Ball control is the bedrock of soccer skills. It's the art of manipulating the ball with precision, enabling players to outmaneuver opponents, execute intricate plays, and ultimately excel on the field. For young soccer players ball control is a key competency for long term success. Building a strong foundation in ball control is pivotal. Whether you're just starting your soccer journey or aiming to enhance your skills, this blog post is here to help.
To help us with this post we reached out to Coach Wilmer Gonzales of Olimpia USA Soccer. Olimpia is a friend of Ohio Soccer Moms and Dads and a Premier OSMD Insider (Paid Sponsor). You may recall a post from earlier in the year where we introduced Olimpia USA Soccer and they commitment to community and inclusivity, you can read that post here.
These first three topics are important for all players
1. Work on Your Dribbling - EVERY DAY!
Dribbling is the heart and soul of ball control in soccer. The more you practice, the better you become. Start with the basics: maintain a head-up posture, use both the inside and outside of your feet but especially your laces, and master directional changes. “The core to good dribbling is with your laces,” shared Coach Wilmer Gonzales. Once you've got the hang of these fundamentals, introduce dribbling exercises into your daily routine. Cone drills, speed dribbling, and 1v1 challenges are excellent ways to level up your dribbling game.
2. Practice Juggling
Juggling is not only an entertaining way to improve your ball control but also an exercise in coordination. Begin by kicking the ball into the air and use various parts of your body to keep it from touching the ground. Gradually incorporate both feet and increase the number of touches before the ball touches the ground.
3. Focus on First Touch
Your first touch can make or break a play. It sets the stage for your next move. When the ball comes your way, concentrate on controlling it with the part of your body that offers the most control, whether that's the inside or outside of your foot, your chest, or your thigh. Practice receiving passes with different body parts, adjusting to the pace and surface of the ball.
The next two topics are especially important for older players but should be a part of every player's development.
1. Strengthen Your Legs and Feet
A robust lower body is essential for effective ball control. Your legs and feet provide stability and power. Incorporate exercises such as ankle hops, toe raises, and calf raises into your workout routine to bolster your lower legs and improve ball control. Many soccer-specific strength exercises such as squat jumps, lunges and box jumps can help build leg strength.
2. Prioritize Balance and Core Strength
Balance and core strength are often underestimated but critical components of exceptional ball control. Your core acts as a stabilizer, allowing you to maintain balance while executing intricate moves. To enhance your ball control, incorporate exercises that target your core and improve balance into your training regimen. Planks, stability ball exercises, and yoga can be highly effective in strengthening your core and improving your overall stability. A strong core will not only make you more resilient on the field but also significantly boost your ball control skills, enabling you to maneuver through tight spaces and maintain control even under pressure. So, remember to add balance and core strengthening exercises to your routine to take your ball control to the next level.
Coach Gonzales added that “Ball control and first touch are the key to becoming a top player. At Olimpia we focus on skills and agility for 30 minutes of every single practice.” Improving your ball control in soccer is a journey that demands consistent practice and dedication. By incorporating these tips and exercises into your training regimen, you'll be well on your way to elevating your ball control skills. Remember that patience and persistence are key. Keep practicing, have fun, and watch your soccer skills grow. The path to becoming a skilled soccer player starts with mastering the basics of ball control.