What many of the best soccer players in the world have in common is expert level dribbling skills. Their mastery of this skill comes as a result of years of hard work, including plenty of training outside of team practices.
Excellent ball handlers must be able to keep the ball close and under control throughout any change of speed and direction.
They must also be able to dribble with both feet and with all areas of the feet. In addition, a player’s ball handling skills must be applicable to real game scenarios.
This means the player needs to be able to maintain ball control in spite of an opponent’s best defensive efforts. To help you or your team develop better dribbling skills, here are seven of the most effective soccer dribbling drills:
This drill is great for warming up the feet and perfecting technique. All that is needed to do this drill is a soccer ball and a wall.
To perform the drill, start by bouncing the ball off the wall and then passing it off the wall with the inside of the foot.
Players should try to keep the ball from hitting the ground for as many repetitions in a row as possible. Work on one foot for 60-90 seconds then switch the other foot. Once the inside of both feet have been used, perform 60-90 seconds on each foot while using the top you’re your shoes were your laces are.
This is a great drill players can do by themselves or in groups. The drill requires three cones on the ground forming a triangle and one soccer ball.
Space the cones approximately two feet apart. Perform the drill by dribbling the ball around each cone using the different surfaces of the foot.
The confined space and short proximity between each cone forces players to use quick and deliberate touches to maintain control of the ball.
Work through the cones 15-20 times. This is a great drill to start practice with or incorporate into a pre-game warmup routine.
1 on 1 Dribbling
This drill requires a partner, four cones, and one soccer ball. The four cones should be arranged in a box roughly five yards apart. Both players start within the cones, with one on offense and the other on defense.
The player on offense must dribble within the confines of the box while the defensive player attempts to steal the ball or kick the ball out of the box.
The presence of a defensive player makes this drill translate better to live game scenarios and the confined space forces offensive player to use skillful ball control to evade the defensive player.
The player on offense will stay on offense for 30-60 seconds before switching to defense. This drill can be made more challenging by making the box smaller.
This is a fun and competitive drill that works best in a team practice setting. In this drill, each player must control his or her own ball within a designated area.
The twist is that each player is also attempting to kick another’s ball out of the designated area. If a player’s ball is kicked out of bounds or if a player dribbles out of bounds, that player is out of the game.
As players lose out of the game, the designated area should get smaller. The last remaining player wins the drill. This game helps players develop their dribbling control, their field awareness and their ability to guard the ball from defenders.
This drill requires six cones of one color, six cones of another color, two soccer balls, and at least two players.
For the purposes of this explanation, the different cones will be red and blue. To set up the drill, line up two parallel lines of six cones with eight yards between the lines.
Two of the same colored cones in a row creates a gate, which a player will try to dribble through as fast and controlled as much as possible.
Line 1 should consist of two red cones in a row, two blue cones in a row, and two red cones in a row, in that order.
This creates a red gate, a blue gate, and another red gate. Line 2 should consist of two blue cones in a row, two red cones in a row, and two blue cones in a row, in that order.
This creates a blue gate, a red gate, and then another blue gate. Player 1 will start in front of Line 1 and Player 2 will start in Line 2.
Player 1 must dribble through all of the red gates and Player 2 must dribble through all of the blue gates. For example, Player 1 must dribble through the first red gate, then cross over into Line 2 to go through the second red gate, then cross back to Line 1 to dribble through the last red gate.
Once a player gets through his or her last gate, the player must dribble back to the starting point as fast as possible. The first player to get back to the starting point wins the drill.
This drill is a fun and competitive way to help players work on their speed, ball control, and ball protection skills. Player 1 and Player 2 are moving at a similar pace, putting them at risk of colliding with the other player when they cross into the other’s line.
The players must handle this with good ball control to avoid a collision, while maintaining their speed. This drill can be made more difficult by moving the cones in each line closer together or moving the lines closer together.
This is a competitive drill that pushes players and helps them develop their ball control while moving as fast as possible. The drill requires at least twelve cones and works best in a team practice setting.
To set this drill up, create two parallel lines of cones with at least six cones per line. The cones within each line should be around one yard apart. Split the team into two groups of equal numbers with one ball per line.
This is a relay style drill. The first player in each line must dribble around each cone down the line and then around each cone back to the starting point in a zig-zag pattern. At that point, it is the second player in line’s turn.
