How To Improve The Penalty Kick Skills Of Your Players

The penalty kick is always a moment of great excitement, concentration and pressure.

There are many stories built around this famous kick, and some of the big soccer starts and “legends” have missed penalty kicks at decisive critical moments. There are also a lot of funny unique moments related to penalty kicks… (like these for example…)

Many of them are competing to be “The Worst Penalty Kick… Ever!” winner… but I think this one is very well positioned to win this prize.

Ok… now that we had some fun, lets get serious about…

Improving The Penalty Kick Skills Of Your Players

Once you have trained your players in dribbling and passing, it is time to work on their shooting skills. This means it is time to improve their penalty kick skills. A penalty kick can play a very important part in a soccer game as we see in many other games as well.

Your penalty kick may win a game. It may also go haywire and make you lose a game. Either way, it is one of the important skills that you need to work on with your players.

You should have specific practice sessions for penalty kicks only, after a good warm up, of course! What you need to do is set up a penalty kick. The ball must be placed 12 yards from the goal.

You must have a goalkeeper standing on the goal line who can only move from side to side. The other players cannot move until the shooter has kicked the ball. When you blow the whistle, the shooter must kick the ball.

You have to train the players to try to misguide the goalie. The goalie will try to guess where the ball will be kicked by looking at the body language of the shooter. You must make the shooter move back about 3 to 5 paces and then run up to the ball and kick it.

There are two basic ways that you have to train them in to kick the ball well. One is to kick it with the side of the foot and the other is the explosive instep kick. The players must practice both types of kicks to ensure they have more variations. This way they can try a new variation each time and keep the goalie guessing every time.

Sometimes, the goalie gives away the side he is planning to dive. The penalty shooter must be able to read the body language of the goalie and then kick the ball in the opposite direction.

Train your players to kick the ball high into the corner, as these areas are usually the hardest to block. If you want your players to improve their penalty kick skills, you must make them practice various shots into the goal to ensure they don’t miss at the crucial time.

A soccer ball, when firmly struck accurately from the soccer penalty kick line, will definitely make it impossible for the goalkeeper to save the ball. Coaching the right technique to your players for kicking soccer ball from the penalty line is very important. However, a coach should also consider the psychology of the player taking a football penalty kick.

Strategies To Coach Soccer Penalty Kick Effectively

  • At the beginning, ask your player to aim the spot in the goal to shoot.
  • Let your player place the soccer ball on the ground and tell him to take between six to eight steps backwards. Slightly bending his head down, ask him to run forward to strike it either with his shoelaces or from the side of his foot.
  • Let your payer know that one of the best spots to aim to get a goal from soccer penalty kick line are one of the two bottom corners of the goalpost. It will be almost impossible for a goalkeeper to stop the crisp low shot in a tight corner.
  • It’s important to kick the ball with power, this will reduce the chances of missing the goal. But it is not always necessary to blast the ball from the shoelaces but your player should remember to get a great pace on the ball.
  • Let your players practice ‘run up’ to the ball using the same method every time and try practicing from smaller goals that are used by the u8 or u10 leagues. They should try until they make 9 out of 10 shots.

Drills To Practice The Penalty Kick

  • Drill 1: Divide your players into pairs and provide one ball for each pair. Ask the partners to stand apart (about 20ms distance). Set up a goal between each partner nearly about 5 ms wide halfway. Now it’s time to make each one of them take a penalty through the other’s goal taking turns. To increase the level of this soccer drill, you can either increase the distance between players or decrease the size of the goal.
  • Drill 2: Make a 25m x 25m grid and place practice cones across the centre of the grid. You can now divide the players into teams of 3 to 5 players. Provide one or two balls to each team . Ask the player in possession of the ball to use the penalty kick technique and strike one of the cones in the middle. To make it competitive, give points if the player strikes the cone successfully and additional points if he knocks out a cone. As a variation for this drill, ask them to kick through the gaps in the cones.

Finally, while kicking a soccer ball from a penalty kick line, and this is very important as the psychological factor is critical in these moments, always ask your players to keep calm and not to get distracted by the goalkeeper’s efforts to intimidate them. During my career as a soccer player I was always responsible to take the penalty’s responsability.

I never forget one thing that one of my coaches said to me once… “A good penalty kick is the one that ends up in the net”. The most important thing is that you score. It doesn’t matter how powerful it is, or even the style… the best player to take the penalty kicks in your team should always be the one that has the best percentages.

