With only a week or two more of the winter season as New Jersey weather warms up and our grass fields dry up it seems like a good time to give coaches running out of ideas with some tips to working with their teams indoors. Indoor soccer and futsal are faster paced, and training sessions should be designed to meet that pace of play. Our club uses the local school district gyms which are all hard wood, making for a very fast training surface. So I typically stick to 2 topics during the winter months, individual ball skills, and 2 and 1 touch passing (combinations, possession, and movement off the ball as sub-categories).
Ball skills should be first and foremost, and by this I mean dribbling 1v1 skills to beat defenders, turns, and combining moves and turns. Everyone should be on a ball for the first 30 minutes of every session inside. Generally for your first three weeks of the outdoor season for age groups U8-U12 should be heavily focused on this as well. This will build confidence on the ball and quickly rid your team of any rust they have developed from not being on a soccer ball as much. Did you challenge your players with a new move this winter? Is a question I would ask any coach over the winter season in NJ. I personally show my teams 2 or 3 new moves to beat a defender through the indoor season and challenge them to excel at their favorite one. Their favorite one is usually the one they have got the hang of the quickest, but that is great because it plays into the confidence aspect of the game that is typically overlooked by coaches.
I then put my kids in 1v1 situations as much as possible. Starting out against a “Zombie Defender,” as I call it, because the defender is not allowed to run. This promotes success in the early stages because learning a new move can be very difficult. Forcing your players to beat a “full defender” right away can be counter-productive and could discourage the player from ever trying the move because it is just “too hard” or they think they “can’t do it.” I am sure you have all heard those two lines out of your player’s mouths. Your role as a coach is to stay positive and encourage success and you can do that by making things easier for them. Adding multiple goals to attack, or increasing the size of the space they are using (which is not easy indoors) are other ways to promote the ball skills success.
The other key component to practicing indoors is speeding up the pace of play through passing. Indoors there is significant less space and time on the ball so forcing your kids to play 2 touch or 1 touch is a good idea. I always say a quick 2 touch is better than 1, primarily because there is more margin for error if you develop a good control touch in your athletes. Passing and moving drills that focus on receiving the ball on the ground with different parts of their feet are critical. Combination play in particular (give and gos, wall balls, and overlaps) is one of my favorite topics to coach inside, because it takes little space and promotes the fast moving soccer that is desired.
Maximizing the space and time on the ball is my final tip. You need to utilize the space you have and make sure the kids are getting touches on the ball and not standing around. Divide the gym in half or thirds and make sure you have multiple groups working, but be creative in doing so. When it comes to scrimmage time, examine your space and decide whether it is good for 5v5, 4v4, or 3v3. There is nothing worse than 15 kids in a tiny gym pinging the ball off one another’s shin guards because there is just no space. If I have big numbers and a little gym, I always break into 3 teams and play timed games to 2. Who ever scores 2 goals first gets to stay on, and if it reaches a set time limit, the longest team on the field comes off.
Below I have left you with 2 great drills for coaching indoors. Feel free to steal, use, or pass along to anyone you know. Would be great to hear some of your personal suggestions as well in the comment section below!