Soccer drills for 12 year olds and under should nurture their love for the game and focus on enhancing the skills they have as they get older.
The best U12 soccer drills will be more creative and a little more complicated than U10 or U8 drills for example. The drills will provide more variety, keep the kids engaged, and especially focus on small sided games that put them 1 on 1 or 2 on 2 more frequently.
As a youth soccer coach, you should be focusing on more explanation and demonstration as the kids get older. At this level, kids are able to be coached for their mistakes and held accountable to fix them and do better on a second or third try.
In this guide, we’ll cover the eight best soccer drills for U12, how to set them up, and what skills or fundamentals each will focus on.
8 Soccer Drills for U12
1. 6v6 Target Goals
Set up a playing area of approximately 30x30 and separate the group into two equal teams of six.
Create a circle in the middle of the field with a set of cones. The defensive team keeps possession of the ball and must continuously pass through the circle and try to score through a goal on either side of the field.
The goal of this drill is to teach the players about possessing the ball and making the most accurate passes. As players age, it’s time for them to learn the importance of maintaining control of the ball and dialing in aggressive gameplay.
They don’t always need to make a single pass and start attacking the goal, possessing the ball, moving it across the field, backwards, and back across again can open holes in the defense and make it easier to attack the goal.
Be sure to coach the non-possessing team to press the team with the ball as a group rather than going after them one-on-one.
2. 1v1 + 1 with Neutrals
For this drill you want to create two zones, one within a larger zone. The large zone can be a 30v30 box with a smaller 15x15 box inside. You can alter this based on the amount of space you have available and the skill level of your players.
Create a 1v1 match in the middle of the small zone with neutral players lined up around the perimeter.
The defender needs to try and steal the ball from the neutral and the neutral needs to try and pass it to another neutral player.
When a perimeter neutral player receives a pass, they need to quickly turn it around, dribble around an outside cone, and come back to make another pass to the neutral player in the middle zone.
One major goal of U12 soccer drills is to get players moving with a sense of urgency. This drill is meant to be performed very quickly with high intensity. A 15x15 space is not a lot of room so the ball will need to be received quickly, turned around, and passed immediately.
This helps your players make quick decisions and it helps the neutrals on the outside to think quickly as well.
3. Front Three Attack
This is a scoring drill that mimics how a lot of professional soccer clubs play. This drill will get your players excited in gametime situations.
Set up a team of 4-6 players attacking and three defenders with a goalkeeper.
Have the offensive players start at midfield and attack the goal with two wings and the rest of your players as a combination of midfielders and strikers.
The drill is simple, doesn’t require a lot of setup, and it helps put your athletes in the mindset of how they would behave during a game.
Get the ball moving towards the edge, get it outside, and then get it back into the box so someone can score.
Continue practicing this and keeping both an offensive and defensive focus. You can coach both sides of the ball on this and it helps if you have a second coach to work with you.
We highly recommend our 3-in-1 soccer rebounder to go with this drill. Your young athletes will be taking a lot of shots on the goal in this drill and playing with aggressive full-speed intensity. Save time with the rebounder by keeping the ball in play instead of chasing after it after each run.
4. Predator in the Penalty Area
Create two zones on the field. The internal zone can be half the size of the outside zone and they should span somewhere around 15-25 yards. Set up one goal on each side of the interior zone equal distance from each other.
Separate the players into two teams with two players from each side inside the interior zone and equal players in the outside zone as well.
The goal is to have one team make passes around the perimeter of the outside zone until they’ve passed around the entire perimeter.
The last person in line then passes inside the zone where it becomes a 2v2 match and the two defenders have to stop them from scoring.
When the passing around the perimeter is taking place, the defensive players are also trying to steal the ball and kick it out of the zone. Give the offensive players a few tries and if they’re unable to score, switch sides.
Technique, intensity, and ball control are pivotal in this drill. Coaching your players to make accurate passes and quickly turn the ball around and make another accurate pass is the objective of this drill.
From there, once the ball reaches the interior zone, it’s a simple 2v2 match. That first player that receives the pass needs to be quick to react and either make another pass or take a shot on the goal.
5. Three Lane Tactics
Create three lanes on the field using cones or lines on the field and separate the players into two equal teams. Have them stay in their lanes and make accurate passes to each other while attacking two goals in their lanes.
This game can go back and forth so there is no need to stop the game if the defensive team steals the ball. If the ball is stolen, the team on offense then becomes the defense and tries to get the ball back.
Coaching players to stay in their position and do their job is important for U12. The best U12 soccer drills will teach players that they have a role on the field and if they’re out of the position, it’s only making the game harder on someone else.
Players also need to learn to play the width of the field and use what is available to them. Spreading out, making long passes, and staying onsides will be a major focus of this drill.
6. 2v2 Battles
This is a simple 12u soccer drill that focuses on defense intercepting a ball when it comes from the goalkeeper.
Set up two defenders and a goalkeeper in the box and two players on another team directly outside the box. The goalkeepers job is to try and get the ball to the defenders and the opposite team's job is to try and get the ball as soon as possible from the defenders and take a shot on the goal.
This is a defensive-focused drill to team your players when to press and when to cover. Keeping the ball on the opposition side as much as possible and retaining possession is how a team wins matches.
Be sure to coach your players to play with intensity and a fair amount of aggressiveness when pressing the offense.
7. 2v2 Targets
Set up two zones and separate players into equal groups of six. You’ll have two attackers, two defenders, and two players serving as “goalies” but they do not need to have a goal.
Two attackers start with the ball on one side of the field and their job is to get to the other side and make a pass to the opposite goalie without having the ball stolen.
The point of these types of U12 soccer drills is to teach your growing athletes that possessing the ball is the key to the game. Being patient and waiting for the right opportunity is the key to scoring and overly aggressive gameplay isn’t always the answer.
You can’t always beat a defense with athletic ability and you need to use your brain by continuously making accurate passes down the field until a hole opens up where you’re then able to get the ball to the goalie.
8. Pass and Move
This is a simple but very effective passing drill. Separate your players into equal groups of two, three, or four - the number of players doesn’t really matter.
Make sure you have at least four different groups with various color pinnies. Have them all set up in a large zone and they’re only allowed to pass to someone with a different color.
Once a player passes the ball, they need to move outside the zone until the ball is passed again and then they move back inside the zone and prepare to receive another pass from a different colored pinnie.
The purpose of this drill is to get players to be aware of what is going on around them. As they re-enter the zone, their job is to scan the field, communicate with other players, and be ready to receive a pass in a somewhat hectic environment.
Coach your athletes to keep their eyes up and to open their mouth and speak based on the colors and opportunities for a pass they see around them.
The focus of U12 soccer drills should be on enhancing basic soccer techniques while focusing on urgency, communication, and fundamentals. This is where young soccer players should really be honing the skills they have while also developing discipline and patience in gametime situations.
At this level is where brute athletic ability becomes less important and it starts to become more about a firm understanding of the game and how to play it properly. Be sure to drive these points home when coaching your players.