Today I am sharing advanced skills competitive soccer players practice to improve. Including learning how to bend a ball, dribbling skills, controlling the ball out of the air different ways. Skills that will take a player to the next level from where they were. Team coaches don’t have time to work with you on everything. Skills trainers don’t even have time to teach you everything. You have to learn to practice on your own, by doing the right things. If you’re a coach, parent or player I want you to know what skills are important.
3 things you want to know
(See below for details)
- What your child should be working on
- How long it takes to complete the current stage of skills and what to move to next
- What former & current players have done that has worked the best for their athletic career. Meaning do they do, my online ball control lessons, private 1on1, semi-private, small groups, what club route, when to do all of this.
How a dad helped his daughter in youth soccer
There is a 12-year-old girl I have done private and group lessons with over the last 2 years. This girl is amazing for her age in terms of proper skill, love for soccer & work ethic. The first time she came to our Small Group she was 10 years old. She was the youngest in our age 11-13 group, and she had all the older kids having to keep up with the work rate.
Before I ever trained her, I spoke to her dad. He had kept her away from the soccer club scene just to protect her from a possible jerk or bad coach. He used to play indoor/semi-pro, so he knew to focus on fundamentals. I can say he did a fantastic job with her.
Once she had a very firm foundation he knew it was time to get her in with me. Much of what I teach is different in terms of methods and advanced skills. I am honored they brought her to work with me [GFT] because she is so hungry to improve. She has mastered these basic and advanced skills & is now works on ‘The Magic‘ online lessons.
How long it takes to complete the current stage of skills
By working on skills in reps, you will build muscle memory faster. If working on good training methods, in 3 months of working on only 1 skill element (EX) dribbling / foot skills would have a player transformed in terms of composure and skill with the ball at their feet. That would be working 3 Months for 30+ Mins once a week or more.
You’re looking at 6 hours of the same training for 2-3 months, depending on your time of growth and athleticism. A player going through a growth spurt might find it harder than someone who had time to adapt to their most recent growth spurt. The problem is that most coaches don’t teach good skills, and they don’t correct form. You can get a thousand touches per day, but if it’s not good training it won’t help much.
College soccer players mindset
There’s a video in this article showing of my college trainees who plays for the recent NCAA National Champions, Penn State University working on a stationary drill receiving aerial balls. In the video it looks great, but before all the clean touches there were some that got away from her. When training, players need to get in the zone, forget about the bad touches and remember the good ones. No matter how good a player is, there will be mistakes. It’s important to know this, so that you can overcome the challenges.
There are so many things to practice, but this one resembles a driven ball coming between the shins and thigh. When you watch the pros, you see a lot of this skill. In youth soccer you see the difference from the trained and untrained. This is something you can work on at home with family or friends. Competitive soccer players practice, but disciplined players practice more.
Continued skills competitive soccer players practice
The main things you want to work on to improve across any age for competitive players:
- Agility / Coordination
- Dribbling, running with the ball in space
- Foot Skills [Tight space stationary ball control]
- Volley’s using a wall [kicking the ball while it’s in the air]
- Passing short and long
- Trapping / 1st Touch on the ground and out of the air [video above]
- Turning while dribbling and receiving
- Shooting with both feet
- Finishing balls that are crossed where most goals are scored
Once you can do all of these you have to want to perfect them and then work on them in different situations. Stationary is the easiest which you want to work on, but also challenge yourself and see if you can do all of these skills when you are tired. Think of ways to tire yourself like you would be in a game and see how you do.
Remember, if you are not technically great on the ball, spend most of your time doing stationary so you improve faster. If you are one to practice on your own, this blog post passing and first touch using a wall has good info and videos.
When to mix fitness with technical training
For ages 6-11 you want to mostly focus on technical over fitness or speed training. For older players ages 12+ who are advanced, set up a drill that requires you to do 10 seconds of some running/change of direction. Then get the ball where you are dribbling or passing and then end on a finish, pass or run. You will see the difference in how hard the same skills are from the stationary station.
Key to soccer development is consistency
Consistency over the years is the key, as long as the methods are good! The most important thing is that you spend extra time working over and over on the good stuff. It doesn’t have to be 1on1 individual lessons year round. Working with a partner or small group is also great. Working with a wall or even 2 walls, working on first touch, comfort on the ball and passing.
Some players do privates too, but that doesn’t have to be the answer if you’re training year round on the same things as a private would do. The players that I have seen really take their game to another level, were the ones who trained at home using my personal online ball control courses.
How some soccer clubs are slowing development
Competitive soccer players practice more, which besides being athletic the main reason they are good. Think about the players who practice 3-4 times per week at the right stuff compared to players who practice 1 or 2 times per week. I’m not a fan of club teams practicing 4 times per week.
I think it’s good for players to train 4 times per week, but families should have a choice [time] to go elsewhere for at least 1 day. Not every player wants to practice that much and the ones that do prefer a skills coach outside the club. If you know a good skills coach who’s looking to start/grow their business, send them to my other business Elite Sports Business Academy.
Private soccer lessons or small groups
A private lesson will speed the process up and boost confidence and have you working on things you wouldn’t have time for in a large group, but again it’s the longevity of the skills commitment. Don’t think this is something you do 12 private lessons or 1 year of a group and then say “Oh well I can do all of that, I don’t need to keep practicing on those skills.”
The more training you do, the better you get, but it has to be the right training and at the end of the day challenging and fun. What I do is have my trainees work on my ball control online lessons at home. Then in-person we work on things that are harder to do on their own. This way the players get good at many different things. It doesn’t make sense to work on things with a trainer, if you can do them solo.
Video below of 4 College Players from big soccer schools – University of Texas Longhorns, Penn State, St. Edwards and University of New Mexico. I’ve been lucky to have worked with these players since they were 8-11 years old. They all have worked very hard to get to this level and obviously have natural talent!
Competitive soccer players development by age
I feel like I say this a lot, but if I had to pick one age to get serious about skills training it would be age 10. I say this mostly because I have seen kids at this age who were playing rec level, end up starting as freshman at big name D1 college soccer programs. Though they put in a lot of work from 10-13+. Ages 6-7 is for sure going to get kids ahead, but how do you know soccer is their main love? Some kids you can tell, but most kids don’t know yet.
For me I would prefer save families time and money between ages 5-8. This is why I offer The Basics [online lessons] for novice soccer players. These online lessons will set a players foundation firm, which allows them to be able to control the ball better. Soccer players enjoy the game more and eventually move on to my advanced courses/lessons.
If I had to pick a second best age group to start private soccer lessons, it would be ages 8-9. The reason is because at this age they are good enough to do almost anything you show them and they are so hungry to learn. Ages 11-12 is still a good time, but after this I think ages 13+ will be tough to catch up and make the high school team or college. I think mentally it’s hard for this age group to go and compete with kids who have been doing good skills training since ages 7-11. You want to be prepared and solid in high school, not trying to catch up.
Soccer pro tip: Next level training
The amount of quality time on the ball a kid gets matters. Knowing what skills and techniques are expected by age, development stage and cognitive ability are also important. Because of the competitive nature of the youth sports industry, kids are being pushed to do [sometimes] unreasonable training at an early age.
Competitive soccer players practice often times the wrong ways. Doing the wrong training can lead to burnout, injury, or relationship problems between the parent and child. This means the parent should FIRST assess their own child’s learning style and sports personality.
Knowing and understanding these 3 topics will help both parties understand at what pace development should occur, versus a strict adherence to a predetermined curriculum that doesn’t take any personal identifiers into account.