Just about everyone can dribble a soccer ball when there is no resistance coming from an opponent. Obviously however, there will be great resistance during competitive matches. So the objective here is to properly get young players comfortable and confident with dribbling while an opponent is applying pressure by endeavoring to gain possession of the ball. If any field-soccer player wants to improve, this skill is paramount.
These are the basic objectives that must be developed for young players and possibly others for maintaining possession of the ball.
1. Dribbling the soccer ball must be kept close to the feet around opponents. This is obvious.
2. But what may not be obvious is that the sense of balance of the body, needed for rapidly changing directions, must be developed.
3. Looking out around the field for open players and open spaces is another necessity. It can only be accomplished by keeping one’s head up while dribbling. This of course will not happen with newly introduced players into the game, but it is one of the dribbling objectives.
4. Another necessity for retaining the ball while dribbling is to shield it from one or more opponents.
So what is the optimum approach to improve the dribbling skills for young players?
1. In general, precious soccer practice time should not be spent on dribbling drills. Dribbling should be practiced away from the soccer practice. But, there are some exceptions:
(a) The youngest players must be taught the basics via dribbling drills at soccer practices. There is nothing new here.
(b) After say two soccer practices, end the dribbling drills at these practices. Valuable training time is needed for spending on kicks, trapping, defense, shielding, endurance etc.
(i)Without endurance, soccer players cannot perform to their maximum abilities
and will make more dribbling and other errors.
(ii)A professional should be consulted on the optimum level of endurance training.
(c) Then, assign homework drills. Drills that are designed to teach
(i)the young player balance while turning
(ii)control of the sensitivity of touch on the ball
(iii)players to keep the ball near the feet when moving with the ball.
(d) Coach demonstrations and player demonstrations should be performed so the players understand their assigned homework drill.
(e) At each subsequent practice (after a drill has been assigned), players should be asked to demonstrate their homework skills for about 30 seconds each. Say two players at a time–to conserve training time. After each player has shown his or her skill preforming the drill, a demonstration should be repeated by the best young dribbling player. This acts as a teaching-aid to the others.
(f) Every player is to own and bring an identifiably marked ball to practice. While on the subject, water and warm clothes in cold weather should also be a requirement.
2. During scrimmage games, insist that players dribble with their head up and with the ball close to the feet when near opponents.
3. The importance of shielding the soccer ball from an opponent cannot be overemphasized. Shielding properly keeps one, or possibly two or three opponents from dislodging the ball from a dribbling player.
(a) Various drills are designed to elevate shielding skills from its most elementary level on up. Start with little opponent pressure, as the players develop expertise add pressure to each advanced drill.
(b) In addition, there is another drill especially designed apply the shielding technique. It is a variation of the monkey-in-the-middle drill. When done right and constantly overseen by the coach, players properly learn to shield the ball from aggressive opponents. Furthermore, players also learn to make safer passes to «teammates».
The following notes should add clarity to this article.
Note 1: Very young «talented» players often make «breakaways» and dribble the ball towards the goal unimpeded. Before taking the shot at the goal with only the goalkeeper in front, these players push the ball about two to three yards (or two or three meters) out in front of them. At this distance the ball is in an ideal position to kick it at the goal. Often these young players score against an unskillful very young goalkeeper, and of course the parents of the scoring child are elated. However, this may or may not indicate that this child will go on to be a great soccer player. That «skill» just witnessed is not a skill at all, because it was not learned. As the children progress up in age, opponent defenders ordinarily do not allow an attacker the room of two or three yards to set up the ball for the kick on goal. On older teams, this «tactic» is no longer a tactic. So what point am I making?
Competitive soccer players need to discipline themselves in keeping the ball near their feet when opponents are near. This is a necessary skill that must be learned for dribbling as well as when making attempts at scoring. It takes training both with dribbling and while employing the various types of kicks to be competitive as a player goes on up in years.
Note 2: Advanced players must also develop the ability to lunge in one direction while flicking the ball in the opposite direction. There are several of these feinting moves that a skillful soccer player must master, but they are beyond the scope of this article.
Note 3: What do the young goalkeeper(s) do while the field players are training for their skills? They need to be developing their skills. They need an assistant coach to train them on defending the goal, to practice diving and punting. The coach must instruct the assistant coach in proper goalkeeping-training techniques while overseeing these techniques until the assistant coach gets it right.
Note 4: Much of the above training information can be learned from good soccer books containing further descriptions and applicable drills.
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