Wee man turned big 6 this week, which meant lots of football fun with his mates and team coach’s.
If you have young footy fans in your world, they may enjoy trying some of our favourite football training games.
I’ve separated our suggestions into preferential group sizes for ease of planning for these activities. Whether it’s at home, or in a setting, there’ll be something you can try. Enjoy!
Stuck in the Mud
The ‘tag’ game whereby when you are tagged, you stand on the spot with arms outstretched in hope a friend can free you by running under your arms. Try this whilst everyone (whether ‘on’ or not) has to keep the ball at their feet.
Cops and Robbers
Halve the group of children, one half stand one end of your play space with balls, the other without. On the sound of the whistle the cops need to keep their ball as they try to get to the other side of the play space… the robbers on the other hand are out to get the ball!
King (or Queen) of the Ring
In an allocated space defined by lines on your play space e.g. goalies box, coned area etc, all children start within the space with a ball. Children need to retain their ball in the defined space, whilst trying to knock out their friends. This is an elimination game, anyone who loses their ball is out. Last child standing is the King (or Queen) of the Ring.
This is also known as sharks in the water. All children except one bulldog (or shark) stand one end of the play space and need to get themselves (and their balls) safely to the other side. If they’re caught, they also become a bulldog (shark) and try to catch everyone else. Who will be the last to be caught?
Pop plenty of balls in the centre of four groups of children spaced evenly out per corner. At the sound of the whistle each group has one team member at a time retrieve a ball from the centre and take it to their base. The winning team have most balls. This can get juicy (chaotic) if you allow 30 seconds at the end (once all balls are gone from the centre) for teams to pinch as many balls as possible from each other, before tallying up the total.
Piggy in the Middle
Person in the middle tries to intercept the pass between the pair. The person that lost the ball becomes the ‘piggy’.
Eye on the Ball
One person throws the ball somewhat randomly and shouts ‘Eye on the Ball’ the other two are in competition as to who can get and control the ball first.
Control and Return
Passing the ball competently around the trio. Once mastered this can increase in difficulty, e.g. volley the ball, one bounce pass etc.
Running at Angles
Three different roles can be tried here… the first person is in goal, the second is passing from either corner of the goal, the third runs in to control the pass to shoot.
Typical ones include practicing different types of dribbling and step overs, some that can be entertaining to watch include;
With the ball in front of them, they take it in turns to place the sole of each foot onto the top of the ball, as they increase in speed they begin to ‘dance’ with the ball, and can eventually walk forward doing this motion.
Head Shoulders Knees and Toes
With the ball in front of them, sing the head, shoulders song and put the corresponding body parts onto the ball. This can really tickle young players if someone else is giving the instruction, especially if (you guessed it) “bum on the ball” is called.
Some thoughts: One that has caused frustration (and delight when mastered) is practicing the Rabona. This is achieved by placing a ‘plant’ foot by the side of the ball (ball needs to be next to the outer side of the foot), then swinging the ‘kicking’ leg behind the ankle of the plant foot to strike the ball… pretty tricky for a small person, but it’s amazing to see how delighted they are when this is mastered. What has fascinated me here is the pressure children can naturally place on themselves to master such a skill, and this is without adult, or even peers, forcing the issue. In my experience very young footy fans see an impressive skill and are compelled to master this. Perhaps this is a type of self-chosen problem to solve, perhaps for some it elicits self-determination and intrinsic motivation, or as children get older they want to copy their favourite players (but this wasn’t the case with wee man and the Rabona). Curiously children can become visibly frustrated, angry, or perhaps passionate about being able to do this skill (for wee man it was the Rabona, for others perhaps something different, but wee man was not as bothered by the Cruijff Turn for example, happy to say ‘oh that’s dead hard’ and give or take giving it a go, but the Rabona was something else). It’s fascinating how children set their own ‘eye on the prize’ early in sport, and this can often come naturally. Now wee man is a defender and goalkeeper (and I’ll use the phrase) ‘naturally’, this is what he enjoys doing (and has done since he was 2)…anything that allows him to defend his goal, dive and save, retrieve from play and ‘hoof’ down the pitch is up his street, his mindset on the pitch or in any kind of football play is ‘defend’ – no one tells/told him to, he just does… some of his friends equally have visible pitch positions/personalities clearly observable (and their parents will agree) some can be identified early as those that are strikers hovering around goal, those that are ‘greedy’ dribbling through midfield and almost wanting to walk into the goal with no help from team mates. It is interesting that football is LOADS of fun, but whilst the nature nurture debate can be discussed until the cows come home, there are instances where football specific behaviours and personalities are apparent before the rules or tactics have even been digested. I’d be interested to read more on this, and I welcome thoughts and signposts on football and early childhood, in particular the nature/nurture debate on choice of positions.
In the meantime, enjoy fun and football ?