Here’s what I always do when taking a penalty kick… (and never missed at competition, not even once). You can use some of these tips and pass it to your “penalty man”:

1. I place the ball at the penalty mark (on a flat area – be careful because the mark is always full of “tricky ups and downs”). I never look at the goalkeeper’s eyes.

2. I look at the referee, and in my mind, I choose the side to where I’m going to kick the ball (I don’t care about the goalie – I already know where I’m going to kick the ball before I start running to the ball).

3. (As I already know the side I’m going to shoot) I run to the ball and try to give the impression that I will kick to the other side by positioning my body in that way (usually the goalkeeper will “fall” into this body bending “trap”) and then I kick the ball to my chosen side with accuracy, power and as closest to the post as possible (not too high to avoid mistakes). Even if the goalie goes for the chosen side, it’s difficult for him to get this ball.

Try to teach a few of these tricks and always measure by taking notes about the numbers and percentages of success.

That’s it for today, and I hope you find this information useful.

Andre Botelho

P.S. (Are you on ‘Twitter’? Click here to follow me…

Teaching Finishing Soccer Drills

Yesterday, an old friend of mine (and youth soccer coach)… invited me to his practice session. He wanted my opinion on some new ‘fancy’ finishing soccer drills he was testing.

I accepted immediately (“dinner is on me!” – he said)…

During the time we was teaching these crazy new drills, I noticed that there was a forward player that was scoring very well. I ended up commenting this with a parent that was standing near me… and he replied: “Wow… that was really luck, he scored 8 out of 10!”.

Are Good Finishing Skills Just Luck

…Or some Kind Of Magic?

Well, to be honest with you, I don’t believe in luck — everything that happens, happens because we did something that ‘made it happen’. Success in coaching youth soccer or everything else we do is not some kind of magic… or strange trick like this one…

Everything has a logic explanation…

That player’s first performance really got my attention, so I started to put some numbers on a piece of paper, so I could get a good perspective of what’s going on…

And guess what? After 6 different finishing drills this player scored 58% of the time. This means that for every 10 shots… he scored about 6. Believe me, this isn’t luck…

When the practice session ended, all players ran for their well deserved hot bath… all except one…

I noticed that this player I’ve been talking about so far, stayed on the field.

He grabbed all the soccer balls available and created a line in front of the goal and just started to shoot. He repeated this procedure over and over again… from different angles, positions and distances.

He did this for about 30 minutes… alone in the field…

Now… here’s the reason WHY those stats were so great!

Finishing Is All About Practicing… A Lot!

And here’s a great example of what I’m talking about…

With that said… let’s dive in!

Here’s an idea for a finishing drill that you can teach to your players… (and don’t forget your notebook, so you can keep track of what your players can do).

Drill: Shooting Out of the box

Aim: Practice and develop finishing skills and confidence

Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Age: U17

Time: 15 minutes


  1. Start the drill with the player who takes the shot controlling the ball.
  2. When players are at ease doing this, they finish with one touch.
  3. Players practice shooting techniques and move to one touch.
  4. Players finish from outside penalty box.
  5. Sequence is finisher passing the ball to distributor who arranges the finish.
  6. Each player gets a chance to practice finishing.


Finishing Soccer Drills Example

Key points:

Strike ball outside the penalty box. Players progress from technique practice to developing composure while playing.

That’s it for today…

(By the way… I recommended to that youth coach friend of mine that he should identify those players that are the best at passing, dribbling, crossing, scoring, etc… and run specific individual drills to develop and perfect their skills).

Send some feedback with the stats for your best ‘scorers’…

Andre Botelho

P.S. (Are you on ‘Twitter’? Click here to follow me…

How To Become A Better Soccer Coach

Today I’d like to share with you some simple guidelines on how you can become a better soccer coach than you are today – you may already be aware of some of the ingredients, some may be new… mix and stir!

Have High Standards

Young players are far sharper than what you think them to be. If your own standards of the game are not high, you’ll be found out in a minute.

The only solution to this is to practice much more than what you expect the players to do, so that any aspect of the game you demonstrate is convincing and professional.

Be Friendly And Firm

Most players start out to have fun and if they enjoy the game, they may stay on to play the game at a more serious level. As coach, you must ensure that they leave each practice session eager to return for the next.

