Soccer Development

How to Coach Youth Soccer

Coaching Kids in Soccer

Have you ever thought about becoming a youth soccer coach? Soccer is the sport played the most by kids under 8 in the United States. At some point the majority of parents in the US will have a son or daughter playing youth soccer. Many parents hesitate to coach due to a lack of knowledge about coaching or experience with the game of soccer. They think that coaching a young group of kids will be too much for them to handle. It is not as complicated as you may think or as others like to make it appear. However, you should also understand that coaching a youth soccer team is not an easy task. You do have to learn how to handle young kids’ behavior. 

Soccer is a simple sport that is made difficult by the defense. That’s it! Just think about how easy it would be if it was like Golf and your opponent stands next to you while you try to score….. That would be easy right? But the soccer Gods added a defense to make it a real sport and that’s what makes the game so difficult. 

You should also know that “the game is the best teacher”. So don’t try to over think the training, developing, and coaching of soccer. If you run out of things to do, just go back to the game itself and play a small sided game of 3 v 3 or 5 v 5, etc. It all depends on your numbers. 

Here are the top 8 tips on how to coach youth soccer teams. These are geared more towards the beginner coach in the youth ages of U6 soccer teams, and other younger teams like U8 and U10. Hopefully they help you get started in becoming a great youth soccer coach and you can influence the lives of many young players. After all, that’s what coaching is all about. 

Top 8 Tips on How to Coach Youth Soccer

1. Let them play! 

At this age the kids are looking to just have fun. They are not interested in your organized Barcelona Tiki Taka tactics. They are there because kicking a soccer ball is fun. So you may want to keep your Barcelona Soccer Drills DVD and booklet at home. I am a huge proponent of “Free Play”, which is a form of pick up soccer. You don’t coach while they play, you let them figure out the problems on their own. You can easily find a ton of soccer drills, try them all, your kids may like one or two, but don’t focus solely on drills. Let them have some fun and keep coming back. 

Learn more about the Free Play Model here, which was introduced by Ted Kroeten.

2. Chaos is part of the youth soccer game. 

Don’t expect every coaching activity you try with the kids to be perfect. They are going to run around because they don’t understand the training activity half of the time. Do not take this as a sign of incompetence on your part. You must understand that they have a difficult time understanding soccer tactics, no matter how well you explain it. At this time they are still trying to figure out how to control the ball, run, and kick at the same time. 

Also remember that chaos is part of soccer, don’t expect everything to be perfect. It’s not Football where everyone lines up and gets set before each play. Soccer is a game of transition, back and forth, with teams getting organized, unorganized, and attacking or defending. It is rare that you get set pieces where you can restart play in soccer. So embrace the chaos in youth soccer and don’t stress over it. 

3. Forget Soccer Tactics. 

As mentioned earlier, the kids are not interested in winning as much as you and the parents are. To them it’s just a soccer game. They may ask if they won or lost, but they are not training to beat the next opponent. They are there to kick the ball around with their friends and have a good time, it’s in their nature as young kids. 

Don’t waste your time trying to teach kids too many tactics at this age. You have to understand that tactics can only be learned after they have mastered control of the ball, dribbling, passing, receiving, and shooting. You can spend a year explaining tactics to a 5 year old soccer player, but when the ball is passed to his feet, if he can’t control, there is nothing he can do and you just wasted a year of development. 

4. Focus on Soccer Player development. 

If you truly care about any youth soccer players you coach, and you want them to be successful when they get older, then you must assist in developing them. If you take this approach, you are not necessarily “coaching the team” but rather “developing players”. Your wins will be every time a player can dribble with the ball properly (close to their feet and in full control), or pass and receive with the inside part of his/her foot. That’s how good coaches of young players measure success, by the development of their players. 

Winning is not everything at this young age when coaching youth soccer. It does not help if your team is winning every game because there is one player that runs past everyone and scores all the goals. The rest of the kids have to develop as well, but they can’t do it by just watching, they have to get involved. So don’t measure success by wins, instead celebrate every time your young players learn something new. 

5. Practice is more important than games. 

Many parents think that the actual game is what helps develop kids and what will make them good players. You must understand that their development happens during practice and free play. It is during practice that each child can have a ball and play with it, compared to a game with 14 kids and only one ball. Remind parents about the importance of practice if they care about development. It would be better to miss a game instead of practice. Unfortunately, parents will miss practice first before they miss a game.

