of drills too, and I’d like to share some of them with you over a three-part series.

Throughout this series, I’ll be sharing some drills I’ve created, learned from friends, or found online. When applicable, I will do my best to provide attribution on where I first discovered them.

  1. Soccer Tic-Tac-Toe — Warmup
  2. Soccer Volleyball—Passing Game
  3. Soccer Horseshoes
  4. Soccer Cornhole

Soccer Tic-Tac-Toe — Warmup

Ages: All

Soccer Tic-Tac-Toe is a warmup drill I discovered on YouTube while searching for fun warmup ideas. There seems to be several variations of it, like Beast Brigade’s video 1 and video 2, Bartlome Soccer Academy’s, and Coach Konstantinos Foundas’s.

The defining features of this fun warmup hinge around the idea that there are two teams competing to run through a circuit of obstacles before they can place markers on a tic-tac-toe “board” at the end of the circuit, and then run back to tag their teammate.

What makes this tic-tac-toe different, beyond being soccer-related and having obstacles, is that there are no “turns”. Who gets the next move entirely depends on who does the circuit faster. So, in addition to getting a workout, this game involves quick decision making in a fast-paced, instant classic. No wonder it has so many variations on YouTube, some including the pros!

Two teams (red and blue) standing at starting cones at one end with a tic-tac-toe board of “rings” at the other end.
Basic setup for Soccer Tic-Tac-Toe

Basic setup

  1. Place 2 cones 12 yards apart for starting cones.
  2. At about 8 yards, begin placing your obstacle(s). In my example, I’ve used 2 cones or agility poles (orange in the diagram) at 8 yards and 12 yards on both sides.
  3. A few yards after the obstacle(s), create a tic-tac-toe board using hoops or tall cones.
  4. For the tic-tac-toe markers, you can use differently colored cones (if you’re using hoops) or pinnies. You’ll need 3 of each.
  5. Divide players up into 2 teams, and have them line up on opposing starting cones.
  6. Hand the first 3 players in each line their respective tic-tac-toe markers.

Play

  1. When the coach says “go”, the first player in each line runs through the obstacle to place his/her marker in any free spot on the tic-tac-toe board. In my example, this obstacle is a sprint around the farthest pole, back around the middle pole and a sprint back to the tic-tac-toe board.
  2. Once they’ve place their marker, they must sprint back to their line and tag their teammate who’s next in line to go.
  3. When the first 3 markers have been placed by a team, the next player in line continues the relay, but when they get to the board he/she may move only their color to any open spot on the board.
  4. The relay continues with players moving their markers until someone gets tic-tac-toe!

Options

In this drill I’ve used 2 agility poles as a basic obstacle for speed conditioning, but you can use any type of skill, footwork, or conditioning obstacle you’d like.

Some other obstacle ideas:

  • Footwork ladders.
  • Cones or agility poles to weave through (with or without a ball).
  • Add a small box or line at the end of the obstacles for the players to stop the ball inside of before placing their markers.
  • Use a rope tied across agility poles as a sort of “limbo bar” to duck under (like Beast Brigade’s video 2).
  • Have an agility pole or cone to run around before coming back to receive a tossed ball (from the next person in line) to volley back.

Whatever skill you want your team to work on can be mixed in as the obstacle—speed, strength and condition, passing, volleys or headers, etc. The sky is really the limit here.

Marker options:

As I mentioned earlier in the setup, the markers can be 2 different colors of cones, pinnies or even soccer balls (would need to be clear which team owned what balls, though).

Board options:

For the tic-tac-toe board, use whatever makes sense. Tall cones, short cones, flat rubber “cones”, hoops, or 4 agility poles laid in a crosshatch pattern (a.k.a. pound sign).

Soccer Volleyball—Passing Game

Ages: U9+

In searching for a fun passing game, I came across PP Academy’s Fun Football Passing Game on YouTube. Since I wasn’t a fan of the rather bland name (no offense, PP Academy), I decided “Soccer Volleyball” was more fun and representative of the game itself.

