It's a scene that occurs in neighborhoods coast-to-coast, almost year-round: young girls racing around a soccer field. And youth leagues are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to both participation and skill-building for girls' soccer players. According to a 2012-2013 report by the National Federation of State High School Associations, girls soccer was the fourth most popular sport among high school girls, with nearly 372,000 participating. With so much competition, drilling in the fundamentals is essential -- and there's no lack of soccer drills to try.
Monkey in the Middle
This is a funny sounding game that's also fun to play. Set up between seven and 10 players in a circle roughly five feet apart, with either one or two players in the middle depending upon the size of the circle. The players outside the circle pass the ball to one another, while the players in the middle, or the "monkeys," race around trying to intercept the passes. In order to keep the ball from being stolen, the players will need to quickly trap the ball and make quick, accurate one-touch passes -- these are immediate passes made without trapping or stopping the ball upon receipt. This game develops ball-handling, passing ability and defensive skills.
Pass and Shoot
Have three players line up 15 to 20 yards form the goal, with 10 to 15 yards of space from one player to the next. The player in the middle taps a pass to the player on either side, who then kicks a one-touch pass to the player on the opposite side. The third player then must shoot the ball directly at the goal. For added difficulty, have the player who initiates the drill turn and play defense against the other two. This hones players' ability to pass the ball accurately at a distance and to effectively strike one-touch shot attempts.
Place an empty trash can or similar container between 20 and 50 yards of your players, depending upon their leg strength. Allowing just two or three steps prior to kick, they charge the ball and attempt to land it in the receptacle. Think of this as soccer's version of basketball's three-point shot. No, they won't earn any extra points for long-range accuracy, but it will come in handy when attempting to pass the ball across and up the field.
Goalies need practice too. Have your players line up in two parallel lines near the penalty kick marker, 12 yards from the goal. One by one, they then fire shots at the goalie, who is tasked with stopping the rapid-fire attempts. Shots should alternate between the two lines of players and should be taken quickly after the previous shot has either gone into the net or been stopped by the goalie. By keeping up a steady drumbeat of shot attempts, the goalie will be forced to react quickly, recover and challenge the next one. This drill will help develop quickness, anticipation and the ability to stop rebound attempts.