That’s just the culture of youth soccer in America. Games are the only time parents are screaming and hollering at the kids. Why don’t they do that at practice so their child improves even more. It’s during practice that a soccer player will have a ball at their feet the majority of the time, it’s during practice that they can make as many mistakes as they need to perfect their skill set. 

6. Drills are overrated. 

Don’t look at soccer drills as the only way to optimize player development. Remember that too much structure is bad for development of creative players. One of the funnest games or activities that I have found that kids enjoy are some of the most simple training drills. 

Remember that before we decided that we could manufacture players, there were already great players. Where did they learn to play? They learned to play at home and on the streets. Remember that most of the big names you know of today, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Messi, Ronaldo, were all very poor kids growing up. They did not have great coaches, equipment, clubs, teams, or drills. They all had a passion for soccer that was developed through their environment. Through their passion to play, they developed into great players. They all started playing at small clubs, and eventually sold to larger clubs that we know today. 

7. Create a nurturing environment. 

As stated earlier, all the great players were part of a great soccer environment. They were not trained by Mourhino or Guardiola as youth players (most were trained by parents or local coaches) they were trained and developed by their soccer environment and their passion. This combination is what creates great players. 

As a coach, you want to create the best soccer coaching environment for youth soccer players to develop. You want the young soccer players to keep playing after they leave your team because that’s the only way they will continue to learn and develop into good soccer players. Development is a process and will end when the player is done playing. But you need to either plant that seed or keep nurturing it so that it can blossom. The environment for young soccer players should be positive, all inclusive, and fun. They should have nothing to worry about but having fun. 

8. They look up to you. 

Remember that kids this age look up to all most adults, including their soccer coach. They don’t know weather you’ve played professional soccer or half can’t even spell soccer. They won’t discriminate, they just want to have fun. Be confident and show them a good time. Whenever they do something special, they are looking for positive reinforcement from you, make sure you praise them. 

Behave in a positive manner around them and give them a great example to follow. Be aware that they watch your every move and are ready to emulate you. So teach them to be good respectful players. 

Coaching U6 soccer team or a U8 soccer team can be so much fun and a great learning experience. But don’t set high expectations, they are just kids. 

Conclusion:

In closing, let us again recommend to try and make this a fun experience for both you and the kids. There is absolutely no reason to stress out about wins and losses at this age. You will get burnt out as a soccer coach and never come back. The whole point of playing sports is to have a good time competing and make great friends while getting in great shape. 99.99% of kids will never play professional sports, there is no point in getting upset over a u5 soccer game. Have fun and enjoy. 

For the more serious parents who have kids with some promise, you can read our article on Training Like Ronaldo.

Ready to get started coaching? Then it's time to find the best soccer balls for your team. 

Ball on a String

Why a Ball on a String?

The ball on a string has a history that goes back to the early 1900's, but no one knows really when they were mass produced. However, the ball on a string is probably the most convenient way to play and train on your own. The football on a string allows the child to train soccer or football without having to chase after the ball, making this toy one of the most efficient ways to train. 

How to Train with Football on String

As mentioned above, this tool allows the player to train for hours at a time and extremely efficient since there is ZERO time wasted on chasing balls. So what kind of training can you do with a ball on a string? Here is a list of the Top 10 ways to train with a soccer ball on a string. 

1. Soccer ball Juggling

Since the ball is on a string, you no longer have to worry about chasing it after you lose your juggle. Now you can practice all your juggline calm and collected since you don't have to do the worst part of juggling..... chasing the ball down after a bad touch. 

Refer to the article on juggling to use all the techniques taught there. 

2. Football Volleys

Football Volley is one of the most amazing ways you can score a goal. The problem is that it's so difficult to improve your volley because the kicks are very unpredictable until you get really good at them, so the ball will be kicked for about 30-50 yards away from the playing area. No one wants to chase that ball down. The football on a string though, allows you to practice as many volleys as you'd like and never ever have to go find the ball. 

You can do bicycles, shoot half volleys, in the air or on the ground, the shots are limited only to your imagination. The most important part is that the ball will be right next to you because of the string. Work on your volley technique though, don't just kick for no good reason. A good rule is to learn to make contact with the ball and your laces, it's not always how hard you kick the ball, but it's about technique, because remember that the ball will already have some speed in the air. Also... be very careful and learn how to fall while attempting these volleys. 

