By Mark Dzulynsky, former US soccer professional
Over the years, I've heard this sentence repeated thousands of times: "My child is on the traveling team and is a
great soccer player, but he/she just can't dribble well enough." What a strange conclusion! Dribbling and soccer
are synonymous! Great soccer players always "have great feet". Without ball mastery, they cannot be proficient
dribblers and end up being less than great soccer players.
Another sentence that I've heard repeatedly: "If I play soccer more, I'll get better." As if "more" equals to
"better". Another strange conclusion! Quality soccer is more valuable than quantity soccer. Soccer time spent
standing around, or spent doing push-ups and sit-ups, shooting on goalies, and going through meaningless drills day
after day, accomplishes little in the way of skill development. Having youngsters travel and play 20 games a season
does not teach soccer skills.
As a former soccer professional, I know that the only way to become a great dribbler is to learn to dribble
correctly through ball mastery. Technique is the foundation of soccer. Ball Mastery is the bottom of the pyramid -
if it is not strong, the entire pyramid can collapse when under pressure (see our web site www.wctc.net\webuildkids
on Weil Coerver's six building blocks for young players in the "PYRAMID OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT"). Aimee
Jacquet, Technical Director of the French Football Federation and led France to the 1998 World Cup Championship
says "The focus you put on Ball Mastery as the Foundation of training is I feel exactly right. Also when you analyse
a game there are between 200 to 300 1 v 1 (on the ground or in the air) situations in the game. It therefore stands
to reason 1 v 1 is of huge importance."
Numerous specialists focus on tactics and conditioning for soccer - strength, power, endurance, flexibility and
quickness training. Tactics are important and conditioning is of course extremely important. But, like soccer
technique, it is but one part of whole process (to be covered soon in our next article on Dr. Howie Wenger's
"GEARS"). In observing some training programs, I'm amazed at how often soccer technique is overlooked or not
acknowledged as a vital part of the soccer player equation. Another strange conclusion!
Playing soccer without proper technique training does not make players better soccer players! To become an elite
player, all aspects of soccer must be developed. Ball mastery is and will always be the first and most important
The speed in soccer is mind-boggling. Every year we see players who are bigger, stronger, and faster. Let's look at
the World Cup - which players were the fastest and the most skilled? They were predominantly Europeans. Why?
Because these players learned ball mastery before they were allowed to play games. Skill development was the
most important aspect of their early training.
At Kid's Soccer, we teach ball mastery and correct technique. Only after learning to execute maneuvers correctly
do we allow students to execute them faster, and then faster. Ball mastery skills must be taught separately and
thoroughly, and practiced for years. In our sessions we teach each maneuver in all its minute parts, and then
combine the parts to create the whole. In effect, it's difficult (if not impossible) to be a great ball handler
(dribbler) without being able to move the ball down the field FAST!
For the soccer players who want to improve their skills in the off season, my suggestion is to first enroll in a
soccer skill training program that offers excellent technique training. The results will be worth the time, effort
Whatever you learn and whatever you practice, practice correctly. Remember: "Practice does not make perfect -
only perfect practice makes perfect!"
Play great soccer and dribble lots!
Mark G. Dzulynsky
CEO and CHB
Kid's Soccer, Inc.
Tel: (715) 366–4333
Fax: (715) 366–4336
Articles in production:
WHO NEEDS THIS SOCCER SKILL TRAINING, ANYWAY?
(Topics covered: Training the Individual, The Golden Years)
TECHNIQUE TRAINING - HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?