The most fundamental skill in soccer is dribbling. Strangely enough, it’s also one of the most widely ignored topics by soccer coaches the world over. Incorporating dribbling activities into your sessions and curriculum is a must for any youth soccer coach that wants to develop individual players who are confident on the ball and fearless in 1v1 situations.
As a player growing up in Manchester, I found that the players that shone the brightest at a young age were always the ones who were good dribblers. Now as a soccer coach in California, nothing excites me more than seeing players with the confidence to take someone on and use their skills to get out of tight situations. That is why we’ve compiled our top 8 Dribbling Drills for kids. Take a look, add them to your coaching drill kit, and watch your players turn into the next Lionel Messi!
Soccer Dribbling Drills For Kids
Pirates Treasure Hunt
Pirate Treasure Hunt turns the classic slalom dribbling circuit into a fun and competitive game in which players have to dribble at speed through cones, collecting treasure along the way! With lots of variations, such as dribbling with your left foot only, dribbling with your right foot, and taking alternate touches dribbling with both feet, means you can reuse this dribbling drill again and again in all your dribbling practice sessions.
Set up three slalom circuits with small cones, as shown in the drill diagram above. Place all the ‘pirate treasure’ (pinnies, different colored cones, flags, etc) at the end of the circuits. Divide players into three teams, give them a ball each, and have them line up behind each circuit. Upon hearing the coach’s whistle, the first person from each team dribbles through the slalom, picks up one piece of ‘treasure’, and takes it back to their team. Then the next person goes. The team with the most treasure at the end is the winner! For a complete and detailed breakdown of the activity, including coaching points, progressions, and variations, click here!
This schoolyard classic is a great chance for players to work on their dribbling and footwork skills with ever-increasing pressure from opponents! The number of defenders rises as the game progresses. For younger children, you can even adapt to have the bulldogs work as crabs!
Using a 20×25-yard grid, have all the players stand side to side at one end. Choose a player to come out in the center of the grid to be the 1st ‘British Bulldog.’
Upon the coach’s whistle, all the players have to run across the grid and avoid being tagged by the bulldog. Any player that gets tagged becomes another bulldog. Once all the players have been tagged or reached the other side, repeat the game going in the opposite direction. The last person to get caught is the winner.
After playing one time, play again, but this time provide each player with a soccer ball. Players now dribble their ball across the grid and avoid being tackled by the bulldog. The bulldog should try and kick the player’s ball out of the grid to catch them. For a complete and detailed breakdown of this dribbling drill, including coaching points, progressions, and variations, click here!
Like British Bulldog, Space Minions give players opportunities for players to dribble with the ball under. The multi-directional aspect of the activity means players can work on turning with the ball as well as dribbling! It’s another crowd-pleaser that your kids will be asking to play again and again!
Use a 25×25 yard grid with a 4×4 yard box in each corner. These are the ‘planets’. Select one player to start as ‘Gru’ and place them in the center of the grid. The remaining players can choose any of the four corner planets to stand in.
Upon the coach’s call, every player must leave the planet they are currently on and run to a different one. Gru tries to tag them before they reach the safety of another planet. If a player gets tagged, they become a Minion and join Gru’s army. Repeat the game until all but one player has been recruited to the Minion Army. That player is the winner! Repeat the game, but now give every player a ball. They now must dribble the ball as they switch planets. If Gru wins the ball off them or kicks it out of the grid, they become a Minion in his army. Once again, the last person to be caught is the winner! For a complete and detailed breakdown of this dribbling game, including coaching points, progressions, and variations, click here!
The Numbers Game
Dribbling through cones is all well and good, but sooner or later, you are going to have to try and beat a defender with those dribbling skills – that is where the Numbers game comes in! The team aspect gives the waiting players a chance to cheer on their buddies, and a bright coach will pair players up within the squad who are of similar quality. That way, all players can have a good amount of success dribbling and beating people to score! The numbers game is a must for soccer coaches who want to work on dribbling with kids!
Use a 20×25 grid with a pug or coned goal at each end. Place two cones on the third side of the field for the players to line up behind. Split the players into two teams and number them. Each player should have a corresponding number on the opposing team (i.e., there will be two ‘number 1’s’, two number 2’s, etc.
To start the activity, call out a number and kick a ball into the grid. The appropriate player from each team runs around the back of their own goal and enters the grid to play a 1v1 game against each other. Play continues until a goal is scored or the ball leaves the grid. Repeat with a different number/set of players. Play for a designated time or until one of the teams scores a certain amount of goals! For a complete and detailed breakdown of this soccer dribbling drill, including coaching points, progressions, and variations, click here!