3. Proper Soccer Ball Shooting Technique

With your football on a string, you can also train and perfect your proper shooting technique. You will have unlimited opportunities to shoot as many times as you want. Do practice all of them. Shoot with the laces, inside the foot, outside the foot, and even heel pass/shot. 

4. Proper Soccer Ball Passing

Same as with your shooting drills. Learn and use the proper techniques so that you are not wasting your time. Use the correct form and get unlimited amount of time on the ball. The ball on the string allows you to be extremely efficient and do nothing else but work on your ball passing. 

5. Receiving the soccer ball

So how does the ball on the string help you learn to receive the soccer ball? Well whenever you shoot or kick the ball (while training of course) the ball is normally pulled back into your body from the elastic string. Take advantage of this opportunity to receive the ball with the proper technique. Don't just grab it with your hands, be even more efficient by properly receiving the ball with your feet, chest or other part of the body. 

6. Heading the Football

Just like the passing and shooting, the ball on the string will also help you improve your heading of the ball if you choose to. Practice proper heading technique and make sure your child is old enough to start heading the ball. Make sure the ball is the correct size. 

7. Quickness on your feet

To practice this, you must also receive the ball with your proper technique. So when the ball is kicked away, prepare yourself to receive the ball. Get on your toes immediately and be ready to adjust your body depending on where the ball will land. This will help you get quicker. Don't waste any of these opportunities to improve your soccer game development. 

8. Gauging the ball

Also tied to quickness on your feet. Your player will learn to gauge where the ball will land. This one might be a stretch, but we had to make a top 10 list!!! Still try to gauge the speed and spin on the soccer ball as it approaches your body on the string. Processing this information will help you adjust and receive the ball with the appropriate part of the body. 

9. Punting for Keepers

Punting is another one of those things that you need a partner for that can retrieve the ball for you. But what if you don't have someone? Or if you don't have alot of space? Well now you can put the ball as much or as hard as you want because it's not going anywhere with the string attached to it. This lets you practice your technique and form until there is no tomorrow. 

10. Free Kick Specialists

As with the shooting and passing, the ball on a string allows the soccer player to train all day long and focus on their form. This can be done without a goalie or teammate because the string will retrieve the ball for you. You can practice all of your favorite free kicks and perfect them through proper form. Spend the time training and not chasing balls. 

Conclusion:

I owned about 3-4 soccer balls on a string during my lifetime. The ball on a string is a neat little toy, but it's also dynamic football training tool. If you are serious about training and development, you need to have a football on a string. If you just want to have fun with your ball but don't have a group of friends to train with, then this ball will never leave your side and you can spend your time playing instead of chasing. 

We Recommend the Star-Kick from SKLZ. This has everything you will need and it's the best ball attached to a string or bungee. 

Soccer Free Play Model

TedKroeten

When we talk about soccer player development there are numerous methods and models that are discussed and debated. Some bring up the Total Football by Johan Cruyf and the Netherlands, which is today a huge factor in developing players at La Masia in Barcelona and Ajax in Holland. Others mention the Belgium model and the changes they’ve made since 2002 after missing the World Cup. Many will point to Spain and their use of Futsal to improve player development and win the 2010 World Cup. Speaking of Futsal, there are also the South American countries like Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina who use Futsal and street soccer to develop young soccer players. Then you have the youth development models of France, England, and Germany that produce magnificent players year after year. 

However, one thing is for certain, the majority of players that come through these great academies and training methods share something in common. They put in countless hours of “Free Play” when at home and near their neighborhood. Ted Croeten was interviewed in the first episode of the Youth Soccer Evolution (YSE) Podcast, which you can listen to below. The video is only audio.

Ted Kroeten takes us through his journey from playing pond hockey to revolutionizing the way we look at soccer player development. His struggle to understand the Free Play model and the obstacles he encountered when he started implementing it in his soccer club. Ted also discuss how Free play developed players such as Roberto Ayala. A conversation with Roberto Ayala led to understanding the amount of time Ayala put into his development outside of the formal training hours.