Two teams of 2 players (red and blue) standing 7 yards across from each other in 4x6 yard boxes. The 7 yard neutral zone is marked in yellow.
Basic setup for Soccer Volleyball

The objective of this drill is to improve passing accuracy while learning to control the first touch. Since teams are competing by passing the ball from one end of the “court” to the other the weight of their passes will increase—trying to pass it hard enough to make it difficult for the other team to control and return. This is a lot like a spike and a set in volleyball.

The first time I ran this drill with my U12 girls team, they got fiercely competitive with each other. They were even arguing over foul touches, interpretations of the rules, etc. In other words: they loved it!

If you’re looking for a fun, competitive game that works on controlling passes, then this is it.

Setup

  1. Create a “court” that is 15 yards long by 6 yards wide for every 4 players. For example, if you have 12 players, you’ll need 3 separate courts.
  2. Divide each court up into 4 yard by 6 yard end zones on each end, with a 7 yard neutral zone between them (see diagram).
  3. Divide players up into teams of 2 (or you could potentially play 1v1). If you have an odd number, maybe one of the coaches wants to play?!
  4. Each team takes up their positions in a single end zone, playing against the team across from them.

Play

  1. One team on each court will start with the ball, and make a hard and accurate pass to one of their opponents across from them.
  2. With a single touch, the player receiving the ball must trap/lay-off the ball (under control) to his/her teammate.
  3. Their teammate then makes a hard pass (one touch) back to the other side.
  4. Each team attempts to control using one touch each and pass the ball back.
  5. The goal is to score points by forcing your opponent to make a bad touch or a bad pass.

Scoring

  • If a team miss-controls the ball, and the ball leaves their end zone, their opponent scores a point.
  • If a single player uses more than one touch, their opponent scores a point.
  • If a pass is inaccurate and leaves the court, their opponent scores a point.
  • If a pass goes straight through the back of the end zone (meaning the receiving team misses it), their opponent scores a point.

Duration

  • Play to a certain score, like first to 10.
  • Or play for 5 minutes and the team with the most points wins.
  • Rotate teams to make it a competition.

Variations

  • For younger players U8–U12, you could make a rule that a bad pass is one that isn’t straight (as if it wouldn’t go through the back of the end zone). For instance, a pass at an angle would be considered “too difficult” to control. This is totally optional.
  • You could play 1v1 with 2 touches each.
  • You could play using volleys, which would require shortening the courts to maybe 8–10 yards total (with a 2 yard neutral zone or no neutral zone at all).

Soccer Horseshoes

Ages: U12+

Soccer Horseshoes was introduced to me by a player, Tyler, on one of my Challenge-level teams a long time ago. He had picked it up from his High School soccer team, Millbrook High School in North Carolina.

Similar to Soccer Volleyball, this incredibly fun game works on passing accuracy and controlling the first touch. However, in this case, “passing” means long passes in the air (i.e. chips or pings). This is why the suggested age range is U12+. Players really need to be able to chip the ball with some accuracy to play.

Several teams of 2 depicted in different colors and shapes (blue, red, green, pink and orange). Each pair stands across from each other at their respective cones.
Basic setup for Soccer Horseshoes

Setup

  1. Divide your team into pairs.
  2. For every pair/team, set up 2 cones that are about 20–30 yards apart (or further if you dare).
  3. You will need about 8 yards between each pair of cones.
  4. Each player will lineup on his/her cone across from his/her partner, with one ball per pair/team.

Play

  1. Starting with the each teams’ ball all on one side of the playing area, the pairs/teams will take turns — one by one — chipping the ball to their teammate. If time is a constraint, you could have them all go at once (though it could be chaotic). Maybe start slow at first if this is the case.
  2. The receiving teammate must try to trap/control the ball with one touch and attempt to have the ball roll or land nearest to their team’s cone as possible. Only one touch allowed!
  3. After each team has gone, the coach will judge which team was closest to the cone and award them a point. Touching the cone and not moving any further is worth 5 points. In the case of a close call, try measuring in “feet”.
  4. Going back the other direction, each team will take turns chipping the ball back to their partners.

