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Marple Newtown Soccer Association

6v2 "Target Zone" Keepaway


This exercise allows your players to practice serving and receiving long balls under moderate defensive pressure.


Set up two 15x15 yard grids a fair distance apart, and place three attackers in each grid. Start with two defenders between the two grids.

Initiate action by playing 3v1 with a ball in one of the two grids (allowing one of the two defenders to step into the grid to defend). When an attacker has an opportunity, he should chip a ball into the other grid for one of the three target players to receive. As soon as the receiver touches the ball, the other defender may step into that grid to defend, and the previous defender moves into the neutral area until the next cross is made. 


  1. Impose a one- or two-touch restriction on the attackers.

  2. Allow the defender to trade places with any attacker he causes to lose possession.

  3. Increase the numbers to 4v2, and increase the grid size and the distance between the grids.

Basic Boxing


This is a good exercise for introducing keepers to the proper technique for boxing moving balls.


A server stands two yards in front of a keeper with a supply of balls nearby. The keeper boxes balls with two hands (as they are served) from a sitting position, focusing on boxing each ball high and accurately.


Repeat the exercise but alternate with left and right one-handed boxing. Concentrate on timing and technique.

Bending the Shot


To practice using bending the ball using either the inside or the outside of the instep.


Cones are placed at an angle that requires the shooter to use either the inside or the outside of the instep. Player 1 starts outside the first cone and dribbles inside (goal side) the cone closest to the goal. This angle sets up the shooter to bend the ball from right to left, by striking the outer half of the ball with the instep. Player 2 will likewise start outside the first cone and dribble inside the cone closest to the goal. This angle sets up that player to bend the ball from left to right by striking the outer half of the ball with the outside of the instep.


Coaching Points:

Any number of players can participate in the exercise and should alternate sides.

Bounce and Switch Balls in Pairs


This is an excellent warm-up exercise that requires the keeper to focus on his footwork and catching skills.


Two keepers should face each other, each with a ball, but standing off-center from each other. They should both bounce the ball straight down in front of them at the same time, side step to catch the other keeper's ball when it comes back up, bounce that ball back down, and side step back to catch their own ball. Both keepers must bounce the ball at the same time for this to work correctly. They should quickly be able to get into a rhythm.


Next, have the keepers hold the ball over their head with their arms extended and throw the ball straight across from them. They should stand off-center again, but not quite as far (their feet should be closer together to each other), side step, serve, side step, serve, etc.

Developmental High Ball Saves with a Still Ball


This exercise is an excellent way to get your keepers used to using the correct technique for making high ball saves.


The coach should stand holding a ball in one hand above his head and to the side. The keeper should start back a bit, run, jump just as he reaches the coach, and take the ball out of the coach's hand to make the save (he should land just past the coach). Repeat many times. The coach should hold the ball up higher as the keeper's vertical jump increases, or toss it up just as the keeper approaches to make him reach (and jump) even higher.

Finishing Ground Balls


To practice using the appropriate foot and appropriate surface of the foot for shots on the goal.
Procedure: Place six balls around the periphery of the box. Balls will be rolled toward the penalty spot for players to finish. Players line up behind three cones. As balls are played toward the space between the penalty spot and the top of the box, players shoot at goal using the appropriate foot and appropriate surface. Players change starting positions after each attempt at goal.


Coaching Points:

Players should always shoot with the foot closer to the ball. Players should not let the ball run across the body to the opposite foot.

High and Low Ball Shuffling Fitness Saves


This exercise requires the keeper to cover his entire goal by shuffling side to side to make multiple saves.


Two servers should be lined up opposite each goal post with a supply of balls. The first server should strike a low ball to that corner that the keeper must get to and save on his feet. After making that save, the keeper should immediately side-step across his goal (along an arc) and save a high ball served by the other server to the opposite corner. After making that save, the keeper shuffles back to the first corner to save another low ball on his feet. Continue for either a specified number of reps or for a certain length of time, allow the keeper to rest briefly, then repeat with high and low saves made to the opposite sides.


Require the keeper to dive to save the low shots.

Sharks and Minnows


Sharks and Minnows is a fun game for your players to play to work on dribbling fundamentals.


Place all but one of your players on one side of a rectangular grid, each with a ball. Designate one of your players as the "shark". This player should stand in the middle of the grid without a ball. The dribblers attempt to dribble across to the other side of the grid without letting the shark kick their balls out of the grid. If the shark does kick a dribbler's ball out of the grid, that person joins him in the middle as another shark. Dribblers dribble back and forth between sides of the grid until there is only one survivor.

Shooting on the Stride

A vital aspect to shooting and making the finish is timing. Some might say a shot is just another pass into the back of the net. While this is true, the timing of this pass, or as we prefer to call it, the shot, is vital. At the Players Academy of Soccer Skills, we teach our own philosophy of "shooting on the stride." This philosophy comes from years of coaching players to finish their shot. The shot is the beginning of the story, with the middle being the selection of aiming point and position of the defender, whether that is a field player or a goalkeeper. Finally, the end is where the goalkeeper has to pick the ball from the back of the net. This philosophy is not just built from the striker, but also the goalkeeper. We are lucky enough to have some of the highest qualified goalkeeping coaches in the state and nation, so we use their knowledge on the difficulties of stopping the shot and making the save, and use these to our striking advantage, Hence, we created "Shooting On The Stride" from both sides of the ball.

