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Drills vs Games

“Too many drills will kill the young players’ innate potential!” – Horst Wein

The game of soccer is filled with continuous movement and flow, with unpredictable occurrences happening at any moment. Therefore, training sessions must prepare players to read and understand the game in order to experience success during their career.

Within a training session, a coach can utilize different ways of teaching the game. One method of teaching soccer is by utilizing ‘drills’. According to the US Youth Soccer Coaching Manual, “Drills are generally an absence of thought. An individual repeats the same movement or patterns exactly the same way each time” (Fleck, “The Official US Youth Soccer Coaching Manual”). Moreover, US Youth Soccer used key phrases to describe ‘drills’ such as “static, military, lines, boring, no thought, and age inappropriate” (Fleck, “The Official US Youth Soccer Coaching Manual”). The idea is that drills are repetitive in nature and do not develop game intelligence within the player.

A second method of teaching soccer is through a ‘game/activity’. According to the US Youth Soccer Coaching Manual, “A game/activity approach creates an environment that allows technique, tactics, fitness, and creativity to develop in harmony.” Additionally, according to US Youth Soccer, terms that describe a ‘game/activity’ include “dynamic, organized but unstructured, free movement, fun, decision making, and age appropriate” (Fleck, “The Official US Youth Soccer Coaching Manual”). Unlike ‘drills’, a ‘game/activity’ seeks to improve the game intelligence of the player.

Knowing the difference between ‘drills’ and ‘games/activities’ is the first step in applying better developmental methods. However, properly implementing such methodologies is what makes coaching soccer complex. In order to use the ‘game/activity’ training method productively, the coach’s main objective “should be to make the others think instead of thinking for them” (Horst Wein, 2007, pg. 5). By creating a ‘game/activity’ that facilitates an environment for players to take advantage of 2v1 situations, such as a directional 4 goal – 2v2 +2 game, the player’s technical, tactical, physical, creative pathways will all develop in unison. Simultaneously, the coach can pose questions to the players in order to spark new thinking and further understanding of the situations in the game. Horst Wein stated, “To develop players’ active involvement in the training and learning process, coaches must master the skill of posing questions. The most effective questions are open-ended that require descriptive answers” (Horst Wein, 2007, pg. 5).

On the other hand, coaches can also appropriately implement ‘drills’ into training sessions by the use of dribbling or passing circuits during the warm up phase of the session. During the course in Barcelona, Dr. Rude explained that utilizing drills or ‘circuits’ in the warm-up is a great way to improve the players’ coordination with the ball. However, within the make-up of ‘drills’, “Horst Wein’s method of ‘questioning’ can still be implemented. For instance, if the dribbling circuit includes obstacles that are far apart, encouraging dribbling with speed, the coach could ask, “What part of the foot allows for fast dribbling?”, and if the obstacles are close together, the coach could ask, “Which part of the feet is better for close control while dribbling?”. The idea is to continue to stimulate the players mind throughout the entire training session.

There is no question that coaching soccer is both an art and a science, however, by creating an atmosphere that challenges the players technically, physically, psychologically, tactically, and creatively, coaches can develop intelligent players who experience enjoyment on the pitch.


Fleck, T., Quinn, R., Carr, D., Buren, W., & Stringfield, V. (2008). The Official US Youth Soccer Coaching Manual. Retrieved September 10, 2015.

Wein, H. (2007). Developing youth football players (p. 5). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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