Ted also discuss his encounter with Zlatan Ibrahimović in Sweden and how the 10,000 hour rule had a huge impact on the development of Zlatan. When Ted first met Zlatan, hew as a skinny teenager developing at the Malmo Soccer Academy.. We all know what he grew up to be.

Ted continues his discussion about the deliberate practice vs Free Play model he uses today to improve youth soccer player development. He must allow the kids to play without coaching them too much. The kids should be allowed to make mistakes and learn from them.

He goes on to explain how the use of Futsal can be incorporated into training and development of youth players. Futsal is a very formidable game that allows players to defend and attack with constant repetition and transition. The big moment that changed his mind about free play and a  big reason why we don’t have finishers in the USA.

In the Second part of the interview, which you can listen to below on the YouTube video with audio only, Ted explains the difference between the Acquisition and Deliberate Practice Phases in youth soccer development.

In episode 2, it is the 2nd part of the interview with Ted Kroeten from joyofthepeople.org

 Ted continues discussing the acquisition phase in youth soccer development. He jumps into comparing the difference between the acquisition phase and the deliberate practice phase.  You can get more information about the Deliberate vs Aquisition model at joyofthepeople.org

Check out the different types of Free Play Balls that are used for the development of young players.

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What are the Keys to Free Play Model

Acquisition period must be pure, be very careful when implementing.

Don’t move out of acquisition period too quick and don’t move into the deliberate practice phase too quick. Be patient.

Create High Motivation technical problems for kids during training sessions.

Ted discussed his ideal Youth Soccer Player Development Model. What are you waiting for? Why haven’t all the clubs implemented this already? Ted lays it  out right here and free of charge just for you.

5-6 year olds need to stay home and play with parents, to grow through organic development. As mentioned before throughout this blog and recommended, the development for young players should be at home. Cut down on traveling and play at home with parents and siblings and even neighbors.

7-9 years old, play with friends, 2 v 2 and 3 v 3, move away from concrete stage of development; play as much as possible, as close to home as possible, use barefoot with different balls, get introduced to Futsal balls. Continue staying close to home and avoid long travel, it’s just not that important at this age.

11-12 years old, start deliberate practice, but continue free play, watch others, 20 hours of free play a week. See the model used by JOTP at joyofthepeople.org. You might be thinking that 20 hours is alot, and it is, but that’s just what it takes to become elite. Many people think and try to skip the 20 hours by buying clinics, camps, and other personal trainings, but there is no way around it, you must play and play as much as possible.

Continue Free Play until 16 years old. Pele, Cruyf, Messi, and Maradona played close to home and they turned out ok.

Also check out the Rice and Beans program at JOTP

Train like Cristiano Ronaldo

Becoming Christiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo, one of the greatest of all time started out the same way the majority of us are fortunate enough to begin. But Ronaldo took a different path and became one of the best of all time. Why did Ronaldo become Ronaldo? What made him what he is today? Why can’t that be duplicated? Today we look at Ronaldo’s upbringing and analyze what he did to develop into one of the greatest players of all time.

Early Life

His family lived in one of the poorest areas in Madeira. This is common not only with soccer greats, but with the majority of professional athletes around the world.

His neighbors have stated that “he was always playing with the ball”, “you would always see him up and down, up and down the street with the ball”. If his neighbors saw him, this means he was always playing at home.

He Played street soccer with his friends and neighbors. He even talks about it in the documentary. Ronaldo said that they had to play street soccer on a sloped street, they would put rocks down as goal posts. When a car would be driving by, they had to remove the rocks. Ronaldo’s mother discusses how Ronaldo would come home from school and state that he didn’t have homework. Dinner would be on the table, but instead he would grab “a fruit and a yogurt and would not return until 9pm”.

If he was playing street soccer and at home on his own, this means that Free Play played a big role in his development. 

There were no coaches around on the street or at home following him around telling him what to do. It was all Free Play.

What about Ronaldo’s environment and culture? I believe that the environment and culture make a huge difference in the development of any player. For starters, Ronaldo’s dad was director of a small soccer club in the City of Medeira. Ronaldo saw that his father enjoyed being around soccer so it was inevitable that Ronaldo would play as well.

His mother also loved soccer. She claims in the documentary that she wanted her son to play like Luis Figo. What a great environment to live under, his mom and dad both loved the game and that was a significant contributor to his development. Ronaldo’s mother also goes on to state that she wanted Ronaldo to play for Sporting Lisbon and supported the transfer when he was 12 years old. Sporting Lisbon was her favorite club growing up.

Christiano Ronaldo started playing for his dad’s club at 6 years old. He remembers that he had a lot of fun and they practiced almost every day. Can you imagine if you asked a parent in the US to practice everyday? Ronaldo loved to practice. He had an insatiable thirst for soccer and the key to his development was that the environment fed that thirst. Everywhere he went, he could play, at home, on the street, at school, and at his club. What a great soccer environment!

At about 10 years old, Ronaldo had established himself as one of the best players around. Ronaldo’s father contacted Ronaldo’s godfather and they facilitated a transfer to Nacional de Madeira. According to Nacional de Madeira coach, Antonio Mandoca, Ronaldo always wanted the ball at his feet. “He wanted to do everything on his own”. Think about what we do with 10 year old kids who are selfish with the ball….. I’ve seen so many parents and coaches coach this out of the kids. They yell at them that they must pass the ball. They work on drills all day long to coach the kids to pass because “he’s not a team player”. They forget the fact that the reason that the player is trying to do everything on his own is because he wants his team to win, he/she is competitive, but we view that as a negative. What we can learn from this is that we need to let kids be kids and let nature take its course. Kids are selfish weather we like it or not, and eventually they grow out of it.

What about his size? Today Ronaldo is known for his power and speed. His runs and shots are powerful. You would never have known that he was considered to be “too thin” as a young boy. His mother talks about how she was afraid that Ronaldo would break his shin from a hard tackle. What this should tell you is that size doesn’t matter. We HAVE to let nature take its course and allow kids to grow. We must nurture their development.Ronaldo trophy

Ronaldo’s parents, sisters, and coaches report that he used to cry if he didn’t score or if his friends didn’t score goals. He did this so much that he earned the nickname “crybaby”. This is another example of how we need to let kids be kids. Ronaldo was only acting like a child, because that is what he was. Imagine how he would have been treated in the USA….. he would have been told that he doesn’t have the psychological make up to make a winner, etc. etc. He was a child and that’s how children act. My nephew who went on to play for the Regional ODP and college used to cry as well when he didn’t score, but that’s because he had a passion and that’s all.

Paolo Cardoso, from Sporting Lisbon, talks about the first time he met Ronaldo for the tryout. He said that he “put him (Ronaldo) to work with older players, got ball, went past two or three players, we looked at each other and knew he was special. Never seen such quality in a player.” He goes on to state that Ronaldo was “Player of unusual talent, excellent dribbler, we recommended that we sign him up!”.

At just 12 years old, Paolo knew that they had something special. Up to that time, Ronaldo had never attended any prestigious camps, clubs, or coaching clinics. He had never met any world famous coaches or anything of that sort. He just simply loved soccer, had a great soccer environment and culture around him, had a passion for learning and competing, had thousands of hours of free play, and was very athletic.

If you analyse these things, you notice that none of them cost anything. His love and passion for soccer and competition were part of his character, his soccer environment and culture were given to him, and his free play hours and athletic ability were part of his environment. He did receive good coaching, not great, but just good. He didn’t start getting “excellent coaching” until he reached Sporting Lisbon and Manchester United. By that time he was already considered a great soccer player, he was 12 years old. I believe that his parents and coaches made the right decision to send him away at 12-13 years old. I think this is the time when players are ready to be coached. By this time they should already be polished technically and ready for the tactical side of training and intentional practice.

Find out how to get Ronaldo's soccer ball and start training today with your idol Best Ronaldo Soccer Ball

Conclusion:

So, when your son/daughter is U6 or U8, there is no need to pay thousands of dollars for coaching or playing. They need a love for the game, desire to play, receive reinforcement from their environment, create a culture that nurtures their creativity, free play, and thousands of hours of practice. You cannot control athleticism, and you won’t know until they reach their late teens. So in the meantime, give them what you can get for free.

The Price of Soccer

THE PRICE OF SOCCER DEVELOPMENT AND HOW TO OVERCOME THAT BARRIER, WITH JON TOWNSEND

Jon Townsend stopped by to discuss a great article we read about the cost of player development, titled “The Game is Free” for www.thesefootballtimes.net. It’s a great article that makes you step back and really think about why we are paying so much money for the price of soccer development and for our kids to play soccer. Jon Townsend was interviewed regarding his article on a podcast called Youth Soccer Evolution which is no longer around, but we have the audio of the interview below. 