Watch the modern game and you will see many goals scored by a striker shooting between the legs of the defender in almost a "megging" shot. To watch it, one might think that it was a lucky shot, but in reality it was well-practiced by shooting on the stride.

Watch the average attacking player shoot when under pressure by a defender. He will will push the ball to the side, leaving the plant foot stationary and initiating the action the striking foot ("pulling the trigger"). This method can be very successful if the attacker is quick and the defender slow. It also given a big visual clue to the goalkeeper that a shot is about to be taken. By shooting on the stride we believe we can deceive the defender and the goalkeeper into thinking we are going around the defender or creating more shooting space than is necessary.

This is our teaching scenario: Imagine the attacker is one on one with the defender. Instead if pushing the ball a pace to the side of the defender to shoot, we teach pushing it about a pace and a half. By doing this, the goalkeeper thinks that we are attempting to get the ball past the defender and the goalkeeper has time to change his set position. The defender thinks he can counter the attacker's mistake of a "heavy touch" and overstride across to reach the ball, leaving him off-balance. Unknown to either defender, this has all been planned.

Our method when teaching shooting on the stride is this: Once the ball has been pushed to the side of the defender, the attacker has to take a half-step to the ball side and slightly forward with his plant foot. It is natural to be angled away from the target when doing this. For example, if we are shooting with the right foot, our plant foot (left foot) naturally points to 2 o'clock and away to the outside of the near post. As we know, where the plant foot points, the ball follows. The technical point comes in not only correcting this, but "over-correcting." We may want to point it at 11 o'clock; in reality we would prefer more toward 10 o'clock. I'll explain why later.

While all this is happening, the ball is still moving away from the striker. Plant foot placed, the striker now has to reach for the ball by taking a lunging stride and preparing to "pull the trigger." Remember, the attacker is already half a pace nearer to the ball than the defender, meaning that for the defender to match the attacker's stride he really has to step into it, leaving his legs wide open. If the timing is correct in one of two methods, he either shoots through the defender's legs or outside of the defender's reaching stride. Either way, the attacker is disguising the shot to the goalkeeper by using the defender's body as a visual shield. Remember about the plant foot being at 10 o'clock rather than 11 o'clock? Because of the over-correction, the attacker strikes the ball across its face, creating a swerving shot and pulling the ball further away from the goalkeeper's hands.

All this is very good, but the defender can easily read this. Say we are shooting with our right foot--the defender reads the shot and over-reaches out to toe-tap it away. The attacker, in the middle of his half step for his plant foot, cuts it back inside with his right foot using something as simple as an inside cut or rollover. The defender is unbalanced and over-committed, the goalkeeper has anticipated rather than reacted. The striker now has the ball on his left foot for an easy placement passing the ball into the back of the net.

Short-Short-Long Bending Ball Rhythm


To train serving balls at various paces and distances.



In groups of four, players practice serving around each other in a short-short-long rhythm. Server 2 starts by serving a ball to S4. S4 receives the pass (preferably with one touch) and plays a short pass to S5. S5 returns the pass to S4 and then pressures S4 so that he or she must play the ball around S5 in order to complete a pass to S2. S4 and S5 then switch roles. S2 and S3 combine in the same fashion so that S2 now serves around S3 and then switches roles. The combination results in a serve from S4 (that bends around S5) to S3. This sequence can be performed with driven or flighted passes that bend on the ground or in the air.


Coaching Points:

This activity is fundamental repetition, so the coach is looking for all technical elements: 

  • Body position
  • Plant foot position 
  • Point of contact on the ball 
  • Follow-through




By instructing players not to pressure the partner who is serving the long pass, the same rhythm can be used to train serving balls without using the bending technique.

Technical Training Tips for U-6 Players

Activity One:

Receiving balls on the ground.


Divide the group into equal numbers with half of the players located outside of a designated area (size and shape appropriate for age and numbers of players) with a ball. The remaining players will take up a position inside the area. The inside players will check to a ball, receive the pass, turn and play the ball to another player outside of the area. After this pass is completed, the player will check to another ball and continue the exercise. Rotate the players frequently (every 45 seconds to one minute) to keep the activity fresh.

Coaching Points

  • Players should accelerate to the ball, slowing down as they prepare to receive it 
  • Players should look where they are turning before receiving the ball so they are aware of the other players in the area and available passing options 
  • Players should make an explosive move into space with their first touch after the turn 
  • The angle of the players' receiving leg should be adjusted so the knee is in front of the foot, to keep the ball on the ground


Activity Two:

Striking the ball over distance.



Divide the players into three groups of three players each (adjust accordingly), with each group in a different color bib. Set up a rectangular grid, divided into three zones (again, adjust size of area appropriate for age and skill level of group). Two teams will take a position in one of the outer zones of the grid, with the middle third unoccupied. The third team of three will position one player in each of the three zones.




  • The teams in the outer zones must play the ball over or through the middle space to the team in the opposite outer zone 
  • When a player from the defending team (team with one player in each of the three zones) wins the ball, their team changes places with the team that lost the ball.


Coaching Points:


  • Preparation touch must put the ball away from the body so the player may step into the longer pass 

  • Position of players' non-kicking foot should be slightly behind and to the inside of the ball 
  • Ankle of the passing foot is locked with the toe down and to the outside 
  • If the ball is meant to go over the middle space, player should strike the ball slightly below center