How to Engage Your Soccer Team During the COVID-19 Epidemic

How to Engage Your Soccer Team During Covid19

We are in unprecedented times. The spread of the coronavirus has slowed life, confined many to their homes, and had a very real impact on the spring for everyone involved in youth sports. While safety is paramount, and sports is and should be taking a backseat to keeping our families and communities well, all coaches want to find way to keep their players touching the ball, staying active, and having interactions with their friends and teammates. Time to Get Creative!

Encourage young players to take advantage of this time to become a better soccer player. Improving upon fundamentals is something even pro players are constantly trying to do. Pointing them to online soccer training resources where the fundamentals are demonstrated and explained well can be extremely beneficial.

Touching The Ball

Asking your players to touch the ball on their own, and be intrinsically motivated to do so, is great but young players often start to get bored and will stop after a few days/weeks. It’s important to set goals, keep players accountable, and show them that you actually care about the time they’re putting in with the ball. If it’s important to you, then it will be important to them.

You can accomplish this by creating a “skills course” or using an online platform.

Homemade Skills Course

Create a standard course for your players that a series of techniques can do done on and easily measured, and challenge your players to increase their score each week in these techniques. For example:

Working on Dribbling

  • Setup: Place two cones (or shoes, pieces of clothing, etc) 10yds (ten adult paces) from each other.
  • Game: Start at the first cone and dribble around the 2nd cone, then back to the first, using only the dribbling technique allowed. 1pt for each time a down and back repetition is completed. Repeat for 30 seconds and record score. 
  • Possible Dribbling Techniques: You can simply dribble down and back or use certain surfaces of your foot to warm up, or you can be more specific like the video below shows. In the video below, we demonstrate inside & outside touches with one foot, with both feet, lateral rolls, forward and backwards rolls, and a freestyle!

Working on Turning

  • Setup: Place two cones (or shoes, pieces of clothing, etc) 10yds (ten adult paces) from each other.
  • Game: Start at the first cone and dribble around the 2nd cone, then back to the first, using only the turning technique allowed. 1pt for each time the circle is completed. Repeat for 30 seconds and record score. 
  • Turning Techniques: View the video below for ideas. You can use outside of foot, inside of foot, the pull back, the chop, the hook and pull and the cryuff. If you do the cryuff, just turn 180 degrees when reaching each cone. Make sure you alternate feet.

Working On Deception

  • Setup: Place two cones (or shoes, pieces of clothing, etc) 10yds (ten adult paces) from each other.
  • Game: Start at first cone, perform deception move (beating an opponent) at half way point between cones, then continue to second cone. Turn and repeat. Each cone reached in one point. Repeat for 30 seconds.
  • Deception Techniques: scissors, feint, Maradona, Matthews etc. You can also view our post on 5 Easy Moves to Beat a Defender if you would like additional ideas. 

Working On Passing

  • Setup: Place one cone (or shoes, pieces of clothing, etc) 8yds from a wall.
  • Game: Pass using inside of feet against wall from 8yds away for 30 seconds. Record score.
  • Passing Techniques: Can do 1 touch only, 2 touch only, or have player take first touch behind cone, and 2nd touch back to wall to increase difficulty. View the video below for basic passing fundamentals. If you want to further increase difficulty, use a wall to practice our 6 Activities to Improve First Touch

Working on Juggling

  • Setup: No cones needed! 
  • Game: See how many juggles a player can get inside 30 seconds, and record score. 
  • Demo: View the video below to learn some tips on how to juggle!

Be creative! It’s important that the “field” you create for the players to work on their skills isn’t too complicated and can be easily replicated every time the player works on their techniques. Have players keep track and send you their scores as they beat them. Get excited when players beat their score! 

Online Platform

There are a few online platforms that help players stay motivated to touch the ball while away from practice. Our favorite, however, is TopYa! which is a virtual platform with an enormous library of skills players can do to get points for completing. These skills range by topic and difficulty, and also varies enough to keep the players engaged. If you register your team, the coach can select which skills they want their team to focus on and, as the players complete those skills, they get points which go to a team leaderboard. Each skill is filmed by the player and uploaded to a virtual coach who “okays” if the skill was done correctly or not. If not, the virtual coach gives feedback and the player has to try again. 

I’ve found the competition aspect of keeping a team leaderboard of points/completed skills does wonders for keeping players engaged. It’s fun to create a coach account too and see how well you do against your players!

For more information, visit (Soccer Drive is not sponsored by TopYa, they are purely recommended out of personal experience working with our own teams).

Staying Active

Many states have “stay at home” orders already, but most of the states allow for outdoor recreation as long as people aren’t mingling in groups outside of their family unit. As everyone is finding, staying active and engaged is a struggle right now, and being motivated to leave the house to go on a hike, run, or walk can be difficult. It’s important to lead by example.

Personally, I haven’t set running goals for my players as everyone’s situation is different. I have told them to try and do at least one active thing every day: that can go on a run, go for a hike, ride their bike, walk the dog etc. It’s important that people don’t go entire days without getting some form of physical activity. This is not only important for their fitness, but for their mental wellbeing as well. If players really want to/have the means to challenge themselves, they can pick a loop or trail close to their house that they can time themselves on, and try to beat their time each time they run/bike it. 

Online platforms are also excellent during this time. Try using the app Strava, have your team download, create an account, and then “friend” each other. The app uses your phone to map your physical activity, time, and distance traveled, and then shares with your group. This is a wonderful motivation tool, as no one wants to be the person who’s doing nothing, and everyone wants to beat coach in the distance traveled for the week! It also allows you to give motivation to your players as they work through this time.

Having Interactions

This is probably the hardest part for everyone right now. People are social and, especially when young, friends are so important to their emotional well-being. Being part of a team and having fun are actually the two main reasons young people play sports, and to lose that aspect of their lives is difficult. Try using an online program like to hold weekly or monthly team “check-ins” for your players. Maybe share a virtual lunch where everyone on your team can interact and joke around. You could even put together a trivia style soccer quiz and have them type the answers to each question in the chat for some extra added fun. Be creative! What you do doesn’t matter as much as seeing your players, having them see each other, and sharing laughter.

This is absolutely a difficult time for everyone, but especially for your young players who have been removed from all their social circles, their friends, the adults they look up to, and the sports they love. Above all, even if you can’t do any of the above, make sure you check in with your players. Show them that you care for them, and you miss them. Make sure they know they are on your thoughts and haven’t been forgotten about. Whatever method you use to communicate, reach out to your team.

Have ideas that you’re doing with your own team?  Please contact us, and we’ll add the best ones to this list. Stay safe out there!

Looking for extra reading material during this time? 

Check out our Free Learn To Coach Soccer Program by clicking the link or the image below!