What’s the most basic skill in soccer? Kicking the ball? Perhaps. But without the ability to dribble, the great kickers of the game would just be stuck in the middle of the pitch trying to score 50-yard goals.
Dribbling is the ability to move the ball from one point on the soccer field to another without the assistance of another player. The ability to perform this skill effectively can be the key to unlocking stiff defenses and creating opportunities to score goals (from less than 50-yards out).
Table of Contents
- The Basics of Dribbling a Soccer Ball
- Level Up Your Dribbling
- Drills to Improve your Dribbling
- One vs One Dribbling
- 1v1 Solo Drills
The Basics of Dribbling a Soccer Ball
Learning how to dribble a soccer ball can really only be done by practice. However, there are some fundamentals to understand, to make you a better dribbler.
Using the inside of the foot
Let’s start with the very basic inside of the foot dribble.
- Place your ball in front of you. Stand over it in the “ready” position with knees slightly bent and feet shoulder width apart.
- Look down at the ball and tap it forward at a 45 degree angle with the inside of your foot.
- Step forward with the other foot and tap the ball forward again, using the same angle and part of your foot.
- Repeat these steps until you are ready to stop
This is the most basic form of dribbling a soccer ball. Using the inside of the foot gives the most control over the ball and the most protection against defenders taking the ball away from you (when your foot is alongside the ball, the only way to get to the ball is to kick your foot, and that’s a foul!)
Dribbling with the laces
You can also advance the ball by using a “laces” or instep dribble, dribbling with the top of the foot. This technique is usually reserved for higher-paced dribbling. The steps are similar to inside foot dribbling except that you won’t be pushing the ball forward at such an angle. The motion will resemble kicking the ball, but you’ll be pushing it forward as you run.
To start with, your plant foot shouldn’t be too close to the ball when your dribbling foot touches it. Your toes will be pointing down, firmly, so that you can push the ball with the laces area.
As you progress to moving at a faster pace, taking a touch with each step will be the goal. This will keep the ball close and give you more control. You can only push the ball far ahead of you if you have the space and a defender isn’t in the vicinity.
Using the outside of the foot
You can dribble with the outside of your foot; however, that skill is to be used in conjunction with other dribbling. Dribbling with the outer part of the foot will enable you to make quick changes in direction, so then, it is good to practice touching the ball frequently with that part of the foot.
Using the sole of the foot
The sole of the foot is not generally used to advance the ball at speed, but more for small movements and to keep the ball away from your opponent. Using the sole gives you the versatility of being able to easily change direction.
Level Up Your Dribbling
As you are practicing and becoming more comfortable with the ball, keep in mind the following:
Keep the ball close
One of the most important things in performing these basic drills is to make sure that the ball stays close to your foot no matter what part of the foot you are using. Don’t let the ball fly off away from you so that you have to chase it. Stay in control of your movements and the ball. If a defender is around when the ball flies off, they will take possession away from you.
Get your head up
In a game situation, you need to remain aware of what’s happening around you on the pitch, look for passes etc. So being able to look up while keeping control of the ball is very important.
Practice with both feet
No matter which technique you are practicing, make sure you involve both feet. Being able to take the ball in any direction will make you harder to read as a player. You will maintain the element of surprise instead of your opponents being able to predict your next move.
Drills to Improve your Dribbling
Of course, it is rare that you’ll be able to dribble in a straight line up and down the pitch without being impeded by a defender or the touch line. So then, the next step in becoming a good dribbler is experimenting with changes of pace and direction. If dribbling in a straight line makes a player’s movement predictable, changing speed and direction can help make one unpredictable.
Try these drills. You’ll need some training marker cones to get started.
- Set up two cones in a straight line about 20 yards apart.
- Start with the ball at one cone. Dribble to the other cone.
- Go back and forth between the cones, changing the speed, stopping and starting. Use as many parts of your feet as you can (inside foot, laces, etc.) Make sure you retain good control of the ball that the ball doesn’t roll far away from you.
