This game really teaches great soccer skills – it teaches ball control, dribbling with both feet while looking up, accuracy in kicking the ball while running, and much more. Also when they miss you, they have to run and chase down their ball to regain control, so it also teaches hustle, and “winning the ball”. And they really have fun trying to hit you to make you be a goofy animal! This game and Chase the Kid Ball Tag are the 2 best Ball Control Practice Games – we recommend playing them a lot.
Kids learn to control the ball, change directions, cut back, speed dribble, to change speeds, dribbling in and through traffic with both feet while looking up, accuracy in kicking the ball while running, they get used to getting bumped and to chaos, instinctive reactions and composure while dribbling in a crowd, and they get lots of touches on the ball, all while under pressure and having fun in a competitive way (although they don’t think of it as competitive). They will naturally start to use both feet to dribble.
Every player needs a ball. Tell them that if they can hit you with their ball, then you will imitate any animal they choose!
Then run away from them and let them come to you and try to hit you. If they hit you, ask them for an animal and then do a goofy imitation, and watch them giggle.
Adjust how fast you run, and how much you dodge, depending all the skill and speed of your players. Let them hit you, but not all the time. Often, for a very new player, you have to stand right in front of them without moving, but for a more experienced, faster or older player, you need to dodge more to make it a challenge for them.
Adjusting simultaneously for weaker players while still dodging older ones is the challenge for the coach.
Variation 1: Counting. In this version, I run to a spot, and then I stand perfectly still while I count to 5 or 10. They have to move fast to hit me before I reach 5 or 10, because then I run someplace else and start counting again.
Variation 2: Hit the parent! I like to call the kids aside and tell them that we are going to play the same game, but they have to go and hit their parent, so then they go and “surprise” their parents by dribbling over to them to hit them. The parents usually know they are coming, of course but pretend to be surprised.
Variation 3: Hit the Kid! You can use a player to dodge as well, but usually, the other kids will have virtually no chance to hit the kid, because it’s a lot easier to dodge than to be hit. If you have a more mature player that understands that they need to regulate how much they dodge to actually give the other kids a chance, then this can work better. Otherwise the target will probably never get hit. Also, don’t play this game if you have players that can blast away strong shots, because they’ll end up hitting your target pretty hard. If they hit an adult hard, its no problem, an adult can take it, it’s usually below the knee anyway. If they hit a kid hard, someone could get hurt, so don’t allow this.
Play for as long as they are having fun, or as long as you handle it, because this can get tiring on the coach, but never on the kids!