As you lay those football cones on the ground, allow the words of Sir Bobby Robson to echo in your mind – ‘practice makes permanent’.
The truth is that any player can learn a skill; the only way to embed these skills into your game is to practice them until they are automatic. This is why football drills are imperative to the success of both a player and their team, from under 5s to Champions League.
Drills are short exercises done with the aim of developing and improving various physical, technical and tactical aspects of your game. This could be anything from fitness, such as building speed and acceleration, to the specific on-the-ball skills you need in every match – passing, shooting and dribbling.
You can perform drills as part of a team training session or at home for extra-curricular technical training. For example, fine-tune your dribbling skills alone in your back garden, while working on elaborate set pieces in team training.
What You Need
Ultimately, all you need to start doing training drills is a football and a couple of cones. However, depending on your budget and goals, you can begin to add more equipment and make things more focused.
For example, agility ladders, hurdles and slalom poles can all help as you set out more elaborate drills. If you don’t have other players to practice with, a ball rebounder can also be useful to work on passing and receiving in open spaces where walls aren’t located.
Bibs are another worthwhile investment if you are working with a group of players and establishing defender vs. attacker scenarios.
Types of Football Drills
While a breakdown of every type of football drill goes beyond the scope of this guide, we can run you through a couple of skills that can be drilled effectively, why they are useful and some basic example drills you can try.
Dribbling drills should be a focus for midfielders and attackers to build confidence in running at defenders. The following basic drill cultivates control with the entire foot and can be done as part of a team session, although is just as easy to execute by yourself.
- Set out a square on the ground marked with cones
- Place lots of cones randomly within the square
- Players take turns moving the ball from one side of the square to the other as fast as you can
- Develop dribbling confidence by using all parts of both feet to control the ball as you avoid touching the cones
The ability to pass accurately over multiple distances is crucial for players of all positions, no matter what style of football your team plays. Passing drills don’t have to be complex, as this timeless exercise shows.
- Set out a square on the ground marked with cones
- Play a 4v1 match, with four players passing the ball around one defender, who tries to win possession
- Rotate the defending player when they win the ball
Creating chances through passing and dribbling is one thing, but unless you can finish properly, it will all be in vain. Finishing drills will help you hone your shooting skills. The following drill works best in a small group.
- Just outside the 18-yard box, attacking players line up, each with their own ball
- One designated player acts as the ‘wall passer’
- The first player passes to the wall passer, then receives the ball back and shoots at goal
- Players take turns being the wall passer
- Add new rules as appropriate, such as players must use their weaker foot to shoot
Crosses are another important part of attacking football and require skill and coordination from all players. You can create crossing drills to improve the tactical awareness of both attackers and defenders. This basic drill is for defenders.
- On half a full-size pitch, set up two 10-yard crossing channels on either side
- Split 12 players into six defenders and a goalkeeper, against five attackers
- All defenders line up next to the goalposts (three either side)
- The attackers play the ball out wide, with one crossing it back in to his teammates who try to score
- As soon as the cross is played in, four defenders (two from each side) run onto the pitch to clear the ball
Acceleration is a physical skill that all players must develop and is vital in matches to create space, beat your man, and win the ball. This is a typical acceleration drill that can be done solo or in a team session:
- Set four cones in a straight line
- Player lines up at the starting cone
- Player sprints to cone #1, then runs backwards to the start
- Player then sprints to cone #2, then runs backwards to cone #1
- Player then sprints to cone #3, then runs backwards to cone #2
- Player then sprints past cone #3 to complete the drill
There are many other aspects that can be worked on in training sessions with drills. For example, receiving and controlling the ball, heading (both defensive and attacking) and tackling, as well as specific defensive, attacking and goalkeeping drills.
Remember that drills are only worthwhile when they are repeated over and over. It is through this often-tireless repetition that you perfect your technique. It may seem like hard work, but when you are waltzing past the opposition on matchday and scoring with your first touch, you will be thankful you put in so much practice.
Sir Bobby wasn’t regarded as one of the game’s greatest managers for nothing!
Click here to return to our main article about Football Training
Click here to shop our range of Elite Football Supplements