The drill continues until each player in a line has gone through the line of cones. The group that finishes first wins the drill. The short distance between the cones forces the player to control the ball carefully while the competitive nature of the game urges players to move as quickly as possible.
This drill helps players work on their ball control while moving at game speed. This drill can be modified in various ways to make it more difficult. For example, coaches can have players only use their non-dominant foot or dribble with only a certain part of the foot.
This drill works well in a team practice settings or individual training session. For a solo workout, all that is required is four cones and one soccer ball. Cones 1-4 should be set up in a line at least five yards apart.
To perform the drill, the player starts at cone 1, dribbles to cone 2, then dribbles back to cone 1. From there, the player dribbles to cone three and then dribbles back to cone one. The player repeats the same process dribbling to cone 4 and back.
Once the player has dribbled to cones 2, 3, and 4 and back, he or she has performed one repetition. The player should be dribbling and cutting as fast as possible while maintaining control over the ball.
The player should be allotted 60-90 seconds of rest between repetitions. This drill forces players to cut and change direction as efficiently as possible. Maintaining ball control through this change of direction is challenging, so this drill really helps develop ball control.
This drill also helps improve players’ stamina. The extended period of sprinting and changing direction mirrors game-like scenarios.
While these drills can be extremely helpful, one important step many players overlook is developing their speed, agility, and stamina. Without speed and agility, players will not be able to perform their ball handling skills at a tempo that will be helpful in games.
If players do not have the stamina to maintain their dribbling skills throughout the game, then the drills are useless. The point is, being faster, more agile and better conditioned helps players develop their dribbling skills just as much as soccer dribbling drills do.
Two ways players can get faster are by lifting weights and performing sprints. The stronger a player’s ankles, legs, and hips are, the more powerful they can be.
Greater power translates to faster speeds. Sprint workouts and interval workouts also enable players to improve their speed. Here are some weightlifting exercises that can improve speed:
- Barbell back squats
- Barbell front squats
- Goblet squats
- Barbell Romanian deadlifts
- Barbell/dumbbell lunges
- Calf raises
- Power cleans
- Squat cleans
- Power snatches
- Full snatches
- Box jumps
Agility is developed through several of the listed cone workouts, as the cones require quick movements and changes of direction within small spaces.
Another great way for players to work on their agility is through the use of an agility ladder. Here are some ladder drills than can improve agility:
- One foot per box. In this drill, players will move down the ladder with one foot in each box.
- Two feet per box. In this drill, players will move down the ladder touching both feet in each box.
- The Cowboy. In this drill, players will touch their right foot outside of the right side of the box, then touch their left foot outside of the left side of the box, then touch their right foot inside the box, and then touch their left foot inside the box. Players will continue through each box with this pattern. Afterward, they will perform the drill starting with the left foot.
- Ins and Outs. In this drill, players will move down the ladder with an in, in, out, out pattern. Players will touch their right food inside the box, then their left foot inside the box, then the right foot on the outside of the right side of the box, and finally the left food on the outside of the left side of the box. Players will continue this pattern in every box down the ladder. Once they have completed this, they will perform the drill starting with the left foot.
- Lateral. In this drill, players will start on the right side of the ladder, facing perpendicular to the ladder. Players will move through the boxes with lateral steps, touching both feet into each box. Once players have completed the right side, they will perform the same movement leading with the left foot.
If players get too tired to perform at full speed throughout the game, then none of their dribbling skills are of any use.
To develop a player’s stamina, it is important that they go through drills, practices and conditioning workouts with maximum effort.
Adequate stamina and game performance also relies on a player’s diet, hydration and proper rest.
Regardless of a player’s age or skill level, everyone has room to improve their soccer dribbling skills.
Ball control is an essential part of the game, so it is important to constantly develop and maintain the skill. Great players have been able to set themselves apart from the mediocre by having excellent ball handling skills.
All coaches appreciate a player who can take care of the ball throughout the game. It is important to note, however, that soccer dribbling drills are not the only way to improve soccer dribbling.
Improving speed, agility and stamina allows players to apply their dribbling skills in live game situations.
Players who are serious about taking their game to the next level must be willing to put in the work through soccer dribbling drills, speed and strength workouts, agility drills, and stamina maintenance.