Good players are comfortable on the ball – use the following soccer coaching tips to get your young players' ball control skills up to speed.
How often does it happen that you get a breakaway where the ball gets passed to one of your midfielders, who only has to turn and run to set himself up with a glorious goal-scoring chance… but, no, he miscontrols it, kicks it too far in front of him and what should have been a good move by your team comes to nothing.
Some players can do it naturally – others need a lot of coaching and endless training drills. One thing's for sure, plenty of soccer drills focusing on ball control are vital to your training nights.
How to coach good ball control skills
Banish any thoughts you may have that players can only use one part of their body to control the ball – check out any professional game and you will see someone in an awkward shape end up seconds later with the ball at their feet under control. Rarely during a game will the ball come at the perfect speed, height or direction so you cushion it with your feet.
So what can you control the ball with?
Inside of the foot
Plant the supporting foot 45-90 degrees to the path of the ball. Control the ball with the arch of the free foot.
Outside of the foot
Used when the ball is travelling across in front of the player. Just reach forward into the ball’s path.
Sole of the foot
Raise the toes slightly above the heel. Used in dribbling for stopping before changing direction.
For when the ball’s falling from a steep angle. Stretch the ankle and cushion with the ‘laces’ by bending the knee and ankle on contact.
Aim for about halfway up the top of the thigh, although the inside is good for stopping balls flying past.
May involve arching the back slightly, bending the knees and even jumping.
Use the forehead, just below the hairline.
One of the soccer skills to teach your players is that using any parts of their body, they will usually have to use cushion control – taking the sting out of the ball by pulling back the controlling surface on impact. This cushions the pace of the ball so it drops to their feet.
The other way to control the ball is to wedge it between their foot and the ground – this is used when a player wants to force the ball downwards or into space to move onto it.
You've got to try out these ball control skills and drills yourself – wedging isn't easy to do, let alone coach!
Click here to read more soccer coaching tips on ball-holding basics.