A Kick Around Down the Park
There’s a reason that soccer is the world’s most popular sport. Actually, there are several reasons, but for the purpose of this blog we need just one of these. Soccer is so easy to play. All we need is a ball and … actually, all we need is a ball. So here are some suggestions on how we can help to develop our soccer playing skills when we are on our own, with just a metre size five for company and maybe the plastic goal in the back yard promising to drop by for coffee later. We need individual soccer training drills.
Shoot a Few Baskets at Home
Or hit a few golf balls…it is a good starting point to remind ourselves that to get better at playing soccer, we do not just have to practice soccer. All sports will help to develop our coordination, our flexibility, physical fitness and mental acuity. Even at professional levels, players do not just stick to their main sport. Variety adds enjoyment, and the skills and benefits gained from activity – physical and mental – are transferable.
A Ball and a Wall
Some of my best mates are walls. After all, what more do you want of a friend? They are supportive; never give away our secrets; stand tall through the winds and storms of life and never complain.
Indeed, with a ball and a wall hours of fun and skill development can be had. How many of us spent long summer days as kids in the back yard, ball at feet, driving our moms mad with an incessant drum beat of thumps as we practiced shooting, heading, catching? Often, that percussion would be accompanied by the vocals of high pitched commentating as our imaginary games became more intense.
· Wall juggling – A legitimate soccer practice drill. With some wall juggling, we can tell ourselves that we are not Johnny No Friends alone with a ball when the world is doing something more interesting, we can be assured that we are developing our soccer skills. Use the wall as a juggling partner, practicing headers, chesting the ball, foot and knee juggles. Our touch and balance will both improve, and we will get better at getting into position to play the ball when it comes to our next match.
· Heading – A wall is perfect for practicing our heading. We can juggle, as above, work on getting height and timing on our jumps, head for direction, power and defensive purposes, looking for height and distance. All that we need is to throw the ball against the wall, and head the rebound. We must just be aware, however, of not over doing it. There is a growing field of research which is looking at late onset cognitive damage caused by heading a football. Certainly, modern lightweight balls are better than the leather beasts of yore, but we should never work on heading for too long. Youngsters are particularly vulnerable to head injuries.
· First touch – Wall passing helps to develop first touch. We can work on our left and right feet, getting that first touch so it sets the ball for a pass, shot or dribble. This is a particularly effective drill, because a wall will return the ball where we want it to be – every time. As long as our first pass is correct.
· Alternate foot passing – Dexterity and agility are developed with some first-time alternate foot passing. Balance is needed, playing lightly on our toes, and adjusting passes to compensate for inaccuracies. Aim for ten in a row, then twenty and so on until we can continue forever!
Target Practice – Best Individual Soccer Training Drill
Some bits of paper, string, a garden goal and a ball. All that is needed for a worthwhile individual shooting practice session. Aim for specific targets. Try chips and power shots. Attempt volleys. In fact, use the time to work hard on shooting, taking risks and seeing what works and does not because, if the shot ends up two blocks away, we are the only one who will know…
The Kick Around
That’s the great thing about soccer. A bunch of friends and a ball leads to all sorts of games. For those coaches who work with youngsters, the temptation can be to want to organize them all of the time, but just handing over a ball – perhaps on a Sunday afternoon in the park – can lead to great games which develop skills and also help mental strength as the young players problem solve. The point is that sometimes we should step back, as coaches, and let the players get on with it.
Headers and Volleys
This is another game in the park. It is a chance to show off. Watch some teenagers playing headers and volleys – they will be trying all sorts…even as one dribbles a ball back from some wayward overhead kick, there will be little step-overs and mini juggles. All the time, the players are developing their skills and coordination. There will be a lot of laughter, as well.
World Cup for Beginners
This is a slightly (but only a bit) more organized, and is great for small groups. There is a keeper and the rest of the players divide into pairs or threes. The aim is to score in the one goal. Put the ball in the net and go through. A team is eliminated in each round until we reach a final. It is a great casual game for developing one v one offense and defense, plus goal poaching – never a skill to be underestimated.
Juggling at Home
We’ll finish back where we started, with a single person and a ball. Juggling, using all parts of the body, occupies a spare fifteen minutes and develops touch, balance and co-ordination. Starting is the hardest bit: drag the ball back, flick it up, toes firm and slightly upwards and off we go. As we get better, we can start to put in tricks, like catching the ball behind the neck.
We rather liked this short video of a lad in his back yard. There are some great individual skills he has clearly enjoyed working on.
After all everyone loves to show off. Especially when nobody is looking.
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