For kids hoping to be the next Abby Wambach, Tim Howard, Leo Messi or Marta, soccer drills are key. They lay the foundation for the technical skills that make the difference between a player who is good and one who is great, and the earlier those drills start, the more integrated those skills will be into the child's overall play. Unlike some other sports in which size and strength is crucial, in soccer smaller, slighter players with excellent technical skills can surpass their bigger and stronger opponents.
Soccer drills for kids will vary according to child's age and skill level, but there is no reason kids as young as six and under can't start working on drills as long as the drills are short, simple and fun. Older kids can work on more complex drills and skill building.
One advantage of drills is that they reinforce muscle memory. That means that under pressure, players will begin to react more automatically because they have done so much drilling. By isolating certain actions in a controlled environment, drills also make it possible to track progress. Any given game may not give kids a chance to show off their new skills and development, but they can measure their advancement with drills, see how they are improving and identify the areas that still need work.
Drills can be done individually or in pairs or groups and can be divided up by skill taught. For example, individual drills might include techniques for shooting, dribbling, passing and ball control. Kids might drill for playing certain positions such as goalkeeper with drills that teach them how to dive for the ball, how to handle penalty shots and strategies for stopping balls at different heights.
Another advantage of beginning football drills for kids at a young age is that before they are old enough to have settled into consistently playing a particular position, drills allow kids to learn a variety of skills. Kids can work with one another on both attacking and defensive drills. Even if a child is a terrific attacking player who is unlikely to spend much time defending a goal, the versatility gained by learning a variety of skills leads to a more well-rounded player and one who will have a better understanding of the game.
The trick with drills and kids is to keep them lively and fun, and the younger the child, the more important this will be. The essence of drills is repetition, but they need to be presented in a way that will hold kids' attention and motivate them to go through the motions. Praising kids for actions during games that were reinforced by their drills can help them keep this connection in mind.
Studies have shown that drills also have the advantage of increasing players' endurance and aerobic capacity and leading to all-around physiological improvements. Drills may reduce the likelihood of injury and will nearly always improve players' technical and tactical skills. Finally, drills can have benefits for team cohesion by getting kids to work together in a way that isn't always directly related to winning a game.