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The dribble: how and why we coach it

I was out walking on the local golf course where I live this week and in the distance I saw a child running from what seemed miles away at top speed. As the child got closer I realised that it was someone dribbling a ball. Of course on the fairways it was like being at Wembley on a well cared for football pitch! It was great to see a child enjoying dribbling a ball, chipping over the bunkers and swerving around the patches of heather that catch out an unwary golfer.

I stopped and watched for a few minutes marvelling at the skill it took to dribble a ball at that speed and with it not being a flat course it was dribbling up and down inclines that always make it harder to keep the ball moving close to feet. It took me back to the days when I would run home from school dribbling a ball, playing a one-two with the wall and beating a lamp post that I imagined was going to tackle me.

It is a great way to develop ball skills and what better time to be doing that when the country is in lockdown and no one is playing – well not in my neck of the woods anyway.

So I encourage my players to dribble the ball when they are in the garden or going on a walk with the family. I encourage them to dribble whenever they see space in front of them – and I don’t worry if they lose the ball. They may lose it at first but they need to be encouraged to try so that when they do dribble and get into dangerous positions in the attacking third of the pitch they will shoot or win a penalty or cut the ball back to a team mate in a better attacking position. Dribbling is a game changer, it is the winning difference on match days.

Of course practice will help any player to get better at dribbling so here are some activities to help your players:

To start with you need to focus on your players’ technique to get them comfortable with dribbling the ball. Try Dribble and shoot, which is a simple but excellent session that gives players an end product for their dribbling – a shot at goal. You can move the session on by playing Three ways to win – a fun game that has dribbling and shooting as its main themes.

Once players have got an idea of what dribbling is all about try the Dribbling game. Dribbling into the penalty area is a great way to open up a team and challenge the defenders to stop you getting past them.

There are dribbling skills activities and games at every youth age group in my Skills Curriculum. Check out the Dribbling activity for Under 7s and see if your young players can attempt the skills involved.Then play the Dribbling game for Under 7s to cement the technique in young brains.

Finally use the game Passion fruit for a competitive session that puts dribbling at the heart of winning the game – a great way to end any training night and one that gives the coach the chance to see if all the skills work.

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