This can only be achieved if the coach makes his sessions interesting, entertaining and value added. You may have to take a firm hand with some players, but if they and the rest of the players are convinced that it is for their own good, you will have no problems on this account.

Handle Success And Failure With Dignity

You win some and you lose some, but both should be stepping stones to higher levels of achievement. Many coaches make the mistake of attributing success to great coaching and failure to poor performance of the players.

It should be the other way around. The coach is responsible for everything. If you cannot handle this responsibility with maturity, you need to rethink.

Stay In Control

A coach needs to be several steps ahead of his players and the game. This means that you should never be seen to be under prepared or flustered. If you needed some equipment for a specific session, you should have it in place, well before the first player turns up.

Similarly, transport, tying up outside matches and parental assistance must also always be tied up well in advance. If your players see you totally in control, they will get a feeling of professionalism and will strive to match your behavior. It also works the other way around!

Manage Parents

Some parents become a bit too involved with the game. Hence, the coach also needs to define the boundaries of such involvement. You may need to be firm with them to the point of telling them who is in control.

Parents have to see the game as a game and the opposing team as just kids. Ensure that parental expectations do not spoil the pleasure of playing soccer.

Ok, and that’s what’s I wanted to share with you today… I hope you think a little about these ideas.

“See” you soon…

P.S. (Are you on ‘Twitter’? Click here to follow me…

Andre Botelho

Fun Soccer Games… Yupiiii!

Fun soccer games must be an important element of your training session. It is good that you have added warm ups, soccer drills, and even small sided games, but if you have not added FUN to the soccer coaching session, then you are missing a crucial thing.

Soccer should be fun!! And when I say fun… I really mean FUN! … fun for referees…

And above all… soccer should be fun for your players…

Here’s a great FUN soccer drill you can teach in your next coaching session:

Game: The Battle Of Troy (Level: Intermediate)

Age Information : 9 – 12

Level of Difficulty : Intermediate

Time Duration : 15 – 20 Minutes

The Battle Of Troy is an advanced fun soccer game. It is best suited for players within the age group of nine to twelve. The level of difficulty is intermediate. The minimum number of players that can participate in this game is six.

However, you can include more players – just make sure that the total number does not exceed fifteen. Depending upon the size of the field and the total number of players, this game should take approximately fifteen to twenty minutes.

It is a fun game, but it seeks some good soccer skills from the players.

Step-by-step instructions

  • The setup requires you to mark a grid of cones – 20 yards X 50 yards in size.
  • Divide the grid into three equal sections by marking two lines in the middle, as shown in the diagram.
  • Place a goalpost in the third section.
  • Divide the players into two teams of six players each. Name the teams as team A and team B.
  • One team will be the attacker while the other team will be the defender. In the beginning, team A will attack and team B will defend. You must place the players accordingly.
  • The three players of the defending team B will take positions in the first section, two defenders in the middle section and one defender in the third section.
  • The players of the attacking team A will line up in pairs on the opposite side of the goalpost outside the grid, as you can see in the diagram.
  • The first player in each pair will have a ball.
  • The game will start at the blow of the whistle.
  • As soon as you blow the whistle, the first player (with the ball) from the attacking pairs will enter the grid in the first section.
  • The objective is to cross all the three sections and finally score a goal in the third section.
  • It is like the Battle of Troy as there are enemies (defenders) in every section of the battleground (grid).
  • Both the attackers and the defenders are going to have a tough time. In the first section, there will be three attackers and three defenders. If a defender manages to steal the ball from one of the defenders, he/she will kick the ball outside the ground. The attacker who loses the possession of the ball will be eliminated from the game.
  • The remaining two players will go ahead to the middle section where they will face the two defenders. It is also possible that in the first section, no defender could stop the attackers and the middle defenders get the tough task of defending against three attackers. Because of all these possibilities, the game is quite interesting for the adult players.
  • The coach will count the number of goals made by the attackers.
  • After the first round, switch the players’ roles. It means the defenders will now become attackers and attackers would be the defenders. Team A is now scattered in the three sections – three players in the first section, two players in the second section, and one player in the third section. The team A players will line up in pairs as team B did in the first round.
  • The second round will start with another blow of the whistle.
  • The game stops after six rounds. It means that each team gets three opportunities to attack and score goals.
  • In the third round when the team B players become attackers, the players who did not get the opportunity to attack in the first round will start the game.
  • In the end, the team with the highest number of goals is declared as the winner.


