Dribbling around static cones is pretty easy but to improve your soccer sense for outdoor and indoor soccer, lots of fun soccer games and practice is the key. Most players love to play in small competitive games with their friends where they can show off their new moves and basically try to one-up their buddies. A simple trick like meggin’ a player (slipping a ball between an opponent’s legs) will always get cheers on any pitch in any country in the world.
In this second articles of our Soccer Skills Series, we’re going to use your newly improved dribbling techniques from article one (5 Ways to improve your Soccer Skills) and give you ways to make use of them in game situations. Remember, technique is how to do something, and skill is when to use that technique in a game. Coaches (and Youtube) can give you ideas, and you can improve your dribbling technique with hard work and commitment, but in a game, nobody can tell you when you should dribble. The ultimate decision is up to you. No pressure!
If you have not seen it yet, check out our first article on dribbling: 5 Basic Ways to improve your Dribbling Skills.
The Mamba Mentality
Players improve their soccer sense from experimenting on the field and also from other players. Kobe Bryant became one of the best basketball players in the world, not by getting to practice early and talking about school, or the price of tea. Not a chance. Before he got to the court, he already decide what he was going to work on to improve himself. Before practice, he spend all his time working individually 0n that technique. He repeated it, not until he did it right a few times, but until he would do the technique consistently over and over again.
When team practice began, whatever the session was, he made sure to incorporate the technique he was trying to perfect into the practice session. His practices became his test for perfection. He figured out when, where, and why to use his techniques against his competitive teammates. His hard work perfecting his technique made it easier to use his skill during practice and in the games. When practice was over, and Kobe was sweaty and exhausted, did he stop? No, he analyzed what he did right and wrong, stayed late and perfected his technique even more.
The Magic Before Warm Ups
There are only a few Kobe Bryants in the world, but who knows, maybe you are the next superstar. What is great about Kobe is that as hard as he worked, as competitive and intense as he was, he always seemed to enjoy what he was doing. He loved to play basketball! And soccer players should love playing soccer!
Before warmups, players should:
- Start to think of a technique they want to improve.
- Be on time, meaning 10-15 minute early.
- Be prepared. Proper training attire. Shoes cleaned and tied correctly. Ball pumped up.
- Get a ball and start dribbling around and working on that technique you want to work on. It is good to get your blood moving and begin to pick up a bit of a sweat before practice.
- For older players, do a bit of dynamic stretching in between dribbles to loosen up the muscles that may a bit of loosening.
- Find a teammate and a few cones for goals and make a game of it for a few minutes, and again, work on that technique you want to improve.
These few minutes before practice are magic! This is when you can be free, be happy and try anything you want. But be focused You can be like millions and not be happy with mediocrity, or try to aspire to be like Kobe, Messi or Carly Lloyd and always strive to be the best!
Dribbling Warmup Games
After working on your technique on your own, or with a teammate, coaches usually develop a session plan that begins with a technical exercise that eventually evolves into a more game-like situations that try to use give player the opportunity to use their skills, ie deciding when to use technique in a game.
The following are a few basic warmups that can be adjusted in many different ways, whether size of the field, number of players, a specific foot or move to use, or anything to make the skill more challenging to prepare for the real games.
GAME 1: BOX DRIBBLING
Lay out an area whether in the shape of a box or a circle. All the player have a ball and must dribble within the area. The coach can give a number for any number of moves to make. Although no real opposition yet, the players must look for spaces to turn into and way from.
- Pull back
- The V
- A Cruyff
- Roll back with the sole of your foot
- Stop and then go and speed
- And on and on
For younger kids, make it fun by choosing an animal and a have them make animal noises.
- A Donkey rolls the ball back with the sole of his foot
- A Chicken cuts the ball back with the inside or outside of his foot
- A Goat does a step over or a scissors
- A Dog does a 360 degree turn
- A Cow gets down on his knees and heads the ball a few feet
- And on and on. It could be anything.
GAME 2: KNOCK OUT or “SHARKS & MINNOWS”
In the next session, create a 20X20 area:
- Have all the players dribble in the area.
- Give players an opportunity to knock the ball away from another player.
- When a ball is knocked out of bounds, the player who lost the ball becomes the chaser to knock other ball away.
- If the chaser knocks the ball out of bounds, he must remain a chaser.
- However, if he wins the ball from another player and keep possession before it goes out of bounds, he gets to dribble again.
- The last remaining dribbler wins the game.
- You can call this any game you want.
Many call this a version of Sharks and Minnows where the chaser is the Shark. It could be Aliens & Space Rangers, Cat & Mice, or anyth9ng you like. Most kids have played this game at one point on their lives. It is a favorite for new and experienced players, young and old. This teaches players when to use a dribbling move, where to dribble to , as well as other soccer skills, such as shielding and closing down players. Coaches can use a variety of options to mix up the game: right foot only, outside foot only, if you beat a chaser with a specific move, you get a point. Or give each player 30 seconds to see how many balls he or she can knock out of the area. The player who got knocked out can juggle or do some moves while they are out.
For player, this is a great opportunity to work on that one technique you are trying to improve. But even better, your soccer sense will improve tremendously when you start to look for the moments in the game when to use that technique in the game, AND when not to.
