Do you want to improve soccer dribbling today? Dribbling in soccer or football is one of the most important characteristics of a good soccer player. The ability to control the ball and then dribble into space, or better yet, take a player one on one to score, is crucial. Many people consider dribbling to be selfish, but just look at the best football players in the world, what do they have in common? They are all great dribblers and can control the ball with their eyes closed if needed.
During the past 15 years, I’ve worked with thousands of kids on dribbling. I have also implemented all of these steps to my own routine and saw major improvements. Today I will share with you what I learned from my peers, coaches, and kids I’ve trained.
One of the misconceptions about dribbling is that it’s only used to take a player on. Dribbling is also part of possession and defense. Dribbling is essential for even the keeper because every player must be able to receive a pass, dribble into space or away from pressure and make another pass, or shoot, while holding their head up to see the soccer field.
Another misconception about dribbling in soccer is that it has to be flashy or really creative. Just watch a player like Leo Messi. Messi is a player that keeps the football very close to his body, using only feints and small short quick touches on the ball, with quick sprints. He is the best in tight spaces. But if you watch Messi closer you see that he only uses, the inside and outside of his feet to dribble the soccer ball. He does nothing special with heels or scissors or all these other “moves” that are popular among travel soccer coaches. All he does is makes a defender unbalanced by using his body, but his touches on the football are just inside and outside, for the most part. You can dribble just like Messi at the age of 7 or 8, but the key is to increase the speed.
If you understand this, then you can teach a 7 year old Messi’s moves, and they can do them! The difference is that Messi was doing these moves by the time he was 5 years old. So by the time he was about 12, he had already practiced them about 10,000 hours. When most kids were still learning how to dribble, he was working on repetition and increasing the speed. Today he is just too quick with the ball. I tell you this because you don’t need to get fancy with soccer moves; you just need to improve your ability to perform the simple ones at a faster speed. There is no single soccer drill that is going to give you a head start or help you get ahead; you have to practice each touch (inside, outside, sole, etc.). But don’t fall for the trap that there is a single drill out there that can fix everything.
Lucky for you, soccer dribbling is the easiest to practice and you need no special equipment, so there is no excuse. These are the tips I recommend to help you increase your dribbling speed.
You can grab a ball and walk around dribbling it inside your home. This is one of the ways I improved my dribbling. Remember, nothing fancy, you don’t want to break anything in your home, just dribble the ball, inside, outside, soles, laces, etc. You should already be in tight spaces with furniture, walls, and people in the home, make them defenders and don’t let the ball touch any of them, keep it under your control.
You can do chores and dribble at the same time. When I was home, I would go wash my hands while dribbling to the sink, then go back to my room, dribbling, in the middle of doing my homework. Then get a snack while dribbling the ball. You can get about 1,000 touches in one evening doing this without having to go outside, travel anywhere, or even put your shoes on.
Switch back and forth from foot to foot, inside/outside, and change directions. Change things up, always staying light on your feet.
If you have access to a yard or while on the soccer field, try different moves that you find on YouTube if you have the space. Just search for “soccer moves” or “soccer dribbling”. Pick the ones you like and master them! I know I stated earlier that you should not get too fancy, but you have to keep it fun! So go ahead and find a move that you enjoy doing it and then you can practice it against your friends when you’ve mastered it. But don’t spend the majority of your time learning 200 different fancy moves, you need to learn the basic ones, and then master them (inside, outside, laces, soles).
If you are sitting down watching TV, have a ball at your feet. Even just pendulums while sitting down will help. Do these while focusing on the television and they will become automatic. If you are talking on the phone, reading, texting, or on twitter, dribble the ball. You don’t need special equipment or a practice field, just dribble around, wherever you are. If you are at your aunt’s birthday party and bored, grab a ball, dribble.
If you live in a place with good weather, go dribble outside. The surface should not matter. You can do this on grass, concrete, tennis courts, gravel, hill, inside the garage, in the shade, under the sun, on the driveway, front or the backyard. Just start dribbling, you don’t even need your shoes on. The point is to get touches on the ball with the inside and outside part of your feet, and practice your moves. All you need is a small space, go find it.
Additional tips about dribbling, these are crucial!
1. Keep the ball close to you and your feet. You will not be able to just kick and run once you start playing against good players. You need to be in control of the ball, if you let it get away, you are no longer in control and it becomes easier for defenders to take it away. This is huge and one of the reasons that many kids stop playing, because they are no longer successful at Kick and Run. I used to be a really fast kid and could outrun everyone, but found it hard to score. Once I learned to dribble with the ball closer to me, I saw a huge difference in scoring opportunities.
2. Once you’ve mastered a football move or touch, try doing it with your head up without looking at the ball. This will give you the ability to received and dribble the soccer ball against pressure. It also gives you the ability to see the field so you can make quicker and better decisions. Once you can do it with your head up and not looking at the ball, increase the speed or add a defender.
3. Change of direction is another critical factor in great dribbling. Remember that once you’ve reached higher levels of club soccer, or pro, there will be very few chances to take off in sprints. The majority of the time is spent under immense pressure in tight spaces. Anytime you are practicing your dribbling, you need to also practice changing directions so that you are prepared to play against high pressing defenses. Changing direction also allows you to turn and attack at the appropriate time, make a perfect pass to a run, or shoot when you have a lane. I will discuss turning in a different post as well, it’s that important. But in order to master turning, you first need control of the ball, and that is done through dribbling (yes I know there are many one touch turns, we’ll cover those later as well).
4. Make sure you use ALL parts of your foot when practicing dribbling skills. That includes the sole, inside, outside, and laces. Go sideways, forwards, and backwards. Change directions as mentioned earlier, go one way then turn, then explode into a quick sprint, and then turn again. You must be under control at all times and you can use any part of your foot to do this.
Implement this program into your kids’ youth soccer player development routine. It’s easy and everyone should be doing it. YOU MUST understand that practicing twice or even three times a week with your travel soccer team is not enough. I don’t care if you are at the highest level or with the greatest coach, YOU MUST practice outside of formal training hours! Even adults who want to get better at soccer can do this and will see results. There is not one single drill or coach out there that will “immediately improve” your soccer dribbling in one day. It takes time and practice. Sorry I have to be honest with you because I want you to get better. You have to put the time in, there is no other way around it. Messi and Ronaldo did not find a secret drill or great coach around them; they just played every day of their lives since they were 2 years old. I’ve interviewed many professionals for the Youth Soccer Evolution Podcast and they all agree that it takes dedication to reach those levels. They also state that they played many hours outside of formal soccer training sessions.
Would you like a demonstration on how you can implement this program into your child’s routine? Email me for instructions as I am working on a step by step video. Ernesto@youthsoccerevolution.com