7 Soccer Agility Drills for Quick Movement
Soccer is a game of fast bursts of speed and quick changes of direction.
Players such as Messi and Ronaldo dominate the game not only because of their incredible passing and shooting skills, but also because of their ability to create space for themselves and others by using their elite agility.
Fortunately, you can improve your team's agility by using the best soccer agility drills.
What's the purpose of utilizing soccer agility drills?
To improve each player's coordination, balance, ability to change direction, accelerating and decelerating, foot quickness, body control, quickness etc.
These are all important skills that players need to master if they desire to play soccer at an elite level.
In fact, these soccer agility drills will even help prevent injury by training players to move with correct technique.
A few words of advice before you use them...
Focus on using technique first. Only once your players have mastered correct technique should you encourage them to increase speed.
Here are 7 soccer agility drills that will allow your players to improve moving effectively with and without the ball...
7 Soccer Agility Drills
1. 1-on-1 Change of Direction
How the Drill Works:
One player leads while the other player attempts to stay with them as they change directions twice before racing through the final cones. The leader can change direction at any of the three cone lines, but must complete at least two cuts before sprinting towards the final cone.
Develop players’ ability to quickly change direction and explode out of their first steps. Players improve their reaction time and footwork as they attempt to be the first to cross the finish line. Fun and competitive activity that can be used as an extended warmup, or an agility activity on its own. Make sure players’ bodies are fully warmed up before completing this activity.
- Create two parallel cone lines with 6-8 yards of space between them. There should be four cones in each line with 3-4 yards of space between each one. The four cones on each line should lineup with each other. See diagram for more information.
- Place one cone 10 yards away from the end of each cone line. See diagram for more information.
- Have the players form a line behind each of the starting cones.
- Assign one line as the leaders and the other line as the followers.
- Decide on the duration of this activity. 8-12 minutes is suggested.
- The first player in the leader line starts running forward when they decide. The first player in the follower line runs forward immediately following the leader’s first step.
- The leader runs forward to any of the first three cones, makes a 180-degree turn at a cone, and then runs towards the starting line. At the same time, the follower attempts to stay with the leader and make the turn at the same cone on their side.
- The leader then must make one more 180-turn at any of the cones they are running towards before racing to the cone furthest away. The follower attempts to stay as close to the leader and beat them to the finish line.
- The leader and follower always stay close to their separate cone lines, never crossing in front of the other.
- The leader must make two cuts, or turns, before racing towards the finish line. The leader is allowed to be elusive and may attempt to trick, or fake, the follower.
- The next two players begin their turn when the players in front of them have run through the finish line.
- After finishing, players walk around the cones and back to the start. Players switch lines so that the leader becomes the follower, and the follower becomes the leader.
- Continue this process for the remainder of the time. Have players switch who they are competing against every other turn, so they get the chance to face other players.
Distance – Increase the distance between cones to make the players cover more ground. This will decrease the focus on short and quick steps, but increase the focus on speed and stride length.
- Teach the players to be creative and quick. Leaders should attempt to lose their opponent with fakes, change of speed, and quick decisions while followers should stay alert and react quickly to the leader’s movements.
- Challenge the players to compete! Keep the game fun with motivation and cheering when someone does a good move, or the follower beats the leader!
- Remind the players to explode towards the finish line with powerful strides into the ground and to drive their knees as they sprint.
- Educate the players to bend their knees to react quickly to changes of direction.
- Motivate the players to lose their follower and beat them to the line each time!
2. Agility Course
How the Drill Works:
Players run, jump, backpedal, and shuffle their way through a series of obstacles to improve their body control and agility.
Develop players’ ability to move quickly and efficiently. Players increase their balance, footwork, and body control in this agility course. Can be used as an extended warmup after players have properly prepared their bodies. Important for players of all levels to spend time on this.
- Refer to the diagram for the setup. Give 5-10 yards of space between each section. If hurdles, or sticks are not available, use cones instead.
- Have the players form a line behind the starting cone.
- Decide on the duration of this activity. 8-12 minutes is suggested.
- The first player in line starts the activity by running forward and jumping over the hurdles with two feet. The jumps should be quick and explosive.