- Set up four cones in a straight line. Leave a few yards in between each cone.
- Start at one cone, dribble past the inside of one, then the outside of another until you reach the fourth cone.
- Go back the same way you came!
- Make a square with four cones about ten yards apart.
- Place one cone in the center.
- Dribble in “triangles” from one cone to the other.
- Go around the outside of the cones, inside, and use all parts of the feet.
- Remember to change speeds often.
- Set up two cones 40 yards apart.
- Dribble between the cones, but at a full sprint.
- Controlling a soccer ball while running at top speed is more difficult than you think. Rather than kicking the ball and chasing it, keep the ball close to your feet.
These drills will help you with your “game speed” dribbling. You are trying to mimic real game situations, so use your imagination. Have imaginary defenders getting in your way, for example.
One vs One Dribbling
One online article complained that dribbling the ball is becoming a lost art. One only has to few the thousands of “skill” videos of various professional players online to see that isn’t quite the case.
Perhaps it isn’t that the art is lost, it is that it has become less important in the modern game. Most offenses rely on quick movement of the ball from player to player to create goal-scoring chances. With the strength and speed of defenders, it is rare that one player can unlock the defense alone. So then, managers and coaches want to see quick passes rather than dribbling. That doesn’t mean the one vs one dribbling skill is becoming useless. It is an important ability for any field player to have, and now even goalkeepers are required to have some ability on the ball.
Learning how to “take on” another defender 1v1 is an acquired skill learned in the heat of battle. You can prepare yourself and make yourself better. However, it is best if you are working against a real person and not a cone, wall or rebounding net.
1v1 dribbling involves more than just a change of speed and direction. You may be able to dribble past a defender if you have superior speed and quickness. However, you should learn to rely on trickery rather than raw talent. You want to be able to make a defender try to take the ball from you. While they make the attempt, you dribble around, past or through them. You will need to make body movements to make the defender think you are going in a direction you aren’t. These kinds of movements can include a variety of techniques. You can:
- Head and shoulder fake
- Stutter step
- Step over the ball
- Fake a pass
- Pull back (roll the foot over the top of the ball, pulling it toward you and away from the defender)
- Double kick (tap from one foot to the other and then knock the ball past the defender)
You can search videos of legendary players, some of them, like Johan Cruyff and Diego Maradona have turns named after them. Alternatively, you can be creative and come up with your own moves.
When you approach the defender and your plan is to dribble past them, you should always attack them head on. Don’t give them the luxury of being able to guess where you are going. If you pick a side and dribble to that side, you are doing part of the defender’s job for them.
Use small touches on the ball until you are past the defender. Don’t run at them with the ball a foot away from you. That makes it easy for the defender to gain possession.
Another key element of 1v1 take-ons is to work within small spaces. When trying to beat a defender in practice, work against them in a small 20×20 foot zone, and punish yourself if the ball goes outside that zone.
Grab a friend, set up a zone and take turns trying to dribble past each other. At first, if you are both beginners, offer only a token defense until you are both confident about your skills.
1v1 Solo Drills
There may be occasions where you are unable to find a friend to help you practice your 1v1 dribbling skills. You can still work to perfect your abilities by yourself. Get out your cones. Rather than setting up a line to run through or around, drop several cones randomly within a 10×10 space. Then, try to dribble from one side of the space to the other without knocking over any cones.
Sometimes, the way to win a 1v1 situation is to simply pass the ball. If you are surrounded by several “cones” as in the above drill, maybe you just need to get rid of the ball. Use your head as well as your feet.
There are all sorts of creative ways to work on your skills. United States Women’s National Team veteran Tobin Heath thinks of dribbling through several defenders as a problem to be solved with her mind as well as her feet. Set up a problem for you to solve and work on perfecting your 1v1 skill.
Which part of the foot do you use to dribble with?
There are 4 main parts you can use when dribbling, depending on the situation: Laces, inside, outside, sole