Below I have listed 7 ways to improve your soccer skills at home. Really there are more if you count all the ways to work on first touch and passing. I remember being younger and working 2 main things. Ball striking and short passing. I would go to the back yard and kick the ball against the fence. Then I would work on short passing inside the house using the couch or fireplace. You have to find what’s best for you because all houses and properties are different.
There’s an old saying I believe from Johan Cruyff. He said “I practiced 2-3 days per week with my team, but I practiced 2-3 hours per day in the streets. So where do you think I learned football/soccer?” What a great quote and way to develop!
1) Keeping the ball close when dribbling
When it comes to dribbling there are literally thousands of skill drills. Too many to be fair. The key is you want to get used to using all the different surfaces. The inside of the foot is easiest and most natural for most players. I like to tell players to mix up your small touch/tight spaced dribbling with running with the ball.
This 1st video below shows me touching the ball with different parts of the foot. It’s important for kids to learn to just mess with the ball at home. Work on taking a touch almost every step. But don’t only do this. You need to also practice running with the ball, which I have in the 2nd video below with the u10 player. Improve your soccer skills at home by working on both of these dribbling methods.
2) Running with the ball
Running with the ball means you keep the ball close, but you don’t touch it that much. When running with the ball you should look to take about 2-3 touches in a 20 yard area. Or 1 touch in a 10 yard area. At first players will think that it feels weird, which is normal. It will feel weird because you’re not used to it. Once you do this for a few weeks it will start to feel normal. While you’re running with the ball you could also be looking up or doing body feints.
If you’re looking to dribble at top speed or look up while dribbling, running with the ball is your option. It doesn’t mean you can’t touch the ball after one step down, just don’t do it every time. Video below shows a U10 player running with the ball. I had to remind her to not touch the ball every touch. It’s not that it’s bad to touch the ball every step, but you don’t only want to know how to do that. You need to be good with both tight space dribbling and running with the ball.
I’ve worked only a few months with this player and she’s just now getting used to running with the ball. Her muscle memory is used to touching the ball every touch, so I’m working with her on running with the ball in video below.
3) Keep a few soccer balls in the house
You don’t have to always put in long hard working training sessions to improve your soccer skills at home. One of the best things to do is keep a few soccer balls laying around the house. Dribble from the living room to your bedroom or kitchen. Take the ball everywhere you go. The amount of time you add up doing this change the way you play overtime.
There’s an American guy Tom Byer who’s been living in Japan for about 20 years. He does a good job building a culture for young kids ages 3, 4, 5+ years old to practice at home before ever playing organized soccer. It’s hashtag is soccer starts at home. I read that he used to hold 3 min soccer lessons on TV in Japan. It was like a Saturday or Sunday morning right before all the cartoons came on TV. What a brilliant idea!
When soccer parents of kids this age contact me about training I tell them about this idea and his book. I don’t do private lesson for kids this age. It doesn’t make sense to pay money for this age.
4) Improve your passing skills
To improve your soccer skills at home, one thing we need to work on is passing. If you use a wall, you can also improve your first touch. If you can’t use a wall you can use rebounders or a person. I recommend you save money and try to find something at the house, but sometimes that’s hard surface.
I do highly recommend you get a set up where you can do these drills with 2 walls/rebounders. Do it now and forever. It’s by far one of the best things a soccer player can do to improve at home or anywhere.
5) Juggling tips for all levels
Juggling is one of the hardest skills to become good at. This means you better do this outside, not in the house:) I find that ages 10-11 is when you can really see big improvements. Yes, there are kids who are age 7-9 who can juggle hundreds of times in a row. These are usually the kids who are natural at this type of skill, but also have to be kids who put in the work. A free blog post on juggling I wrote has an age breakdown explaining what expectations should be.
6) Invite the neighborhood kids to play pick-up
Obviously with Covid the kids can’t do this now, but things will be normal again soon. Whether you play in the yard or the street, this is one of the best things you can do. It could be 2v2, 3v3 or 3v2. If you can get more friends to play great! But I think it’s hard for most people to gather more than 6 kids in most American neighborhoods now.
Back in the day New Jersey set the tone for playing street soccer. At one point there were like 5 starters on the US men’s national team, all from little New Jersey. The thing was they would play all out. If you couldn’t hang they would call you out. This brought mental toughness because in soccer you have to have thick skin.
It’s the same with stories from England where Paul Scholes (Former Manchester United player) grew up playing soccer in the streets. These kids from age 8-12 didn’t even play that much soccer with their teams. Maybe two practices per week and not even year round. Nowadays these clubs try to lock players down for 4-5 days per week. Kids need time to play on their own! This is how kids really develop from learning from each other. Trying things you wouldn’t try at team practice.
7) How parents can help train their soccer kids
Some skills are not easy to work on solo. Using people or rebounders helps with certain elements. Turning while receiving, volleys, 1st touch out of the air, receiving throw-ins and 1v1s are all things parents can do to help their kids. If your child is younger, say 5-9 years old it can be a great way for them to get used to dealing with pressure. Example: My wife is not good at soccer, but she’ll get out in the driveway with our 7 year old. My little one loves it and learns to deal with pressure/defenders in the way. Using the driveway makes it where there’s not much space, making it harder to get around the “defender”.
Training at home can give you value, but also the family time is priceless. I highly recommend this! Then this transfers to the team or skills practice. I’ll often times see many of my clients (soccer dads or moms) practicing passing, volleys or receiving aerial balls. Even if it’s just 5 minutes, that time adds up in a great way!
Bonus #1: Mindset for soccer players
One of the most important things you need in soccer is mindset. This means you have to learn how to think. Doubt and arrogance are the top 2 things that keep players from reaching full potential. Most player, even the pros struggle at times with doubt. Everyone mature person can admit this. Usually the older the person the more mature they are. With teaching and the will to learn, younger people can gain maturity. This includes sports maturity, which is both natural and learned.
Bonus #2: Use your dog to improve your soccer skills at home
You might think I’m joking unless you have a hyper dog who loves to chase the ball. Some dogs are perfect for playing keep away with. Simply try to keep your ball away from your dog by either dribbling or juggling. This in some ways is better than dribbling around cones because you have to use instincts can quick reaction.
Now if you have a dog like mine, this won’t work. My dog is a country boy German Shepherd who does not chase balls or sticks. He’ll chase squirrels and other small or large animals. Sometimes I take him to my wife’s parents house out in the country. He goes crazy, chasing rabbits, cattle, rams, and other animals. Hey we can’t all have soccer dogs:)