Rules

  • The ball must travel the entire distance in the air! No bounces**.
  • Only one touch to control.

That’s basically it.

Modifications and variations

  • Fours — you can divide your team into teams of 4 with 2 balls per team. Both players on one end will take turns chipping to their teammates across from them, who must work together to control/receiving the ball with one touch. Closest ball is the one that counts.
  • Threes — divide your team into teams of 3 (if numbers require this variation). In this variant, you’d have two options: (1) one ball per team, chipping to two teammates or (2) two balls per team, chipping to one teammate. Either option will require playing in a single direction.
  • Bounces allowed **— you can allow a single or maybe two bounces before the ball is trapped/controlled.

* Note: For younger or less skilled players who are learning to do long passes or chips and/or who are learning to trap, you can implement Fours and Bounces variants.

Soccer Cornhole

Ages: U12+

While I clearly didn’t invent the game of cornhole, I realized that Soccer Horseshoes could easily be modified to be played almost just like cornhole—potentially making it easier to score points with larger target areas. So, I made this game up to some degree (or really just repurposed it for soccer). That counts, right?

Similar to cornhole, 2 teams (red and blue) line up across from their partners on either side, attempting to score on a makeshift “board” out of cones.
Basic setup of Soccer Cornhole

Setup

  1. Set up a 2 yard by 4 yard box with another about 20 yards away (like the diagram).
  2. Inside each box, place a small hoop (or smaller 1 yard box) in the middle (or slightly more toward the back, like in cornhole).
  3. Duplicate this playing area for every 4 players.
  4. Divide players into teams of 2 (pairs), and match up them up with another team of 2 to play against (on one of the playing areas).
  5. Each team should have 2–3 balls** per team (same amount per team of course).

Play

  1. Taking turns, from one end (with all the balls), a player will chip the ball to his/her teammate, and he/she will try to trap/control the ball with a single touch — attempting to get the ball into the box or hoop.
  2. Then the other team goes, and each attempt alternates (just like cornhole).
  3. The balls inside the box remain where they are while play continues. Any balls outside the box can be collected.
  4. If the ball stops inside the hoop, it’s worth 3 points.
  5. If the ball stops inside the box, it’s worth 1 point.
  6. Points cancel each other out (just like cornhole). So, whoever has the higher remaining points scores that number. For example, if one team scores 2 (two in the box) and the other scores 4 (one box and one hoop), then the team that had 4 gets 2 total points (4 minus 2).
  7. Once all the balls have been chipped and scored, play continues in the opposite direction.

Rules

  • The ball must travel the entire distance in the air!
  • The ball must be kicked behind the front edge of the box.
  • The receiving player may only have one touch to control the ball.
  • Balls may knock other balls out of the box (but not out of the hoop).
  • Players cannot touch the other balls inside the box.

Modifications/Variants

  • Bounces — for younger or less skilled players, you could allow 1–2 bounces before their teammate controls the ball.
  • Fours — you could divide players up into teams of 4, making it 4v4. With 2 players per team on each end, it makes it easier for them to work together to trap/control the long passes (one touch only still).
  • * Note: The number of balls per team entirely depends on how many balls you have. Assuming every player brought a ball to practice, you should have at least 2 balls per team. If you have too few, one ball per team could work. In cornhole there are 4 bean bags per team, but that number of balls may be difficult to find. Not to mention 4 balls per team would take a lot longer to play—so there’s that.

More fun soccer drills

Check out the other parts in this series:

Questions, comments and feedback

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below.

If you’ve tried these drills, I would love to know how it went! I hoped you’ll share your experiences, variations or other ideas with us.

Cheers!

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