Dribbling is something that we want every player to love doing because it helps you love the ball, which means you will play more at home. With so many coaching courses trying to simulate the great pro coach Pep Guardiola, kids are getting confused about if dribbling is good or bad. It’s almost like dribbling is a lost art. Passing is what you need to do most, but there are times when nobody is open or you need to dribble to keep defenders guessing. Soccer dribbling requires you to be able to get away from defenders while taking small or large touches with your feet. Learning to do it slow and correct is important or else the player doesn’t get their form down and creates bad muscle memory and habits. Note: This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
Soccer dribbling to improve touch in tight space
Practicing simple moves like pull backs, L moves are good for tight space improvement. The reason is because in a tight space you have to evade 2 or more defenders. Other situations would be when you are stuck in the corner or on the sideline with a defender trying to steal the ball.
Drills like ‘in and outs’ are good for beginners and advanced players. If you are an advanced player check out this video below. In the video I am working with two college players, who I had never met until that day. You can see how at first one of them struggles to get it, but shows quick improvement.
You can get my beginners online program for a super low cost, so check it out and please share them with your friends. These are skills that are great for new players, but also good for advanced players. To be honest I see good high school players that don’t even do these smooth. Example: When using the outside of the foot, bring your knee and foot up high. This will allow you to control the ball when going fast and it will also allow you to change back to the inside of the foot if needed.
For players who are looking to really be challenged, I recommend my more advanced online programs. These are literally what will change your soccer life! When I recorded the videos for the advanced drills (‘The Advanced‘ and ‘The Magic‘), I had to fly out of state. This called for needing to use players I had never trained before. Six players were used. Two U10 players, two high school players and 2 college players. The college kids in these courses and the college kids I train are always amazed with this program and within a few sessions already feel the difference.
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Open space dribbling in soccer
There is a big difference in dribbling in open space ‘running with the ball’ and dribbling in a tight space. The best thing you want to learn first is dribbling in tight space. The reason is because you get more touches and reps which makes you improve faster. There are some players who only practice cone drills or tight space drills, which means they could show weakness in the open space.
Open space dribbling is when you can either knock the ball out in front of you about 1-5 yards. This allows you to get more steps between touches (similar to the video below). This is great when you need to outrun a defender. You can also run with the ball keeping it closer while still dribbling with speed. Just kicking it far out every time shows lack of skill and it also tells the defender what you want to do. If you can run with the ball taking more touches it keeps the defenders on edge, because you could pass or stop at any time. So practice both tight space and running with the ball.
How to improve with open space soccer dribbling
Simply dribble as fast as you can in a 10-40 yard space. Try to get lots of touches, but don’t feel like you have to take one step down after every step. Matter a fact, I tell players to get a few steps between touches and try not to take 1 step down every touch. At the same time I also tell them that it’s okay to take 1 step down every touch too.
There will be times where you want and need to kick the ball out in front of you. Both able to take more steps between touches and taking touches every step are both needed at times. So mix it up and don’t plan on any certain way, just go fast and let your reactions take over. Don’t forget to let your weaker foot get a few of those touches.
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Shielding to open up the dribble or pass
This really is one of the things that will separate players when they get older. The hard thing is some of the best soccer players in the world are quick and skillful. This means you don’t see a lot of them shielding the ball. I just watched a Manchester United U19 Academy game vs MLS Academy Real Salt Lake. There were 2 players on Manchester who stood out and that was because they could adapt and use their body to hold players off when they needed to. Playing quick 1, 2 touch is great, but sometimes it helps to be able to slow the game up by using your body to shield the ball away from the defender.
Increase your vision dribbling in soccer
You’re not going to improve much at team practice. This is why you need to practice on your own! Doing the right things will guaranteed make you a better player. To increase your vision when you have the ball, keep your chin up so that you have better vision. If you dribble with your chin down, it prevents you from being able to see different colored jerseys (Opponents & Teammates).
A fun soccer dribbling drill to try with family or friends or even a trainer or coach: The player with the ball dribbles towards the coach or friend. The coach or friend can hold up fingers for the player dribbling to look up and shout out how many fingers are up. This is really a fun and challenging drill for all ages and levels. Not only is it fun but it helps create good habits to keep your chin up while dribbling. This alone allows you to see further down the field, without having to look up. You can also add cones and have the players shout out the different colors, instead of using your fingers/numbers.
There are times where you need to look up and there are times when you need to look down at the ball and really focus on it. But if you can do a mix of looking down at the ball with your chin up, this allows you to see everything at once instead of just one or the other.
Change your speed with the soccer ball
Most players you will see play with the same tempo and are predictable. You want to change it up depending on the situation. Be a player who can go at the defender with a slow speed, and then change your speed last second to beat them. So many players will get the ball and always go the same speed. Either too fast or too slow, which is predictable and easier to defend. These players are easy to mark because you know what they are about to do.
Try to switch up from playing really fast to then being slow and smooth. Keep your opponent guessing and never knowing what you are going to do. Even if it’s just a few times where you are moving really fast. We only get the ball 20-30 times a game, so if you are changing a few of these up it will help.
You want to love dribbling the soccer ball
As a soccer player you want to love dribbling the ball everywhere you go. learning at an early age is a game changer!! Ages 6-8 need to get at least 20 hours of good camps that teach skills not scrimmage. From age 8-9 book some private lessons. Ages 10-13 heavy technical training! By age 14-17 shine on the field for college scouting.
Apart from learning the many different parts of the foot to dribble with, the key is don’t lose the ball. There are times you have to dribble because teammates are not open for sure. Then there are the times you want to keep the ball to let something open up and develop. Remember, when there is nobody to pass to you dribble to then pass or shoot. Don’t lose the ball.