To improve in the game of soccer, players need to practice specific skills and have them down as much as possible. Failure to have a basic understanding of specific skills will prevent a player from progressing as much as they should.
These nine skills below should be practiced as much as possible, especially during the early stages of learning the game. Players can start to feel a lot more confident in their game so that they reach their maximum potential.
1. Full Match Fitness
Soccer players can’t survive at even lower levels without having a good amount of stamina and fitness. Since it is the most essential skill to train, there are no excuses for showing up out of shape heading into a soccer season.
When looking at a soccer match in its entirety, players are not really spending that much time sprinting. In fact, players will be walking on the field quite a bit to conserve energy as much as possible. However, when they do have to move around, they are fast. To be great under pressure situations, players must be able to speed up and slow down depending on the current situation.
How can a player get in top shape to play soccer at the highest levels? A lot of standard training in the offseason simply involves running distance. There needs to be a certain level of stamina so players can stay fresh the entire 90 minutes. Focusing only on stamina is not going to makea well-rounded soccer player though, as there is also the need to work on sprints as well. Alternate days for long-distance and speed training to keep the workouts fresh.
There is no need for a soccer ball, field, or anything that much resembles soccer at all. Sometimes, when people are stepping away from the game in general, it makes a lot of sense to work on fitness. Make sure to include a lot of running, but also some other lightweight, high rep exercises to build a body up as much as possible.
2. General Ball Control
One of the most basic skills in soccer is having quality ball control at all times. If a player can’t control the ball, they are not going to progress very far at any level of soccer. Controlling the ball means being able to take passes, shield defenders, and move the ball along in general.
So many people focus on the feet, and that is a great place to start. Simple dribbling exercises will allow people to improve their skill level with ball control. It is better to start at a slow pace and build up speed, rather than trying to go as fast as possible and hoping for the best.
Do not forget to work on ball control with other parts of the body as well. Whether it is the chest, thighs, the head, or any other spot besides the arms, having a very refined touch is hugely beneficial.
A lot of ball control drills are easy to do with just space and a soccer ball to work with. Some advanced options might require one other person, and that helps a lot with accepting passes. Another option people can go with instead of that is to find a wall or a rebounding net that mimics a pass.
Soccer is considered the ultimate team game, and a player will not make it very far if they hog the ball for too long. One of the most essential skills is passing, and finding the right windows of opportunity to make certain passes.
Getting the basics down with passing is crucial before trying anything tough. Start with basic passes at a relatively moderate speed to start. The focus should be on trying to determine the right amount power to get the ball to certain places. In some instances, a player needs to execute a short pass, while a long pass is also necessary at times.
As great as basic passing skill are, players need to graduate eventually to something a bit more advanced as well. That means making crisp passes at a faster speed, and even against defenders if possible. This is another type of training that only requires a few people to work on, but it can mimic match scenarios in a lot of ways.
Being able to pass accurately is going to open up so many different opportunities for players to have individual success as well. If the entire team knows how to pass at the right time, it will make life easier for everyone else.
4. Dribbling While Running
It does not get more basic than this for players just starting with soccer. Having the ability to dribble while running is a crucial skill, and some of the best players can do at very high speeds.
No one is going to be able to dribble as fast as they can sprint without the ball, but the goal is to get as close to that speed as possible. It is also not always about going to top speed, as very close dribbling in tight areas is just as important.
Practicing dribbling alone is a great starting point for anyone trying to develop their skills. Eventually, bringing on someone else to practice with will be a significant step as well. People can trade-off defending each other and putting pressure on the person working on their dribbling. It is a lot easier to dribble the ball without a defender, so learning how to navigate in traffic helps out a lot.
Work on dribbling with different parts of the foot as well. The more ways a person can comfortably dribble the ball and have a good amount of control, the better off they will be as a player. Sometimes, a big part of dribbling is just coming up with creative ways to get out of certain situations.
More advanced training can focus on dribbling in traffic, dribbling into more space, dribbling to buy time for a more strategic shot or pass, and so much more. Above all else, it is getting the dribbling part down and feeling confident being able to go in any direction.
5. Cutting With The Ball
With all the fancy footwork and dribbling moves out there, a simple cut is very essential. Players need to know how to cut to dribble the ball and change subtle direction that throws off opponents.
A cut in one direction or another needs to be purposeful to have success at higher levels. Defenders might not always be ready for a cut, so having a controlled move could be all a player needs to open something up.
Having the ability to cut with the ball will open up so many other different moves along the way as well. Even though some moves might seem very complicated, it all starts with a cut in many instances. The only way to practice this and see what works against the opposition is to go out there and play against someone who is playing actual defense. Having a few go-to moves with cuts can translate into a much more confident offensive player.
6. Turning With The Ball
To properly change direction in soccer, a player needs to know how to turn properly. This is a skill that is somewhat related to dribbling, but it gets its own category because it is so important.
Much like cutting above, turning accurately and at different times can throw off any competition out there. It is important to have many different turns in a player’s arsenal, so defenses do not know exactly where they are about to go. Learning early will allow for the basics to be set in stone, and then players can start to gain more and more confidence as time goes on.
Turning is a more advanced skill than cutting, so try to practice cutting first. Players who are very confident with turning will be able to add a whole new variety of moves. It also helps defensively, as a lot of the same footwork is used to stay in front of the competition.
No skill is more enjoyable to practice than shooting a soccer ball, so people should have no problem practicing the many different angles and distances out there. It also helps to practice shots off the dribble, shots off of the first touch, and any other type of variation that mimics real play.
A big part of practicing shooting, especially in the early stages, is focusing on how balls react when struck at certain speeds and parts of the ball. Players will start to learn how to put specific amounts of bend on the ball that can allow for a lot more precision overall.
Everyone has a dominant foot for a clean goal attempting shot, but it is essential to practice with the off-foot as well. The great players can score with either foot, especially in closer range. Becoming too dominant on one side or the other makes a player way too predictable.
8. First Touch Confidence
The first step with a first touch in soccer is to get the technique down as much as possible. One of the basic skills to learn at an early age is to control the ball without having it bounce away from the feet. To do that, the ankle needs to be in a locked position, and hitting the center of the foot makes a big difference. Players can provide a good amount of cushioning for the ball to land and allow for control right away.
Once a player becomes more confident with a simple first touch, they can begin to to focus on more advanced moves if they are necessary. Players do not always have the time or the positioning to take a first touch in the most basic way, so finding other ways to pull off great first touch is crucial.
Is attitude a skill? Some might argue against it, but there is no doubt that there is a mental aspect of the game of soccer. The people who have this type of mentality down will go a lot further in the sport simply by being determined.
No soccer player is perfect, and there is going to be adversity along the way. Maybe a player is having a terrible game, or they are not progressing as they feel like they should. When the going gets tough, having the right attitude can make or break a player.
All the clichés apply to soccer that apply to every other sport out there as well. Hard work and dedication to the craft is a skill that everyone needs to have. Without it, even a skillful player will eventually be passed up as someone unable to take that next step so many are hoping to witness.
Here is the full list of the most essential soccer skills
- Full Match Fitness
- General Ball Control
- Dribbling While Running
- Cutting With The Ball
- Turning With The Ball
- First Touch Confidence