U12 soccer players: what to work on in February


Last night I received an inspiring phone call where I was proposed to take next year a team in the final year of rookies, a category I have always loved very much. Given the time availability I have at this time, I made a commitment to prepare some training in the meantime in February.

During my time at Internazionale di Milano, a few years ago, I had the opportunity to study in depth the working methodologies of leading professionals with this age group and I developed the thesis for the Master’s degree of high specialization for coaches in the youth sector (Inter F.C. Youth Coach Master ) with a thesis precisely on this category entitled “Technical, tactical and motivational analysis of a rookie team.”

In that thesis I argued (also thanks to knowledge strengthened by the experience of several cycles of rookies held in the past) that in this period you have to work especially on 1 vs 1 situations as a fundamental situation in the game of soccer, very stimulating at this age and also useful for the introduction of the principles of individual tactics such as marking, stance, defense of the goal and covering the ball.

So the workouts should be developed on feinting, dribbling and driving the ball and on the fundamentals of marking and covering the ball.

Here are two example workouts.


Initial game

Exercise on driving and covering the ball
Traffic driving in a 20 x 20 m square between two teams; at the start each team, in addition to driving their own ball, must try to throw, out of the square, their opponents’ balls and vice versa; the team that finishes the game with more players on the field wins.

Athletic work on joint mobility and rhythmicity

Game situations.

1>1 tournament on multiple 10 x 10-meter fields:

1 vs 1 aimed at driving the ball into the goal;
1 vs 1 aimed at stopping the ball at the goal line;
1 vs 1 aimed at shooting;
1 vs 1 aimed at covering the ball for 5 seconds.

Theme game
A 4 vs 4 game is played with two goals defended by the goalkeeper about 10 meters away from the playing field. After making five passes, the player in possession of the ball goes 1 vs. goalkeeper. The team that scores the most goals wins.

Free game


Initial game

Practice on driving and feinting 1 vs. goalkeeper

Two goals defended by goalkeepers at about 15 meters; three over placed at a distance of 2 meters. Each player from each team, must out-drive the over by passing the ball underneath and combining the jump, after which they must attack the goal to:

drive and dribble the goalkeeper;
self-raise the ball and then shoot.
Athletic work on quickness (relays, …)

Drill on driving – cross and mark making and stance taking

Inside the penalty area a 3 vs 3 situation is played to attack the goal defended by the goalkeeper. On either side of the penalty area three players will have to drive the ball and make the cross. Focus on driving and marking high ball.

Game situations.
1 vs 1 frontal marking and shooting in the goalkeeper’s box;
1 vs 1 lateral marking and shooting into the goal defended by the goalkeeper.

Theme game
7 vs 7 game in which each player is assigned an opponent to mark

Free game

Obviously in what has been proposed so far, the key ingredient is missing, and that is: creating in children the desire to play.

“Desire” is the key word.

The coach must help the boys understand what they desire. Personally, before I enter the field with both boys and adults, I always ask myself, “Do I wish to practice or play this game as I wished as a child playing in the backyard with my friends?” and a smile immediately breaks out inside me.

For a coach in this category, I think that is crucial. Helping kids from an early age to recognize their desires means giving them the keys to learn about themselves. And a little bit about others, too.

So what to work on in February?

On individual tactics work on 1 vs 1 and the fundamentals of marking and covering the ball.. On basic technique develop feinting, dribbling and driving the ball. On the athletic aspect work on joint mobility, quickness, coordination and rhythmicity. On the psychological aspect emphasize the positive aspects to strengthen the boys’ self-esteem.

If you can combine all these elements it will definitely be a success, and when you reap the rewards it is really good for everyone.

Below are a few moments of celebration in anticipation of the championship and cup awards won with the 2005 Castello Rookie team, now (alas!) several years ago.

These topics are constantly evolving and developing.

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