What do soccer players and babies have in common? They dribble!
Okay, so that is a corny joke, but it is true that dribbling is one thing that all soccer players must learn to do. It’s how you get the ball around the field by yourself. If you can’t make a pass or there is a lot of open area in front of you, you can dribble to get to where you can make a pass or shot.
When dribbling the ball, you don’t want to kick the ball hard but nudge it along. Think of it as sweeping the ball. You keep the ball just ahead of you as you run along by sweeping it with your feet.
Use Both Feet
You should learn to use both feet as well as both sides of your feet. Typically, you will use the inside, or instep, of your foot to move in a single direction. You can then learn to use the outside or inside to change directions and trick your opponent.
Another basic skill is to be able to look up and around you while dribbling. If you keep your head down and looking at the ball the entire time, you won’t be able to spot defenders to avoid or open teammates downfield for a pass.
A great skill to protect the ball from defenders is shielding. This is where you put your body between the opponent and the ball. You can’t always do this for a long time, but it’s a great skill to buy yourself a second or two of time while you find an open teammate.
Turning or Changing Direction
A nice play to learn while dribbling is the turn. This is when you are dribbling down the field in one direction and you make a quick turn in another direction. Turns are generally used when you have a defender running along with you at full speed. With practice, you can stop and change direction while the defender, who isn’t ready for such a change, runs right past you.
There are a number of ways to accomplish a turn. One way is to put your foot on top of the ball and drag it backwards. You spin and go with the ball. Another is to step over the ball with one foot and use the inside or outside part of your foot to move the ball in a different direction.
Once you have the basics down, you will want to work on fakes. A fake is where you make the defender think you are going one direction, but then you go another. You can fake with your head or your body that you are going one way and then dart the other. You can also fake to kick the ball for a pass and then keep dribbling. Another fun fake to practice is the step-over. This is where you pretend to kick or dribble the ball in one direction, but lift your foot just over the ball.
You can practice the basics of dribbling anywhere. In your yard, the field, wherever there is open space where you can play ball. To work on your control, you can set up an obstacle course to dribble around. You can use cones or whatever is available to dribble around while maintaining control. Another skill you will want to practice is speed. Work on dribbling as fast as you can down the field. Time yourself over a course or stretch of field to make sure you are improving.