Sharks and minnows is a classic playground game with many variations. Taking this game onto the soccer field is a great way to engage and excite U6 and U8 players.
Athletes in this age group require drills and games that allow them to compete but also don’t require too much attention or involvement.
The sharks and minnows game will get the kids running around, chasing after each other, and learning proper footwork to help maintain control of the ball.
Sharks and Minnows Rules and Goals
The rules for sharks and minnows are:
- Each athlete will get a ball with the exception of at least two sharks
- The minnows (players with the ball) need to maintain control of their ball and keep it close to prevent the sharks from getting it
The goals and objectives of this drill from a coaching standpoint is to teach the players that dribbling and ball handling are important skills.
If the athletes can keep the ball close to them and maintain control of it throughout the entire drill, it’s less likely that the sharks will be able to kick it out of the playing area.
Sharks and Minnows Setup
To set up for sharks and minnows, you’ll want to use training cones to build a playing area of approximately 20 yards in each direction.
The amount of space you create will depend on how many players you have. Keep in mind that this drill works better if you have at least ten athletes. This will allow you to have eight minnows and two sharks.
The skill level of your players is also a factor. If you’re coaching U6 athletes, you might want to make the playing area smaller to prevent them from tiring themselves out chasing after each other.
How Do You Play Sharks and Minnows?
When you’re set up and ready to play, have the minnows start at one side of the playing area. The sharks start in the middle of the drill.
To start the drill, you can have the players yell “shark attack”! The sharks could also call the players out by saying “here fishy fishy”!
Once the game begins, the minnows (dribblers) have to dribble from one end of the field to the opposite end without allowing the sharks to intercept the ball and kick it out of the zone.
If a player's ball is kicked outside of the zone, you can create a “punishment” that they need to do to get back in.
This could be dribbling around the playing area once, dribbling in and out of a series of cones, or attacking a goal and scoring before they’re allowed to return.
Once the sharks knock all of the minnows balls out of the playing area, they win and you can switch up who is a minnow and who is a shark.
Sharks and Minnows Variations
There are a number of ways you can play the sharks and minnows game based on the age of your group, number of players, and skill level.
If your kids know how to play sharks and minnows already and have experience, this is a way to make the game more challenging.
Each time a shark knocks a minnows ball out of the playing area, that minnow then becomes a shark. The sharks continue to increase until the last minnows are left.
Whoever is left at the end becomes the sharks in the next round. As you can imagine, this will become incredibly challenging towards the end when there are 6-7 sharks and only two minnows. It’s also a great way to identify what athletes are shining for potential opportunities in games.
Another variation is to add “seaweed” to the game. The athletes become seaweed if their ball touches another player's ball. Both of the players whose soccer balls collide then become seaweed and cannot move until another player hits their ball.
This again reinforces the fact that the kids need to maintain control even when you’re moving quickly.
The game can quickly get out of control with younger players when they’re kicking their balls all over the place instead of focusing on maintaining control and keeping their eyes up to watch for incoming sharks.
One Foot Only
To make the drill more challenging, you can instruct your athletes to only use one foot per round. The first round they can use both feet to dribble but once the second round begins, tell them they can only use their left foot and if you catch them using the right they become seaweed.
Steal and Score
If you have less than ten players, this is a great sharks and minnows variation to try out. We recommend using our standard soccer rebounder to keep the ball in the drill for this method.
Place two goals on each side of the playing area and instruct the sharks to steal the ball and score before the minnow becomes a shark. This gives the minnow a chance to catch up to their ball and steal it back.
If the playing area is too crowded, consider stretching it out more or simply try one of the simpler variations because you may have too many athletes.
Once the shark steals the ball and scores in one of the goals, the minnow then becomes a shark.
This variation teaches the kids to act with urgency. When their ball is stolen, they only have a few seconds to get it back before they’re scored on.
Sharks and minnows is a great game for U6 and U8 players. It teaches them to control the ball, keep their eyes up, and keep the ball close to prevent others from stealing it away.
The most important thing to instill in them during this drill is to keep moving. If they stand in one place, they’re putting a target on their back and asking the ball to get stolen. Move your feet, be consistent, and keep your eyes up so you can see if a shark is coming towards you.
Sharks & minnows is also a great party game that you can play at birthdays. Even kids that aren’t involved in soccer can play and it will teach them hand eye coordination.
Be sure to supply plenty of water breaks if it’s hot outside because this is an active drill with a lot of moving around. Good luck and have fun!