Having outstanding ball control can make a significant difference on the pitch in soccer. Players of all ages are looking to make subtle improvements that they can translate into real match experience.
What are some of the most effective drills to improve ball control? These seven are perfect to practice at any time, and are pretty simple overall. They are not all necessarily difficult at first, but they all translate well to the pitch itself.
1. Happy Feet
This is a pretty basic drill players can use even if they are in the very early stages of learning the game. This is where players are switching the ball between their feet as quickly as possible, learning how to control all aspects of the game. There are even several variations where players can hold a ball for a set amount of time and switch back in a type of pattern.
The drill works on inside touches, as a player keeps the ball between their two feet. Players just starting will feel like they lose control of the ball a little bit if they touch it far away from themselves, or if it gets stuck in between their two feet.
There might even be those who need to stare at the ball at all times so they know where it is going. As players become very advanced later on in life, they can do this without even thinking, or without even looking.
The drill can start out stationary, but eventually, players want to move around while they are doing it. It is a great way to get loose before a match and work on ball control a little bit as well. The great thing about this drill, as well as others on this list as well, is that players can do everything away from the pitch. There is enough room in most yards to practice this drill and be perfectly fine.
2. Toe Touches
Another very basic drill players will work on even as they get to the professional ranks are toe touches. Not only does it help with ball control, but it helps warm the body up before a match as well. Being able to have complete control of the ball and hitting the right spot on top of the ball at all times can be very beneficial.
A player might not feel like they are doing everything with this drill, but it is always a good base to have this type of movement when chaining other skills together.
Building off of toe touches can be very easy for players, depending on the skill level. Many will realize that many drills all start with a simple toe touch, so getting this down early on will help significantly with ball control.
3. Basic Juggling
As players become more and more comfortable with the ball, working on basic juggling is a great first step. It is called basic because, for the most part, people are going to be focusing only on using their feet. They can start to juggle with other parts of the body, except, of course, with the arms and hands.
To start with, try juggling as many times as possible before the ball drops to the ground. After that, there can be chaining opportunities with this drill. For example, juggling a few times and then transitioning into a soccer play might be a way to improve ball control even more.
Juggling is something that has been around for a long time, and it requires next to no space. It is probably not recommended to do it indoors with so many things potentially breakable, but outdoors is a perfect opportunity. Juggling can be done individually, or with a group of people passing the ball for each turn.
I listed the best soccer balls for juggling in this post.
4. Specific Skill Juggling
Juggling by using any method necessary is one thing, but working on specific skills can be a more advanced way to go about it. In this scenario, juggling with just the knees and thighs, or maybe just the head, is a great way to become much more advanced.
Heading skills, in particular, are something that players do not practice as much as they should. It is a skill that becomes more and more important as a player moves up the ranks, so getting a good feel for headers at an early age will be beneficial. There are different types of headers people need to pull off, but building touch and ball control by juggling is the best way to go.
To incorporate a different type of move, players can juggle for a set amount of time and then finish off with a more powerful shot. For example, a player might try to juggle the ball with their head five times, and then finish with a powerful directional header that mimics a pass or a shot. There are ways to be creative with juggling, and it becomes a game within a game.
5. Wall Passes
A player does not necessarily need a partner to work on ball control. This is true for dribbling techniques, but what about passing? Wall passes are a great way to improve ball control and get a feel for picking the ball up at different speeds.
Every single person should start close to the wall and make short passes at first. Even advanced players will use it as a bit of a warm-up before moving back further and further. Make sure to keep great technique with passing at all times, as it is kind of tempting to try to pull off crazy moves from time to time.
6. The Cruyff
Named after one of the most famous players in soccer history, the drill helps with ball control and overall coordination on the pitch. Players needing to improve their footwork will get a big boost in agility, balance, and even a little bit of dexterity.
The Cruyff is very similar to the inside-out move. The goal is to push the ball with the outside of a foot to one side, and then pulling off a turn. To do that, put the ball back in the same direction with the same foot, but take it behind the standing leg. Players need to be able to do this on both sides, so practice makes perfect.
Ideally, a player wants to get to the point that they are confident enough to turn on a dime. This is a very helpful move to evade a defender out on the pitch without making things too complicated. Having ball control with both feet is always essential, so make sure to get it down on both sides.
Players looking to increase their overall ball control and footwork should practice using the L-Cut. Not only will touch be improved, but overall technique will see a boost as well.
Players need to take the ball away from their defender when they are making a challenge. This exercise helps with that, as to start, the ball is in front of the feet. With one foot, drive the ball back and towards the side, opening the body up and keeping the ball slightly near the interior part of the foot. This move should mimic an L shape, which is where the drill gets its name from.
After starting the move, the goal is to grab the ball with the other foot and complete the action in an L shape in the opposite direction. Being able to switch both feet so easily will really build up a player’s confidence. Once it becomes a little easy, there are always ways to speed it up more and more as time goes on.
It might seem like a basic move, but sometimes the basic skills will make the biggest difference. Many players try to do too much when a defender comes for a challenge, but this can be a very practical move at all types of levels.
Why Ball Control Matter So Much
A lot of the drills for ball control might seem pretty basic, but they become that much more difficult in real action. It is best to get these down so they will become second nature when actually on the pitch. A lot of players who do not practice will become overwhelmed when a defender comes.
Some of the practice might seem tedious, but it helps out players of all skill levels in the end. Do not be afraid to try something new in practice, and that level of confidence will seep over to the game.