I thought about this article again after a friend posted on facebook that in Norway: Professional Sports Gambling pays for youth sports. Money is siphoned off of the gambling pot to keep youth sports funded and inexpensive. Interesting idea. By the way, this is a country of 5 million people that is producing world class talent in multiple sports. Thoughts?

other answers included:

  • Yeah... I agree... there are so many creative ways to do stuff like that ... I don't know if we lost our creativity in the US or if greed just always prevents that kind of stuff.
  • Love this idea but the American mentality has changed so much. Hence the reason we have pay to play in pretty much every sport. It's to separate the haves from the have nots.
  •  In England the sponsors actually paid for the full price of the kit. It was amazing. And then we only paid £2 a practice. So much cheaper then $2400 for a year of soccer 🤑🤑🤑🤑
  • It’s an interesting idea. Not much different than state lotteries that support schools. 
    One of the things that would be interesting to see is even if we had a funding mechanism to keep youth sports affordable would those who have the means simply “buy more” for their youth athlete?

You can find the article about Norway in the New York Times here. They discuss the way that Norway approaches youth development, however this article is specifically about soccer, so let's move on 🙂 

Jon has great stories about growing up in a Latino community in Chicago and San Jose, CA., and how that helped shape not only his soccer development, but his way of thinking about it. Jon feels he is a product of the street game and academy system, and players should not just depend on an academy for development.

One of the biggest problems facing player development today in the united states is the lack of what Jon refers to as "street play" which is basically playing in your back yard with friends and family or on the streets with friends and family. This part of the equation for player development is missing in the United States. The biggest issue is that street soccer is not part of the culture in America, therefore it's difficult to force kids to do something that is not part of the American DNA. In other countries this happens organically. The soccer federations never set out to administer street soccer, it just happened due to the pure natural love that those countries have for soccer, sport, family, and their neighborhoods. 


Jon discusses some of the reasons he wrote the article. One reason is that he spent some time in Europe, and in Europe kids are playing all over, the house, streets, parks, and fields. In the US we have an abundance of land, but don’t let kids play on that land unless they belong to a league or club team. This is hurting the youth soccer development. Instead of kids playing outside at the park, kids play video games. There is so much money that allows kids to have an abundance of opportunities for many many other extra curricular activities.  Listen to the interview with Jon Townsend and find the following:

  • Jon Townsend discusses the environment he grew up in and how it impacted his soccer development.
  • No player has ever reached a high level just by playing in an academy system, free play must be utilized to maximize soccer development
  • Parents view dollars as an opportunity and think they can buy their way to talent, so soccer development is viewed as the more money you spend the higher level kids should be able to play.
  • Way too many coaches making money off parent’s ignorance about soccer development. Parents are desperate and willing to pay whatever it takes.
  • Intensity, volume, and frequency is what will help you improve
  • Creativity is being coached out of the kids and they are not allowed to be artists with the ball during their soccer development. Cant expect kids to be creative if they are made to do anything.
  • Free Play is one of  the best tools for player development and it’s free, but parents want to pay for it because they feel that soccer development should cost a lot of money.
  • Is the obsession with control that so many coaches and adults have hurting our soccer development?

Finally Jon discussed his plans for his book on his player development journey as a player, which will be appropriately titled “Its just a ball”. Can’t wait to read it Jon.

You Can Follow Jon here: And let him know how much you enjoyed the podcast and article!

Twitter @jon_townsend3

Email: farpostfooty@gmail.com

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How to Improve Soccer Dribbling

Soccer Dribble

Learning how to dribble a soccer ball correctly is critical!!

Do you want to improve soccer dribbling today? I mean do you really want to be the best football dribbler in your town? 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. BUT what many don't know is that it's even more important to learn how to do this movement without looking at the ball. 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, we'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. The soccer of today has been modified and now every player must have the ability to attack and posses, yes even the goalkeeper. 

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. All professionals agree that it takes dedication to reach those levels. They also state that they played many hours outside of formal soccer training session

If you get bored or what to try some other dribbling skills, then just turn to youtube. Here are a few simple but awesome videos you can start with!