Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-time coach, soccer drills are essential for any team. Middle school players can do most exercises the adults do in practice, though you can’t expect them to be as proficient at them.
Still, they are more coordinated and capable than elementary school players. What is the best soccer drill for middle schoolers?
The best soccer drill for middle school students is the practice game because it combines all the other skills kids learn in a simulated game situation. Coaches can easily assess the way middle schoolers work together. Plus, it’s easy to see which kids need improvement and how best to help them with other practice drills tailored to their weaknesses.
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10 Soccer Drills For Middle Schoolers
The top 10 soccer drills for middle schoolers are designed to help kids master relevant skills like dribbling, endurance, and footwork.
There are plenty of options here to tackle different aspects of soccer. Every drill on this list should be part of a team’s training regime.
Middle School Soccer Tryout Drills
Tryouts are one of the most critical events in the season. What happens on tryout days will determine who makes the cut and the team’s structure.
Smart coaches will use these activities to gauge how much to use the other drills on this list based on where the teams’ strengths and weaknesses lie.
1 – Practice Game
The Practice Game (5v5, 8v8, etc.) is a classic way to see how much middle school players already know and how well they work together.
This drill is a fantastic way to learn which players are most prepared and how they put their other, more specific exercises to use in game conditions.
Moreover, you can vary the teams if you have a lot of kids trying out.
- Set up cones to create a 70 x 45-yard field with goals at each end.
- Determine how long the mini-matchup will last. About 8-10 minutes will give you time to assess which kids are the strongest players.
- Divide 2 even groups.
- Designate players’ positions based on what they’d like to try out for or where you think they’ll best serve the team.
- Set up formations on both sides.
- Begin the game and watch how the players interact.
2 – Passing Ability Drill
Soccer is all about teamwork, and that means sharing the ball. It isn’t easy to share if you don’t have enough control to pass well.
This drill will show you how good the kids’ footwork is and how they work together 1 on 1.
- Place 2 sets of 3 cones in a zigzag about 20 yards apart and a 4th half the distance (10 yards) from one end of the formation. You should have eight cones and 2 identical setups.
- Have 1 kid stand at each cone. Add more cones as needed for more extensive group tryouts.
- Starting with the players on the 1st cones and 2 balls, have each player pass to the next one down the line at the 2nd cone. Repeat this step to the 3rd cone.
- When the player at the 3rd cone passes to the 4th, they dribble around the last, closer cone and then back up to the 1st position.
- As the last player takes the ball back to the beginning, other players advance 1 cone forward.
- Repeat the drill until everyone trying out has been in the 4th (or last) position.
Soccer Shooting Drills For Middle School
The goal of soccer is to put the ball in the net. While that is an incredibly simplistic explanation, it is still valid.
Shooting drills are about moving the ball from the players into the net. This is where goalies and players really shine.
1 – Final Pass And Finish
There are many ways to work on control, but one of the most important is finishing.
The final pass and finish allows 2 players to work together in a game-like setting. Using 1 goal and mannequins or cones, they learn to break through the defense and rely on others.
- You will need a goalkeeper and 2 other players at a time. Set up 1 goal and 4 mannequins about 6 yards outside the penalty zone.
- Set up 2 cones 15 yards in front of the center mannequins and 2 more 7 yards in front of the outer 2 figures and off to the sides.
- Set up balls between the 2 far cones and have the team divide to stand in even lines behind the 4 cones.
- Have 2 players at the top, with the ball passes to the side, and the receiving players give it back as they advance.
- The 2 players from the side go wide around the mannequins while the top players pass between the 2 figures on their side, dribbling toward the goal.
- After the side players get behind the mannequins, the top players pass to them, and they shoot.
- Both players go back to join the opposite lines from where they started, so a side player becomes a top player who will start with the ball next time and vice versa.
2 – The 2v2
In this drill, pairs of players face off trying to score against one another. This is like the Practice Game but on a smaller scale.
The advantage of doing shooting goals this way is it allows a coach to pair players who need to improve their ability to work together and create more even skill matches to challenge middle school kids.
- Set up opposing smaller ‘goals’ using cones so each set of 4 players will have a mini field to play on.
- Group kids in pairs, with 2 to a mini field.
- Have the kids take turns being goalie and outfielder.
- Set a time limit and have the players face off trying to score as many goals against each other as possible.
Soccer Passing Drills For Middle School
Accurate passing is essential. Regardless of a player’s skill level, practicing soccer passing drills is excellent for coordination and aim.
These drills not only help a team work together better to win games, but it also helps with shooting because it improves ball control and footwork.
1 – Grid Passing
This drill helps players move soccer balls back and forth over long distances. The players work in pairs and learn to communicate while they pass. Plus, it helps improve the aim when passing and receiving.
- Set up ‘grids’ or boxes of cones an even distance apart. One player will stand inside each grid, and they should stay within the imaginary lines created by the boxes.
- Have players pair off and face off. Set the distance as close or far as necessary, so it’s a challenge for each pair.
- Next, they pass the ball back and forth. The goal is to go in both directions, so players practice with both feet. Aim for straight lines and direct passes.
Alternate Version: Have players pass diagonally, aiming to stay within the boxes but passing along diagonal lines to their teammates.
2 – Meet The Ball
This exercise helps players improve their skills while moving to meet the ball, just as the name says.
Groups of 3 players work with 2 balls and play a ‘monkey in the middle’ style game where the center player catches and returns balls alternating between the 2 teammates on the outside.