- The player then runs forward to the sticks and shuffles sideways through them. The shuffles should be fast with the player’s knees bent.
- After completing the sticks, the player turns and sprints towards the next cone at max speed.
- The player rounds the cone before sprinting and backpedaling through the series of cones.
- After backpedaling, the player sprints thought the finish line and then walks back to the start.
- The next player in line can start their trip after the player in front of them has completed the hurdles.
- The players continue working through the course until the time limit is reached.
Be creative – Add new obstacles and runs into the activity to let players work other body control movements. Feel free to change the activity to best suit the players.
- Teach the players to be quick and maintain good body control throughout the course. Players should bend their knees and take quick steps to move.
- Challenge the players to complete the course as quickly as possible each turn. Players will get the most out of it when they push themselves out of their comfort zone.
- Motivate the players to keep the work rate up throughout the period.
- Change the activity as needed. Add new variations, or details, every 2-3 minutes if players need a new pattern. Be creative. There is no right or wrong setup.
3. Four Cone Patterns
How the Drill Works:
Players run, shuffle, and backpedal through a series of fours cones that are positioned five yards away from each other. Players replicate game-like movements in this quick agility setup.
Develop players’ footwork, balance, and agility to prepare them for increased game performance.
- Set up a line of three cones with 5 yards of space between each cone. Place another cone 5 yards away from the middle cone. See diagram for more information.
- Depending on the number of players, set up more cones to decrease the wait time for each player. No more than 5 players at each setup.
- Divide the players evenly among the setups and have them form a line behind the cone positioned away from the three-cone line.
- Decide on the total time the players will work though this activity. 8-12 minutes is suggested.
- The first player in line begins the activity by sprinting straight to the middle cone and then shuffling to their right.
- Once the player reaches the cone on the right, the player changes directions and sprints across to the far-left cone before shuffling back to the center cone and then backpedaling back to the start.
- The next player begins their turn as soon as the player in front of them has finished.
- Continue this cycle until each player has completed four turns.
- Rest for 1-2 minutes before having the players complete the same pattern, but moving the opposite direction.
- Once the players have completed eight total turns, let them rest before repeating the process again, or giving the players a new pattern.
- Have the players work for, at least, 8-12 minutes.
Variation 1 – Sprinting forward around all the cones.
Variation 2 – Instead of shuffling, have the players perform over-under sideways running, often referred to as karaoke.
Variation 3 – Shuffle everything except the run to the first cone, and the backpedal back to the finish.
Be creative – This activity allows for many different combinations. Watch what the players struggle with and incorporate that in to a new variation.
Competition – Create a competition among groups to see which group can finish a pattern first!
- Educate the players on the proper footwork and being able to maintain balance as they change directions. Short quick steps with bent knees should be used in this activity.
- Encourage the players to change directions quickly and keep their feet moving!
- Remind the players that they should not lean back when they go to backpedal as they will be off balance. Players should a slight forward lean in their chest as they backpedal.
- Motivate the players to complete each turn at max speed to get the most out of the activity!
4. Ladder Work
How the Drill Works:
Players move their way through agility ladders completing different patterns and movements to increase their coordination and agility.
Develop players’ balance, body coordination, quickness, and footwork. Extremely important for players of all ages to do to improve their motor abilities.
- Use 1-2 agility ladders depending on the number of players present. No more than 10 players per agility ladder works best.
- Have the players form a line behind each ladder.
- Decide on the total time limit the players will work. At least 8-12 minutes is suggested. This can be used as an extended warmup activity after players have properly stretched and prepared their bodies.
- Players complete one of the patterns listed below as quickly, and efficiently, as they can. These are just some simple examples, there are many more patterns that can be done. Be creative and challenge players.
- One-foot in each box. Linear.
- Two-feet in each box. Linear.
- Two-feet in each box. Lateral.
- Two-feet hops. Linear.
- One-foot hops. Linear and lateral.
- Hop-scotch. Start with both feet outside the box then hop to both feet in the box. Linear.
- Icky Shuffle. Start with one foot outside the box, then move the other side of the box by touching both feet down inside the box before putting one foot outside the box. Continue this pattern moving side-to-side up the ladder.
*Linear means forwards and backwards. Lateral means sideways.
- Players walk back after going through the ladder before starting their next turn.
- Instruct, or show players the next pattern before having them complete it. Have players complete each pattern 2-4 times depending on the difficulty.
- Continue the activity for at least 8-12 minutes before resting.
Sprint after completing – Add a cone 10-15 yards away from the end of the ladder. Have the players complete the pattern as fast as possible before exploding, and sprinting to the cone. Players walk back after running through the cone.
- Start slow! Depending on the players’ age and skill level, ladders can be unfamiliar to them. Players just beginning often try to go as fast as they can without focusing on the actual footsteps. In the beginning it is not about speed, but rather getting a player’s feet to do what the brain is telling them to do. Have the players start slow, get the pattern right, and complete each box within the ladder.
- Instruct the players to move their arms in a running motion, forwards and backwards, while completing the patterns. Getting a player’s body to move in one fluid motion is difficult and players often will forget about their arms and leave them motionless.
- For older, more experienced players, motivate them to go as quickly as they can through the ladders. Challenge them to move their feet quickly without skipping any boxes, or messing up.
- Be creative! Give the players new and more difficult patterns to challenge their brains and feet.
- Click here for more ladder drills to improve foot quickness and agility!
5. Mirror Boxes
How the Drill Works:
Two identical cone boxes are set up next to each other with one player in each box. One player is designated as the leader while the other player is follower, or “mirror.” The leader attempts to move within the square, touching the four cones with their hands, while the mirror attempts to follow them as closely as possible.
Develop players’ agility, footwork, balance, and body control. Players improve on their quickness and reaction time as they attempt to stay as close to the leader as they can.
- Set up two cone boxes facing each other. Each box should be 5x5 yards with four cones. The two boxes should almost be touching each other.
- Depending on the number of players, set up more boxes. Works best if there are 4-6 players at each two-box setup.
- Divide the players evenly between the box setups. Have one player step into each box.
- Designate one side of the two-box setups as the leading side and the other side as the mirror.
- Decide on the numbers of rounds and the time for each round. Each player should complete, at least, two rounds as the leader and as the mirror. Each round should be 30-90 seconds long.
- On the coach’s command, the lead player moves throughout the box touching the four cones of their box, in any order, with their hands. The lead player must always face forwards, looking towards the mirror player.
- The mirror player moves throughout their box attempting to mirror the lead player and touch the same cones as them. The mirror player must always face the lead player.
- If the lead player touches one of the top cones, closest to the mirror player’s box, the mirror player touches their top cone, closest to the lead player’s box, on the same side that the lead player touched.
- Both players must constantly be facing each other. No turning of the back is allowed. Players must run backwards, shuffle, and move all while facing each other.
- The remainder of the round continues this pattern.
- The round is over on the coach’s command and two new players immediately rotate in to begin their turn.
- Complete at least two rounds were each player is the leader, and two rounds where they are the mirror.
Stay on the outside – Both the leader and mirror are only allowed to move along the outside of their box. Players must still face each other, but their movements must keep them just outside the edges of their boxes.
Add a soccer ball – Add a soccer ball to incorporate dribbling into this activity. Adding a ball will take away from the agility, but add a game-like element of ball control to the activity.
Fitness – Increase the time period of each round, and decrease the number of players resting at each box to get good fitness out of the activity. Players work for 90-120 seconds and only get one or two rounds of rest between turns.
- Challenge the mirror players to stay as close to the leaders as possible! The mirror players should not get discouraged if they fall a cone, or two, behind the leader. Have them keep working and catch the leader.
- Encourage the leaders to be quick, sharp, and creative to make it as difficult as possible on the mirror players.
- Motivate the players to work through the entire round and get the most out of each round!
6. Red Light, Green Light
How the Drill Works:
When the coach yells, “green light,” all the players run as fast as they can until the coach yells, “red light,” where players must come to an immediate stop. Players try to get from one end of the playing grid to the other as quickly as they can!
Fun activity for players to develop their body control and speed. Great activity for younger players who need some type of game to keep their interest. Could also be used as an enjoyable game for older players during a lighter, less serious session.
- Create two, parallel cone lines about 30-40 yards away from each other. The lines should be wide enough for all the players to line up across it.
- Have the players spread out across one of the cone line.
- The coach stands in front of the players, towards the other cone line.
- Decide on the number of rounds, or total time of the activity. 10-15 minutes, or 6-8 rounds is suggested.
- With all the players standing behind the cone line, the coach yells, “GREEN LIGHT,” and the players immediately run straight forward as fast as they can.
- Once the coach yells, “RED LIGHT,” all the players must come to an immediate stop.
- Continue this run, stop process until all the players reach the opposite cone line. Even after the first player crosses the opposite line, continue playing until the last player finishes.
- Once players arrive at the opposite cone line, they wait until everyone is finished.
- Once all the players have reached the opposite cone line, give the players a quick rest, congratulate them, and then restart the process heading back the other direction.
- Continue this process for the remaining rounds.
Be creative – Try to trick the players! Quickly switch from red to green, or say, “red light,” when players are waiting to hear “green light.” Enjoy it and make it fun for the players!
New rules – Add new rules or movements depending on the color shouted. Yellow light means jump in place. Blue light means to backpedal. Purple light means shuffle, or crawl! Add any new rule to keep the game fun and exciting!
Add a soccer ball – Feel free to add a soccer ball to have the players work on their ball control skills.
Penalties – Depending on the age of players, give penalties to players who do not follow the commands. Players must start over, or go back 10 steps, if they do not stop immediately when “red light” is called, or if they start before “green light” is shouted. Make the penalties enjoyable for age groups that are ok with them.
- Educate the players to listen to the stoplight colors called and to immediately react to the color called. Players should sprint and stop as soon as they hear a command.
- Teach the players to push into the ground and explode forward when they hear green light.
- Remind the players to remain on balance when stopping. Players should not fall over when coming to a quick stop.
- Challenge the players to get to the other cone line as quickly as possible while following the rules!
7. Star Agility
How the Drill Works:
This soccer agility drill involves players run through the star setup to improve their quickness and footwork over short distances.
Develop players’ quickness, footwork, and balance at high speeds. Players improve their ability to quickly change direction and explode forward. Can be used as an extended warmup after players have properly prepared their bodies for training, or use it as a fitness activity at the end of training.
- Refer to the diagram for the setup. Use 5 cones to set up the activity.
- Depending on the number of players, set up more courses. Works best if there are no more than 6 players at each setup.
- Have the players form a line behind the cone on the bottom of the course.
- Decide on the numbers of runs the players will complete. 8-12 runs is suggested.
- The first player in line starts the activity by running forward to the first cone and cutting to the right.
- The player will then run around the cone on the right before coming back and running around the center cone.
- The player continues to the top cone and then back to the center cone before running around the last cone on the left.
- After running around the left cone, the player rounds the center cone and sprints through the finish line.
- The next player in line can start their turn once the player in front of them as completed their turn.
- If there are only 3-4 players in each line, give the players a small rest period before starting their next run. Each player should get 1-2 minutes of rest between each run. If this activity is being completed for fitness, decrease the amount of rest between each run.
- Players should complete 8-12 runs total. 4-6 runs should be completed as described above, while the other 4-6 runs should be run in the opposite direction.
Different movements – Add shuffling, backpedaling, or cross-over running into the course. The course does not need to only be sprinting forward. Add whatever movements the players need to improve upon.
Distance – Vary the distance between cones depending on the purpose. Create more space to work on top speed and fitness. Decrease the space to focus on quickness and shorter steps.
Competition – Compete to see which group can complete the course first!
Add a soccer ball – Add a soccer ball to include dribbling and ball control into the activity.
- Educate the players to bend their knees when making the turns around the cones. Players should constantly move their feet and push strongly into the ground to explode to the next cone.
- Teach the players to take shorter steps as they approach the cones, but to take larger, more powerful strides as they come out of the cones and move towards the next cone.
- Remind the players to stay on balance as they move around the cones and change directions. Players need to maintain proper body control.
- Challenge the players to complete each repetition at max speed to get the most out of the activity.
Want to Improve Your Team's Shooting?
Agility is important, but if your team can't keep possession or put the ball in the back of the net, then you'll have no chance no matter how agile your players are!
To develop their other skills, check out all of our soccer drill on this link.