GAME 3: STEAL THE BACON (AN OLD FAVORITE)
I am not sure why they call this “Steal the Bacon”. American football is sometimes called a pigskin, or maybe when soccer was first developed, there was a lot of “stealing” bacon from the marketplaces for people to feed their families and they had to elude the authorities to get away.
Whatever the origins, Steal the Bacon is one of the most simple, yet beneficial, games for soccer players at an age to develop their dribbling skills.
- Create a marked area with cones, which could be adjusted for number of players, skill levels, or even a larger area to add in some conditioning.
- Split the teams into 2 balanced teams.
- Place all the “bacon” (soccer balls) with the coach.
- Assign each team one goal line at either end to score on.
- On one sideline, the coach stands sat the center line between the two teams. On the sideline, each team stands, kneels, sits (or any variation of a starting point) next to each other.
- Usually, coaches give a players on each team a specific number 1-10, but then players always play against they same players from the other team. Here is a variation: The coach passes a ball out to the middle of the field, and calls out only the number 1 and ONLY the next player from each team closest to the coach runs out to try to win the ball and score on their goal. This creates a 1v1 for those two players to work on dribbling and defending. Then, on the coaches command, the next player go, and the next. Players go back to the end of the line as it moves toward the coach.
- The coach repeat through the line a few times. At any time, the coach would have one player on one team skip a turn. This will mix the opponents up.
- If a players wins the ball, the roles immediately switch. The game only stops if the ball goes out of bounds, or a goal is scored.
- The person who scores first runs back ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE FIELD, and goes to the end of the line. The person who got scored on retrieves the ball, runs back ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE FIELD, and returns to the end of his or her team’s line and does 3 pushups, sit-ups, or another variation of a consequence.
- The coach can call out a number of players one after another so there are a whole bunch of 1v1’s going on at the same time. But each player must stay with their opponent during that round.
- The winning team is team who scores 5 goals first. The team did not win does some consequence like applauding the winning team or a quick sprint to the other sideline and back.
- The coach mixes it up but calling out the number 1 for the next player from each team, or 2 for the next two player from each team to go against each other in a 2v2 , or 3 and so on. So during one round, you may have a 1v1 ,a 2v2 and a 3v3 going. The players must stay with their group.
- Have 2 goals to score on for each team.
- Adjust where the goals are located.
- Have each player run around their goal before they come back to get the ball in the middle of the field.
- Have players HAVE to make a dribbling move to beat an opponent
- If 2v2 or more, have players make 3 passes before they score.
- The possibilities are endless. Just be creative and keep fun. Have the kids make up a rule.
Other Dribbling Games
Basically, players and coaches should try to replicate the street soccer scene that players take part in all around the world. In these games, players need to be aware of their surroundings, how to dribble with their head up, constantly improve their technique, take risks, be creative, try new ideas, and just have fun. Messi’s greatest strength is his brain. When a game begins, he scans the field, checks out the opponents, looks for weak spots, and if you watch him closely, you will see him checking his shoulder ALL…THE…TIME. He is not just looking to see where his defenders are, but looking to see where to go next with the ball, and also where to go to draw opponents out of their shape. And when they do, he strikes like a rattlesnake and stings like a bee!
Indoor soccer and futsal centers like Evolve give players a great opportunity to play in intense small-sided games where creative dribbling and protecting the ball in tight areas help improve a player’s technical skills and game soccer sense. Just play the pick-up games at Evolve is amazing for a player’s development.
At training, any variation of basic 1v1 or 2v1 games are always good to improve dribbling. Have 2 goals on each side to shoot at.
In a 30×20 grid, place 4 goals, one on each sideline (or corner). Split the players up with a partner. One is offense. One is defense. For one minute, the offensive players dribbles inside the area and keeps possession of the ball, use dribbling tricks, etc. They cannot score. The defensive player tries to take the ball away. If she steals the ball, she gets to dribble directly to goal to score, with the offensive player trying stop her. After a goal is scores, the defender gets a point, and the offensive player starts again to maintains possession. After a minute, they switch offense and defensive players. An offensive player also loses a point if the ball goes out of bounds. The player with the most points wins. Although this may sound like a defense game, it forces the dribbler to protect the ball and knows when to dribble to space. And also gives the defense player awareness of the field, improves his or hee soccer IQ, and the opportunity to counter-attack dribble to the most open goal!
- add an additional point each time the offensive player can make a move and beat a defender, and keep control of the ball.
- allow offensive player to score on a goal if she faces the defender, makes a move, and beats a defender.
- Create an advantage in numbers such as a 8v2,where one team has to hold possession and try to get 7 passes in a row, and the 2 defensive players can score by winning the ball and can then go directly at goal.
- Once again, the games are all up to your imagination and creativity. It does not have to be complicated, just game-related, competitive and fun.
There are hundred on the internet, but here a few sites with some good dribbling games you can play:
Progressing to Small-sided games
The next building block is small-sided games, which are played all the time at Evolve Soccer LA. These are games where you can improve your soccer sense even more! Check out our next article to see what small-sided games are valued around the world, not just for dribbling, but for improving every aspect of your game.
Feel free to share any ideas you may have in the comments below!