Everybody remembers Diego Maradona’s Hand of God goal, which knocked England out of the 1986 World Cup. His other goal in that game was as brilliant as the Hand of God was dishonest. It began with Maradona demonstrating, to perfection, one of the key skills in soccer – turning with the ball.
Those goals are available on the following clip below –
Helping our players to master the technique of turning with the ball will bring huge benefits to their game. With this skill, they can receive a pass facing any direction, and have the option of turning and dribbling rather than just passing back.
Their running skills will improve, and they will become more confident players. The following drills can be used at any level of play, although the organization of the third might be a little complicated for the very youngest players. Even when the skills they practise are mastered, the drills are worthwhile to use in warm ups and to reinforce technique. Each is simple to set up and requires only basic equipment all coaches should have – balls, cones and goals. In the diagrams, the orange arrows represent dribbling, black passing, and white moving without the ball.
This is a handy drill to use with younger and less able players, but it also reinforces key skills and therefore makes a useful warm up exercise to use with stronger and more experienced players as well.
It is fast paced, and simple to set up. Create a ten-meter square with a player at each corner. The players each have a ball. Place a cone approximately half a meter in from each corner, and one more in the center of the grid.
The first player moves with control towards their first cone, and completes a 360-degree rotation around it, dribbling the ball at the same time. This aspect of the drill helps to reinforce technique. They then head to the center cone at speed and look to circle around this using the inside and outside of their feet to change direction under control, but quickly.
On their return, they complete another 360-degree rotation around the first cone, before resting briefly in their corner. Once they have reached the central cone, the next player sets off.
- Encourage players to use both feet when dribbling and turning
- Encourage them to use both the inside and outside of their feet
- Tell them to focus on control over speed. Once the control is there, the speed will come
Advance the drill by shouting out a direction for the player to move as they reach the central cone. So, for example, shout ‘left’, ‘right’, ‘back’ or ‘forward’. The next player to go is the one in the corner where the player now ends up, or the one the coach calls if the first player has returned to their own corner. In order to get more speed and action into this variant, do not ask players to complete the second 360-degree rotation in the move.
Figure of Eight
This drill is useful for helping players to develop muscle memory. It helps to improve turning with close control, which is realistic to the match situation.
Set up two cones approximately one meter apart. Players dribble around them using short touches and a figure of eight movement. They complete two complete figures of eight and then the next player takes their turn.
- Ensure players turn using both feet and both the inside and outside of the foot
- Encourage players to stay on their toes
There are a couple of good developments to use with this drill. The first involves setting up several sets of cones. Players work in pairs or threes with a single ball. They complete a figure of eight then pass the ball to the next team mate. Competition is added with the first group to each complete the task winning. However, it is best not to introduce competition straight away, as turning is a technical skill, and needs to be practised with accuracy before speed is added to the mix.
A slight variant is to run the drill with goals at either end. Players must complete at least two and up to four figures of eight, and then shoot. By making the decision regarding when to shoot, they can learn to introduce an element of surprise for keepers.
This is a fast-paced drill to use with more able and experienced players. It builds up slowly. The diagram shows the drill in its most advanced stage. However, younger players can spend time working on the earlier stages, which are simpler to operate.
Three players are approximately 5 meters apart in a triangle. Player A passes to B, who turns, and passes to C. C passes back to B, then B turns and passes on to A. Once all players have had a few turns at the simple drill, add a cone to the middle of the line. Player B now must dribble around the cone before passing. So, player A passes to B, who controls, turns and dribbles around the cone, before passing to C. C passes the ball back to B etc. Once again, allow players to have a few goes in each position, and then tell the players to move from a line to a triangle, as below. Player B remains at the apex of this, standing by the cone.
Now player A passes to B, who dribbles round the cone and on to player C. Player C passes laterally to player A, and sprints to the cone. A plays it back to player B, now positioned at the base of the triangle, who passes it to C, now at the cone. C dribbles round the cone and on to player A.
A passes laterally to B, and sprints to the cone. B passes back to C, now at the base of the triangle, and on to A by the cone, and so on.
- First touch is important.
- Players must be sympathetic to the player sprinting to the cone, to ensure that they are in position to receive the pass
- Encourage communication
Once players have mastered the drill and can operate it efficiently, encourage speed.
Who knows, there may be a budding Maradona in our team…
If you liked this blog post, you’ll like our book on Soccer Drills below: