Dribbling is one of the great skills of soccer. There is little to rival the thrill of seeing a player driving at pace towards the heart of the opposing defense or using a soccer dribble to deceive a defender before accelerating away to deliver a stunning shot, cross or pass.
In 2018 the Independent newspaper in the UK conducted a large-scale survey to find out who their public saw as the greatest soccer player of all time. The top eight were Pele (hard to question that!), Messi, Ronaldo, Best, Maradona, Moore, Cruyff and Charlton. Seven of those magical exponents of the beautiful game are best known for their ability to run with the ball. Even Bobby Moore, the only defensive player on the list is remembered for his calmness under pressure, his ability to win the ball, beat on an opponent and spray a perfect pass.
Here are three drills which can be used with all ages and all ability levels. They will help to concrete in the key skills of dribbling and depending on the ability level and age of the players being coached, the drills can be made easier or harder. (Introducing more space and time tends to make them easier, while the opposite leads to tougher drills).
Note: for each of the drills, the black arrows indicate movement of the ball, with white arrows showing movement of players. A red arrow indicates a player dribbling with the ball.
Losing Your Marker
Turning creates space. Space leads to goals. This drill progresses through stages which enable players to improve their turning and dribbling skills. The diagram below shows stage 2 of the drill.
Stage 1: Two players and a mannequin. One player is marked by the mannequin. He or she keeps low and on the half turn, checks over their shoulder and moves away and back in front of the mannequin, simulating the creation of space. The ball is passed in, controlled, and returned.
Stage 2: This time, the player controls the ball the outside of their leading foot, rotates their body and accelerates away from the mannequin, before shooting at the goal.
Stage 3: The mannequin is replaced by a real defender.
1) Ensure the receiver is using their arms for balance, and also to check the position of the defender.
2) Ensure the receiver is on the half turn when the ball is played into them.
Touch, Dribble, Turn and Pass
A square is marked out with four cones, A, B, C and D. A further cone is placed in the centre of the grid. The drill starts with a pass from A. B receives the ball across their body, and controls it with their furthest foot, using their instep to move it forwards by 45 degrees. This takes the ball into space. B dribbles to the central cone, turns around it and dribbles back. Back on the cone they complete a turn, and pass to C. Once B had reached the cone and turned, A passes to the second player by B. Soon, players from all cones are engaged in dribbling, making the drill a fast paced, action packed activity.
Coaching Points: 1) Encourage players to throw in a trick during their dribbling, such as a step-over or feint.
2) Use an outside hook or Cruyff turn to end their run.
Dribble and Turn
This drill makes an excellent warm up. With more able players simply introduce more balls to make the session busier.
Create two grids, the larger one 10×10 meters, the smaller one inside this and 4×4 meters. Ten players spread themselves around the outside of the larger grid. Three players dribble the ball into the smaller square, turn and dribble to a teammate who repeats the exercise.
Coaching Points: 1) Ensure players dribble with their heads up.
2) Encourage them to try different turns inside the smaller square, including drag backs, hooks and the Zidane turn.
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