As part of your standard “warmup” that you use at every practice and before every game I like to create a ball control progression that combines footwork development with dribbling and turning skills. Think of it as a mini-combine where you’re packing as many elements of ball control as possible into a 10 minute window.

Here is one that I used with a 12u team recently:

  • Set up two 8×8 (yard) squares close to each other but not touching
  • Every player lines up on any one side of the grid (you’ll have a couple players sharing a side which is perfect). Note: they should NOT be on the corners
  • Start with a footwork technique, in this case I started the season with bells/foundations
  • Have every player get to 50 bells
  • Next have them all bell dribble across to the other side through traffic to the other side. When they get to the other side, have them perform a cut turn. Have them complete 10 turns
  • Next, start with another footwork technique, we used inside-outs. Then have them perform the turns, this time navigating traffic with the outside of their foot and performing and outside of the foot cut turn

I would go through 5 iterations with different techniques. Once the team had mastered a particular technique (every week or so) I would have them graduate from one technique to the next level where the techniques are harder. I would always make it a big deal when they “leveled up”. Over a season you can easily get to level 10 or higher.

What you’ll notice in small-sided games and hopefully game day is players start to use these techniques. When you see one on the field call it out and make a big deal about it to subtly reinforce it with the other players.

Coaching tip: Monitor the players closely throughout the entire warmup. Encourage players to complete the repetitions faster, tell them it’s ok to make a mistake. In fact, tell you want to see mistakes because that’s how you know they’re pushing themselves. When they complete their turns, keep them away from the edge of the grid, you want them heading straight through the middle to dribble through the heaviest traffic. Force them to switch feet.

Here is the full progressions I used (footwork skill, move/feint, turn):

12u (50 reps each footwork skill and 10 turns in practice; half that before game). See the vids at the end for explanations of each of these.

  • Bells, bell dribble to one side, cut turn
  • Inside-outs, outside foot juke, outside cut turn
  • Sole rolls, sole roll juke, pull back turn
  • V-cut, v-cut juke, fake kick to pull back turn

Of course you can modify duration, grid size, and specific skills up or down by age. For some good ideas, consult these two videos:

If this helps visualize how the grids look, where the players up, and how they perform their turns, here is an illustration: