How to Dribble in Soccer

Dribbling is the act of possessing the ball with your feet. Whenever you have possession of the ball you are actively dribbling in order to control the ball in anticipation of either a pass or a shot.

Dribbling is primarily used as a means to an end (scoring a goal). Endless dribbling will usually result in a loss of possession and a scorning from your coach, so it is important to learn how to balance your dribbling with the appropriate time to pass or shoot. Always remember that no matter how good you are, the ball can travel faster than you can. This means that if an open passing lane is available, you should usually send the ball to a teammate rather than keeping it yourself.

Keeping Your Head Up

It is absurd to think that if you are new to dribbling you will be able to do it without looking at the ball. However, you should be aware that your eventual goal should be to develop your dribbling skills to a point where you will be able to do it without looking. The reason for this is that you want to be able to scan the field while you dribble, looking out for opposing defenders as well as open teammates.

Protecting the Ball

Your primary goal when dribbling the ball is to maintain possession. You can’t do this unless you take the necessary steps to protect the ball from the opposing team. There are a number of ways you can do this:

Shielding the Ball

Shielding the ball is the act of protecting it with your body from opposing players. If the opposing players don’t have an accessible point from which to attack the ball, your ability to maintain possession will greatly increase. The easiest way to shield the ball is by turning your back to an opposing defender so that they have to go through your body to get to the ball.

Keeping the Ball Close

The easiest way to lose possession of the ball is by playing recklessly. A good player will create the illusion of an almost magnetic force connecting the ball with their foot. You should strive to emulate this model when dribbling the ball. A good way to do this is by trying to get a touch on the ball with each stride you take, instead of simply kicking the ball far ahead of you and chasing it down. By keeping the ball close, you can make a quick decision to change direction if your current path becomes obstructed.

Avoiding Fancy Dribbling

By minimizing fancy dribbling you will greatly increase your ability to maintain possession. A fancy spin move may look great on a highlight, but the success rate of such move is significantly lower than a simple touch on the ball. Save fancy dribbling moves for desperate situations when you don’t see any other option.

Passing When You Can

Very often the best touch you can make on the ball is a pass. There is absolutely nothing wrong with dribbling the ball, but if one of your teammates in a better position to shoot or advance the ball up the field, send it their way. If you are generous with the ball your teammates will return the favor. Remember that soccer is a team sport, and no amount of dribbling skill will allow you to win on your own.

Being Aware of Opposing Players

The reason you must master the art of dribbling without looking at the ball is because you must constantly be aware of the defenders who are trying to dispossess you. If you find yourself in danger of losing the ball, you must decide whether you are going to attempt to beat the defender, wait for an open lane to present itself, or pass the ball to a teammate.

Dribbling Into Space

Given the choice of dribbling at or away from an opposing defender, you should almost always dribble into open space. Sometimes this may prove difficult if defenders collapse on your position, but once this happens you need to make the decision whether to attempt to “beat” your defender, or make a pass.

Beating the Defender

In order to beat an opposing defender you must first look for weaknesses in their defense. These weaknesses may already be apparent, or you may need to create them by manipulating the defender. The first and most obvious weakness to look for is if the opposing player is slower than you are. If so you will likely be able to pass them with your speed alone. However, if you are not noticeably faster than your opponent, you should look to see if they are “off balance” or “flat footed.” If they are, you would ideally want to attack the side on which they are favoring their weight. This is because they will not be able to support their weight AND defend you with the same leg. If they are not already off balance, you can use feints to throw them off, and then attack the side on which they are supporting their weight.

Dribbling Technique

There are four basic ways with which you can touch the ball while dribbling, they are the inside, outside, instep, and sole of your foot. An expert dribbler will use all four of these subconsciously with grace while in midstride, but if you are new to dribbling you should try and familiarize yourself with touching the ball in all four of these areas. The better you are at mastering each touch on the ball, the more naturally dribbling will come to you.

Dribbling with Pace

Speed is a luxury that not all players can afford, and for this reason it is essential that you master the art of dictating the pace of your dribbles. Just because the opposing player is faster than you does not mean he is unbeatable. By changing the pace of your dribbling you can throw the defender off, and hopefully a dribbling lane will present itself. Even when you are faster than the defender, sometimes pacing yourself is necessary, either to wait for teammates to support you, or to conserve energy for a better scoring opportunity.

Changing Direction

One of the easiest ways to beat a defender is to quickly change direction when they least expect it. Defenders typically wait for attackers to make the first move, but they are often easily fooled. Use this to your advantage; your body, and its ability to deceive, is a weapon.

Using both Feet

You cannot be a complete player until you have mastered the use of both your feet. Your best opportunity to beat an opposing player may present itself on the side of your weaker foot, and if your dribbling skills are one dimensional you will likely fail. For this reason it is essential that you practice with both your left and right foot, regardless of which one you consider to be your dominant one.

You’re Ready to Dribble!

Hopefully this guide has provided you with the necessary tools to perfect the basic elements dribbling. Once you have mastered these tactics, feel free to continue to the Advanced Dribbling Guide for further instruction.

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