Ball Mastery Probably the single most important thing a child can learn in soccer is to be comfortable with the ball at their feet. And the most effective way to increase their foot skills is to give them as many touches on the ball as possible. Most of these skills can even be practiced at home alone in a safe location i.e., basement, garage or outside. Foot skills are the bases for everything we do in soccer. Teams from Town Rec. Leagues to Professional Leagues do foot skill work every single day. Foot skills should be included in every practice session no matter how young or how old the child is. Why? Because: Working on foot skills at the beginning of a practice session is a good way to warm up. Working on foot skills improves touch on the ball and foot speed. You can easily adjust the complexity of the skill depending upon the age and skill level you are coaching. There is always a way to progress to harder and harder skills. You get multiple touches on the ball right away. Done at speed it can be a good aerobic training tool and is much more effective, overall, than running laps. As time passes, and mastery is achieved, the skill becomes instinctive and you’ll see it be used in a game unconsciously. Multiple touches on the ball builds confidence and most of all builds the brain/muscle coordination that makes touch on the ball instinctive. Listed below are several ideas for multiple touches on the ball that can be part of your warm up. Remember any skill can be broken down to an age appropriate level. However this list attempts to go from basic foot skills to more advanced. In general, children develop a dominant foot very early. In order to advance in the game of soccer we must get them working the non-dominant foot very early in the game. It is difficult, but you must stay on them to try and work this important area. Basic Dribbling Foot Skills Foundation (Pendulums or Tick-Tocks) – Fast movement of ball between the inside right foot to inside left foot and back again. Player is in a semi-sitting position and has to develop a rhythm with the ball. Make sure that the knees are slightly bent. This cannot be done correctly, stiff-legged. Ball Touches – Touch the top of the ball with the soles of your shoes, alternate feet as fast as you can, trying to keep the ball still. Sole Dribbling – Dribble the ball with just the soles of your feet. Dribble forward, backward, left, and right using only the bottom of your feet. Standing Scissors – With ball slightly forward of your feet, (ball should not move), sweep your foot behind the ball around the front of the ball so that your foot ends up planted back where it originally was. Repeat move alternating left and right feet as quickly as possible. Inside-Outside Touches – Start with the ball outside your body, touch the ball to the inside with the inside of your foot, then touch the ball outside with the outside of your foot. Repeat. Switch feet. Outside Push – Push the ball a couple feet to your right with the outside of your right foot. Shuffle over and push the ball back to the left a couple feet with the outside of the left foot. Repeat continuously without stopping the ball. Pull Across-Outside – Start with the right foot on top of the ball. Pull it across your body to the left and then push it outside with the outside of the left foot. Stop the ball with the sole of the left foot and pull it back across your body with your left foot to the right then push it outside with the outside of your right foot. Repeat. Inside-Out Roll – Place the outside of the right foot just off the top of the ball. Roll the foot over the ball keeping it in contact from left to right. The foot rotates so at the end of the stroke the inside of the foot is on the outside of the ball. Reverse the movement, place the outside of the left foot just off the top of the ball. Roll the foot over the ball keeping it in contact from right to left. The foot rotates so at the end of the stroke the inside of the foot is on the outside of the ball. Continue movement back and forth. Outside-In Roll – Place the inside of the right foot just off the top of the ball. Roll the foot over the ball keeping it in contact from right to left. The right leg crosses over the left leg so, if stopped at this point, you have made an “X” with your legs. Bring your left leg from behind your right leg so that the inside of the left foot is on the outside of the ball. Reverse the movement, the inside of the left foot just off the top of the ball. Roll the foot over the ball keeping it in contact from left to right. The left leg crosses over the right leg so, if stopped at this point, you have made an “X” with your legs. Bring your right leg from behind your left leg so that the inside of the right foot is on the outside of the ball. Continue movement back and forth. Outside-In Roll-Push Out – Just like above, but use the outside of the foot that rolled the ball in to push the ball back out in the opposite direction. Continue movement back and forth. Pull-Push – With sole of the right foot on top of ball, pull the ball back and then push the ball forward with the instep (laces) of the right foot. Repeat pull-push without stopping the ball and switch to left foot. Pull-Push Out – With sole of the right foot on top of ball, pull the ball back, then push the ball to the outside with outside of the same foot. Stop the ball and switch to left foot, repeat. Triangle – Place the ball in a spot about 2 to 3 feet in front of your body. This is the top point of a triangle. Your left and right feet are the other two points. Start with the right foot. Put the sole of the right foot on top of the ball. Pull the ball back to the right inside foot and then immediately play the ball to the left inside. Serve the ball back with the left inside of your foot in front of you to the sole of the right foot at the top point of the triangle. Keep the ball moving around the triangle without stopping the ball. Reverse direction. Brushes – Starting with the right foot. Player brushes the top of the ball across their body (i.e. right to left). The right foot ends up crossed over the left. The left foot moves behind the right to the opening position and the next brush takes place. Once a player gets the rhythm right they should be able to put 5 consecutive brushes together without the ball running away. Switch dominant and non-dominant feet. Brush Tap – The same basic movement as the brush but instead of making a second brush the player taps the ball to a halt with the inside of the other foot. i.e. if you are Brush-Tapping right, the right foot brushes and the left foot taps to stop the ball. Tap- Tap-Brush – Start with the ball on the inside of either foot. Tap the ball to the inside of the opposite foot and then back again to the starting foot. The starting foot then brushes the ball to the opposite foot. The sequence is then re-started with the next tap. It is important to develop a rhythm and be on your toes for this skill. Tap-Tap-Tap-Step Over-Push Outside – Three (3) taps in this drill. After the third tap the opposite foot steps over the ball and pushes it to the outside with the outside portion of the foot. Repeat and push with opposite foot. Pull Back Cruyff – Three (3) taps in this drill. After the third tap, pull the ball back with the sole of your foot and touch it behind your standing leg to the side with the inside of the same foot used to pull the ball back. Alternate feet and repeat. Pull Push V with Inside of Foot-- Pull the ball back with the sole of foot across your body, then push the ball diagonally forward in the opposite direction with the inside of the opposite foot (ball moves in a V shape). Pull Push V with Outside of Foot -- Pull the ball back with the sole of foot then push the ball diagonally forward with the outside of the opposite foot (ball moves in a V shape). Pull V -- Fake pass with instep across body, pull ball back with sole of foot and take it in opposite direction with the inside of the same foot (ball moves in a V shape). Figure 8’s with Outside of Foot – The outside of the foot is extremely important in guiding the ball away from pressure. Have your players do 360° turns with four sharp touches on the ball with the outside of the right foot and then again with the outside of the left, making a figure 8 on the field. Figure 8’s with Inside of Foot – Just like above, but have your players do 360° turns with four sharp touches on the ball with the inside of the right foot and then again with the inside of the left, making a figure 8 on the field. Juggling – Learning to juggle is not easy, but it is one of the best ways to improve your foot skills. It will take a lot of practice and patience. Start off slow and build your way up as you gain confidence. Some days you may show significant progress but the next day you may seem to be back where you originally started. Spend ten minutes per day juggling the ball trying to get as many consecutive juggles as possible. Be patient. Hold the ball out in front of you with both hands and drop it onto the ground for a bounce. After the bounce, tap the ball back up to your hands with the instep (shoelace) part of your foot. Catch the ball and repeat several times with each foot. Next, drop the ball onto the ground for a bounce, tap it softly up towards your hands but let it fall back to the ground for another bounce. Then tap it up to your hands and catch it. Repeat several times and alternate feet. Next drop the ball directly to the foot for a tap back to the hands for a catch. Finally drop the ball for a bounce and tap it up with the foot but before it bounces try to tap it up again then catch it. Continue to try different variations of bouncing and foot touches. Increase foot touches between bounces as you gain control. End by catching the ball to maintain control. Practice thigh touches and head touches the same way, without using the ground. Repeat all the skills with both feet/legs. Advanced Foot Skills (Skills to beat an Opponent) Here are some more advanced skills that kids can work on. When demonstrating these moves break them down into component steps. What is important here is that the fake sells the move to the defender and then explode away to give them self that one extra second that the attacker needs to get the advantage. The Lean – To the Right: While dribbling the ball lean to the right, dragging the ball along with the inside of the left foot you as if you're going to dart off with the ball. When the defender doesn't expect it, using the outside of the left foot, explode in the opposite direction with the ball. For the Lean to the Left, switch the lean direction and foot used to take the ball in the opposite direction. Lunge Step – Take an exaggerated step (lunge) past the ball (from behind) in one direction to make the defender think you are going that way. Immediately explode past the defender in the opposite direction pushing the ball with you with the outside of the opposite foot (If you fake right, step past the ball with the right foot and use the outside of the left foot to take ball away, if you fake left, step past the ball with the left foot and use the outside of the right foot to take ball away). Leonardo – Moving forward at a defender, use the inside of the foot to touch the ball across your body from one foot to the other (drop your shoulder to make the defender think you are going one direction), then quickly (within 1 step) touch the ball back to the other direction with the inside of the other foot and go past the defender on the opposite side with the ball. Scissors – For right foot scissor: Bring the right foot toward the left (plant) foot, behind the ball, continue the circular motion around the front of the ball and plant the right foot on the opposite side of the ball (near where it started). The whole body is leaning to the right “selling” the move to the defender. Shift weight from the left foot to the right foot. Bring the originally planted left foot towards the now planted right foot. Take the ball away to the left with the outside of the left foot and explode away from the defender. This “sells” the move to the ball carrier’s right and then moves quickly to the left. For left foot scissor, switch movements of right and left foot. Double Scissors – After shifting weight to the right on first scissors, the left foot executes a 2nd scissors shifting weight back to the left foot. The right foot then follows the left and the explosive move, with the outside of the right foot is now to the right. This move is intended to get the defender moving first one way, and then after he/she sees the original fake, to move in a second direction, which is also a fake. Scissors Brush (or Scissors-Drag) – This is a combination move which utilizes the previously learned brush move in conjunction with a scissors. After shifting weight on scissors, drag ball with inside of original planted foot across the body. This move can be used when the defender does not “buy” the first scissor fake. If the opening is to the ball carriers right, (defender’s left), then the move is continued to the right by brushing the top of the ball and then accelerating to space. Scissors Drag Turn – After scissors brush, bring foot which is dragging the ball around the back of the ball and explode in opposite direction with outside of this same foot. Scissors Roll Drag Turn – After shifting weight on scissors, drag ball with sole of standing foot making the ball roll and with outside of this same foot change directions and explode away with outside of same foot. Step Over – Fake as if you are going to kick the ball but instead step around the front of ball from outside-in, plant your foot on the far side of the ball, then take the ball away in the opposite direction with the outside of the foot used to step over the ball. Ronaldo Chop – Start learning this drill from a standing position with the ball still. Take a small hop over the ball with 1 foot (1 foot hops over the ball, and 1 foot stays behind the ball), the back foot then chops the ball behind the heel of the foot that went over the ball (just before the front foot hits the ground). Progress to performing this move with a moving ball. Zico – Start learning this drill from a standing position. With the ball on the outside of your foot, turn 360° with the ball staying in contact with the outside of the foot the entire time until the last moment when you complete the turn. Switch feet and turn the opposite way. Progress to performing this move with a moving ball. Adriano – Pull the ball back with the sole of your foot and touch it across behind your standing leg to the side with the inside of the same foot used to pull the ball back and take the ball away with the opposite foot and go past the defender. 360 – With ball moving forward, step on the ball with the sole of one foot, quickly step past the ball (same foot used to step on the ball), turn 360° while dragging the ball forward with the sole of the opposite foot. Cruyff Turn – With the Cruyff we have a faking foot and a plant foot. The Cruyff begins with a fake cross pass. After the fake, touch the ball behind the plant leg with the inside of the faking foot. The weight is now shifted from the plant leg to the faking foot. Turn toward the plant foot and then explode with instep of plant foot in any direction depending upon the placement of the defender. The first time the children try this they should play the ball back and away from pressure. This is a great cover move. It is also a great simple move on the wing and when dribbling laterally across the field. Much like the Adriano. Step Over Turn (Step Over Right-Turn Right) – Fake an instep kick or inside of the foot kick. Then continue moving the foot around the front of the ball to the other side and back several inches. Flex knee (step down) and shift weight to this foot. Turn body back toward the ball and explode with the original plant foot using inside of foot or instep (shoe laces area); great move on the wings or in a tight space. Matthews – Fake with inside (big toe) of foot nudging ball slightly to the inside of your body and by dipping your shoulder, then slide that foot behind the ball quickly to the other side and flick ball in the opposite direction with the outside (little toe) of same foot (explode). Should be one quick move without the foot hitting the ground between the nudge and flicking the ball away. Reverse Matthews – Fake with outside of one foot (little toe) nudging ball slightly, slide foot behind the ball quickly and flick the ball in the opposite direction with the inside of the foot (big toe). Should be one quick move without the foot hitting the ground between the nudge and flicking the ball away. Cap – As your dribbling forward, look up and fake a pass forward, quickly cut the ball with the laces (same foot used to fake the pass) across your body away from the defender and take the ball ahead with the inside of the opposite foot. Step Over Scissor – Ball rolling. Perform the Step Over followed by Scissors with same foot and take ball away with the outside of opposite foot. Scissors Over Ball – Step behind ball as if preparing to take it with the outside of one foot, then step over the ball and take it with the outside of the other foot. Front Roll – While moving forward, pull ball across body with sole of foot and take with outside of opposite foot.