- Set players up in groups of 3 players with 2 balls.
- Two players will each take a ball and stand a few yards apart while the third stands right between them.
- The outside players alternate kicking the ball to the player in the middle, who meets and returns the ball and then turns to do it again on the opposite side.
- Have the kids play for 5 minutes and then switch the player in the middle, so everyone has a chance.
Defensive Soccer Drills Middle School
Defenders are the players on the back third of the field near the goal.
Practicing good defense will help middle school soccer players stop their opponents from scoring. It’s easier to win if the other team never reaches your goal.
1 – The Horizontal Challenge
In this activity, 2 rows of attackers and defenders run parallel to the goal. At the midpoint, the attackers turn to try and score.
Players work on their dribbling and footwork, plus some shooting techniques.
- Have your goalie defend and separate the rest of the team into 2 parallel lines.
- Give the first attacker a ball and have them dribble parallel to the goal until they reach the centerline of the field. Then they turn and try to dribble it in and shoot.
- The first defender should move parallel to the attacker, and when they turn to try and score, the defender tries to steal the ball or block it.
- Once the defender or goalie has the ball, they return it to the next attacker in line.
Alternate Version: You can easily set up both goals so players get more turns and their wait in line is shorter. You need 4 lines of players, 2 goalies, and 2 balls in this case.
2 – Channel The Attacker
This 1-on-1 game uses 3 ‘goals’ behind the defender made from cones set in a line.
Each gap between the cones is worth points, but the values are different depending on which goal an attacker scores.
Defenders learn to block, steal the ball, and move the attackers away from a goal. Meanwhile, the attackers work on shooting.
- Have the players pair off.
- Set up 4 equidistant cones, 1-2 yards apart, in a line behind each defender, and give the attacker the ball.
- The first gap or ‘goal’ is worth 1 point, then 2, then 5 in order. Attackers want to score as many points as possible, while defenders should try and stop or minimize the scoring.
- Have players work for 10 minutes while keeping score. Then have each pair trade places with the player who scores the most points declared the ”winner.’
Middle School Soccer Conditioning Drills
Conditioning is all about getting fit, improving reflexes, and building endurance and muscle.
Unlike other soccer drills, conditioning doesn’t necessarily involve footwork, dribbling, or other soccer-related activities, though it can.
The most important part of conditioning is getting in shape to play, so this can include options like running laps or hitting the gym in some cases.
Below are the 2 best on-field conditioning activities for middle schoolers.
1 – Yo-Yos
This classic sprinting drill helps develop fast-twitch muscle fibers. The motions help mimic the sort of stop-and-go action players perform in real-time during a game.
Some teams call these Doggies or Pain Shuttles.
- Set up a row of cones, 1 for each player on each side of the field. Typically this is done on the long sides, not from goal to goal.
- Set a second row 5 yards in, and a 3rd row another 5 yards closer. You can set up as many as 5 rows on the far side of the field., but the goal is to have each player run to the first, nearest cone and back, then the second, and so on until they reach the farthest cone and return. Have players tag the cone and run back as fast as possible.
Alternate Version: The Intermittent Yo-Yo variation has a short walk between some of the cones before running back. For a great visual aid on how this works, check out this video of the JSerra Catholic High School Boys Soccer Team at practice.
2 – Three Triangles
Three Triangles is another fantastic drill to practice quick movements and endurance.
In this exercise, 5 cones make 5 triangles between them, and all the players have to do is run from cone to cone.
At each cone, the player touches and then turns to move to the next until they have run all the sides of the 3 imaginary triangles formed by the cones.
- Set three cones in a line 5 yards apart.
- Set 2 more cones in a parallel line five yards to one side. These are for a shorter line positioned to make an offset. You should be able to envision a zig-zag from cone to cone, alternating between the lines.
- Players sprint diagonally from the 1st cone in the short line to the 1st cone in the long line and tap it.
- Sprint to the 2nd cone in the long line and tap.
- Sprint back to the starting cone in the short line and tap, making a triangle.
- Now sprint to the 2nd cone in the short line, tap, then to the middle cone in the long line, tap again to complete the second triangle.
- Sprint from the middle cone in the long line to the final cone, tap, and then sprint to the 2nd cone in the short line to make the third triangle.
Note: These are lots of very short sprints. Have players take turns starting and run through every player 2-3 times. You can always set up 2-3 courses, so players get more chances in a shorter period.
Helpful Tips To Know About Soccer Drills For Middle School
By the time they reach middle school, many young soccer hopefuls have already been playing for years.
However, even new players will be more coordinated and capable than the younger kids.
Here are more helpful tips to know about soccer drills for middle school.
- Coaches need to keep good records and take notes as the kids do their drills. This will help you sort out everyone’s strengths and areas for improvement.
- As the kids practice, give them feedback and advice on how to improve. Don’t be afraid to stop them to reposition, help with technique, make suggestions, or do things over.
- Feel free to divide your team into smaller practice groups so players can work on the areas where they need improvement most. You can always rotate less experienced players through all the sub-groups as you practice.
Doing soccer drills for middle school is a lot of fun, and it can be very rewarding.
Both coaches and players should use this time to assess where they need the most improvement. You can never have enough drills.
Whether it’s practice games together, or smaller subgroups working on different aspects of play, there are plenty of ways to drill.
As long as everyone enjoys themselves and improves, you’re doing it right.