Goals from Chaos
As the name suggests, this next dribbling drill can be a little chaotic, but being able to dribble your way out of chaos is what makes players like Lionel Messi so unique! Like the numbers game, Goals from Chaos pairs players up against each other so they can practice their 1v1 dribble skills in fully opposed situations. However, this game has the added dimension of another 1v1 dribbling battle going on at the same time, but in a different direction! The chaotic nature of the game helps players develop their spatial awareness whilst dribbling the ball. This is a vital skill if you’re going to develop into a competent dribbler at the top level!
Use a 25×25 yard area with two small goals on EVERY side of the square (8 goals total). In between each pair of goals, place a small cone for a quarter of your players to line up behind. Split the players up into four groups and have them line up as shown in the diagram. All players in lines A and C should have a ball each.
To start the activity, the first player in line A passes the ball to the first player in line B. They play a 1v1 game and try to score in the two goals they are facing by dribbling through one of them. The players in lines C and D play the exact same game at the exact same time, just in a different direction!
As soon as a game is finished (i.e., a goal is scored or the ball goes out of play), the next players in line begin the next 1v1 games. Whoever has scored the most goals by the end of the designated time wins! For a complete and detailed breakdown of this dribbling drill, including coaching points, progressions, and variations, click here!
FA Cup Soccer
Kids love this dribbling drill as it is based on the world’s most famous domestic cup competition, The FA Cup. This drill/game gives players a chance to pit their skills against their teammates in a series of timed 1v1 battles. Winners progress, and losers move down the ladder as everyone competes to become the FA Cup champion!
Set up a series 8×14 yard grids (enough to accommodate all players). split the players up into pairs, with each pair occupying one grid. Each pair plays a 1v1 match within their grid. To score a point, a player must dribble over their opponent’s end line whilst maintaining possession of the ball. If the ball goes out of play at any point, the non-offending player gets to dribble the ball in to restart.
Play for two minutes and then call time. If a player wins their 1v1 match, they move up one spot towards the top of the field. If they lose, they move down one spot (towards the bottom field). The player that wins on the top field is the reigning champion and gets to stay there for the next round. The player that loses on the bottom field stays there too! Play a set number of games. The person who wins the final game on the top field is the winner! For a complete and detailed breakdown of this drill, including coaching points, progressions, and variations, click here!
End Zone Soccer
To score in this competitive small-sided game, all the kids have to do is dribble into the end zone! This conditioned game is used in Academies throughout Europe to help players learn to spread out and be positive dribblers in 1v1 situations. It’s a great option to finish off any dribbling-themed practice session with younger players.
Set up a 25×25 yard field with a 5-yard end zone on either side (full dimension is 25×35 yards). Divide players up into two teams. Each team competes for possession and scores points by dribbling into their opponent’s end zone and placing the sole of their foot on the ball. Defending players cannot enter their own end zone. If the ball goes out of bounds, play is restarted with a kick-in by the non-offending team. For a complete and detailed breakdown of this dribbling drill, including coaching points, progressions, and variations, click here!
What’s Mad about 1v1’s? Run six 1v1s simultaneously, and you’ll see! With multiple goals to aim for and everyone playing at the same time, this intense and energetic 1v1 game is an intense and fun dribbling warm-up that kids love to play.
Set up a 35×25 yard grid and add three small goals on either side (6 total). Split the players up into pairs and give one ball to each pair. All players start at the same time; one player defends the goals on one side of the field whilst the second player defends the goals on the other. Players compete for two minutes and try to outscore their opponent. After two minutes, players should switch their partners and go again. For a complete and detailed breakdown of this drill, including coaching points, progressions, and variations, click here!
Dribbling Moves Warm Up
Sometimes it pays to start slowly as players need to gain comfort on the ball without the pressure of someone constantly trying to steal it off them. This dribbling moves warm-up is great for beginner players who need frequent touches on the ball and the opportunity to gain confidence dribbling with the ball at their feet. It’s dynamic, has constant movement, and it will help your players improve their dribbling skills in no time at all!
Using cones, set up a small diamond, 1x1x1x1 yards in size. Place four outer cones 10 yards from the center so each of the outer cones faces one of the middle ones. Line the players up so there are 2-3 players on each outer cone, with a ball each. To start the drill, the first player in each line should dribble to the central cone in front of them, execute an inside cut and accelerate to the left to the next outer cone. At which point, they join the back of the line and get ready to go again.
The 2nd player in each line waits until the person in front of them has reached the central cone before following the same sequence. All four lines work at the same time. Have the players work for two minutes, working their way around the circuit, and then repeat using the left foot in the opposite direction. For a complete and detailed breakdown of this dribbling drill, including coaching points, progressions, and variations, click here!
More Soccer Drills
Thanks for reading! I hope your players have lots of fun playing drills and improving their dribbling skills. Before you go, check out these related resources for more soccer drills and games you can use in your practice sessions: