I remember when I first came across a set of soccer mannequins. I was at the academy facilities of a top 4 premier league club on a pre-season training day.
We had huge setup where all the coaches were split into groups and asked to take part in 10 mini-sessions over the course of a few hours.
The goal was that we would be coached by more senior coaches, learn from their experience, use their training drills as inspiration and essentially leave that day more motivated and knowledgeable than when we had arrived.
In short – it worked.
We were exposed to all sorts of different training techniques and drills that we could take away and start using in our own sessions.
One of these mini sessions used a piece of equipment that I had seen used before but never really had taken any interest in learning more about.
I mean I came from a training philosophy that soccer skills could be developed and refined with minimal equipment – and while I was partly right, what I didn’t realize at the time was that exact mindset was hindering not only my own development as a coach but the development of the players I coached as well.
I’ve since come to learn that using the right equipment, with the right players can not only help them develop as players but it also helps create an environment that’s engaging, fun and realistic.
Anyway, what was this piece of equipment I had ignored for so long?
While they’re not the answer to all of your team’s problems – soccer mannequins are brilliant pieces of equipment that when used in right drills can have a great positive affect on your team’s development.
Here’s a few quick reasons I recommend them;
Add Realism to Your Training
Soccer mannequins are great pieces of equipment that can simulate defenders well. While they can’t completely substitute a real defender they can add a bit more realism to training. They also help improve a players positional awareness.
Most mannequins come in two pieces – the body of the mannequin and the base to keep it in place. They’re portable meaning you can carry them to and from your storage ‘unit’ with relative ease.
Leading on from portability – soccer mannequins are super easy to store. The bodies of the mannequins can easily slide in-between things (say, a shelving unit) and take up very little floor space. While the bases do take up more space on the ground, they’re pretty easy to stack on top of one another.
Helps Improve Dead Ball Situations
Soccer Mannequins are brilliant to practice dead ball situations.
Free Kicks: One obvious way of using your mannequins is to set them up in front of the 18 yard box for free kicks. They can act as dummy defenders and encourage players to start aiming for hard to reach areas in the goal.
Corners: A less obvious example would be using them as targets and defenders for corner practice. A problem some players come across especially when taking corners is getting the ball past the first defender. So for example, you could set one mannequin up as a defender close to either side of the 18 yard box – then use another mannequin as a target attacker.
Penalties: They could also be used along the goal line to improve precision penalty taking
They’re Suitable for Indoor and Outdoor Use
As I briefly mentioned above, most mannequins come in two pieces – the body and a weighted rubber base. The rubber bases work really well outside but in some cases, coaches opt to not have a rubber base at all and simply just use the spikes on the body to secure it into the grass.
Of course this isn’t going to work indoors where the ground is usually wooden flooring of some type. This is where the rubber bases really show their merit as the weight and rubber material ‘stick’ to indoor surfaces really well.
Overall most mannequins with both the body and base can be used indoors, outdoors and on turf.
3 Best Soccer Mannequins on the Market
Below I have listed the 3 best soccer mannequins currently on the market, their differences and additional tips I think will help. Overall you could go with any of the 3 below and achieve all the above benefits.
UBER Free Kick Training Mannequins
FORZA Soccer Coaching Mannequins
Soccer Innovations Portable Defensive Soccer Mannequins
Soccer Mannequin: Drills
If you’re really considering investing in a soccer mannequin here’s some drills to spark you inner creative genius….
This is a simple little drill that not only has everyone working at the same time but can be progressed to incorporate various different skills and techniques.
This is a more complicated drill that would be better suited for older players. It develops positional awareness and encourages players to look for gaps to play the ball forward.
Again this drill can progress further by limiting the amount of touches a player has on the ball and developing the types of runs the attacker makes.
Here’s a really good, in-depth video from the UBER Soccer Education Series. It showcases various different drills that helps improves; decision making, close ball control, short passing, movement and accuracy amongst a whole host of other things.
Training is all about preparing yourself for match days. You prepare both physically and mentally, developing and refining your skills until you improve.
You then take these refined skills, hopefully relay the learning process you’ve gone through on the training pitching and then apply them to a competitive environment.
There are problems to this however that can hinder performance massively;
- Training Isn’t Realistic Enough: First and foremost any training done needs to mimic real game scenarios
- Players Have No Purpose: Too many times I see players standing around ‘filling’ the gaps in a drill that could easily be replaced by using a training tool
One of those training tools that that can help solve both of those problems is a set of soccer mannequins.
Soccer Mannequins aren’t a new concept. They’ve been round for years but unfortunately youth soccer clubs don’t tend to use them all that often.
So break the mold my fellow coach, invest in a soccer mannequin or two and get creative with your drills and training sessions – your teams development will love you for it.
All the best,