Key Points

  • Since these are advanced players, you must encourage them to showcase good dribbling techniques while attacking.
  • The three attackers in the first section must co-operate with each other. The objective should be to score a goal for the team. One of these attackers may try to engage the defenders with him/her. This way, the other two attackers get open spaces to enter the next section.
  • You can also introduce some variations. For example, you can include a two-yard free zone in each section. This is the zone where the attackers are safe. The defenders cannot enter this zone. However, do not allow them to stay in the free zone for more than five seconds.
  • The attacker may be allowed to leave his/her ball inside the free zone and help the other attackers move to the next section by passing and receiving the ball with each other.

That’s all for today… and always remember to have some fun when coaching soccer!

PS: Do you ‘Twitter’? Click here to Follow me…

Andre Botelho

The Importance Of Soccer Fitness

Soccer is a very strenuous game and obviously to succeed as a soccer player one needs to be physically fit. This is where soccer fitness training and drills come into the picture. Also remember that it is very important for players to eat right, drink enough water, rest and exercise properly to become physically fit for soccer.

Here’s Why Soccer Fitness Is Really Important…

If you look at it, you will find very few sports that are played on such a large field, for such a long time and without regular rest periods. So, you can understand how important fitness and fitness drills are to the soccer game.

If you are still not clear, let me give you some statistics. During a regular soccer game, a player would usually cover 8-12 km. This distance of 8-12 km would usually consist of 24% walking, 36% jogging, 20% coursing, 11% sprinting, 7% moving backwards, and 2% moving with the ball.

Here’s a real example of some “side effects” of the stats above…


A proper soccer fitness training program would impart endurance, muscle strength, speed, agility, and flexibility in soccer players. Soccer players need muscular strength because that helps in shooting, tackling, and running. Muscular strength also means fewer injuries.

Moreover, strength training helps correct muscle imbalances in soccer players. It has been noted that soccer players tend to develop overly strong quadriceps, in comparison to their hamstrings. A proper fitness program will correct this imbalance and thereby help prevent injuries.

Soccer fitness training helps in creating a balance of explosive power and muscular endurance in soccer players. In other words, a good soccer fitness program will offer the right mix of aerobic and anaerobic exercises.

In soccer, a midfielder is required to cover a lot of ground during a soccer game; therefore, he/she needs a good aerobic fitness. Forwards and strikers, on the other hand, need to sprint fast and thus they require focusing on anaerobic fitness.

Example – One To One Fitness Drill

There are lots of fitness drills that a soccer coach can come up with to provide overall fitness to soccer players. My favorite is the 1v1, 2v1, 1v2 fitness drill. Besides being a great fitness drill, this also helps in passing, moving and turning skills.

Step By Step Instructions:

  • Step 1: X2 will pass the ball to X1 who starts to play on the offense and is allowed to score in either goal.
  • Step 2: If X1 scores a goal then X2 will pass him/her another ball. And again X1 can score on both goals.
  • Step 3: O1 is required to tackle X1 and get possession of the ball. If O1 gets possession of the ball, or if the ball goes out of boundary off X1, then O2 will pass the ball to O1.
  • Step 3: Now O1 will play on the offensive and will try to score on either goals. The game will last for 3 minutes after which X1 will switch places with X2 and O1 will switch places with O2.
  • Step 4: They will play the way they were playing previously.
  • Step 5: After each side has played the game once, X1 and X2 can only score on the lower goal and O1 and O2 can only score on the upper goal. They will one game each following this rule.
  • Step 6: In the next game, X2 and X1 can join to play against O1. This would be 2 v 1. Now if O1 gets possession of the ball, X2 will have to leave the field and O1 and O2 will play against X1.


Key Points:

  • You can start with groups of 4’s. A 40 × 30 field is required. Have two players on the field and two players on the sides with extra balls.
  • This drill helps in quick transition in both directions, and not to forget, this is a great fitness drill also.

Age: 6 – 14:

Level: Intermediate

Time Duration: Each game for 3 minutes

Now go out there and test it out at your next group coaching session…

Ok, that’s it for today!…

(Do you ‘Twitter’? Click here and follow me.

Andre Botelho