Soccer is a wonderful tool that teaches children about competition, teamwork, and the importance of living an active lifestyle. Young kids should learn the fundamentals before trying to mimic the flashy trick shots that professionals use. The sooner a child understands the basics, the better their foundation will be going forward. Winning isn’t everything, but it’s a lot more fun than losing. Here are four important skills that every soccer beginner should work on:
- Ball Control
Getting comfortable with the ball at your feet is critical to competitors at all ages and skill levels. When the ball is headed your direction, you’ll need to know how to stop it near your body. This is commonly referred to as “settling the ball.” The easiest passes to receive will be gliding along the ground, but many times you’ll be forced to deal with bouncing balls or passes falling from the sky.
How to improve your ball control:
- Keep your eye on the ball. You’ve probably heard this advice hundreds of times, and that’s because it works.
- Receive passes gently by cushioning the ball with the inside of your foot. If you use too much power when moving your foot toward the ball, it’ll cause a “bad touch,” which means it will be hard to get to the ball before a defender does.
- Use your body to shield the ball from defenders. Position yourself in between the ball and the opposing players to give yourself more time to control the ball.
- Find a teammate (or a wall) to pass with so you can practice settling the ball. Even just 10 minutes of practice per day will make a huge difference.
Professional soccer players pass the ball over 20 times per game for good reason. Quick passes can confuse the defense, spreading out players and creating openings for your team to attack and score. While many beginners get nervous and panic, attempting to dribble past multiple defenders, it’s best to inform new players to pass if they see an open teammate nearby.
How to improve your passing:
- Use the inside of your foot, making a right angle (90 degrees) from your foot to the ball. Your planted foot will be facing straight ahead, and your passing foot will be facing out to the side. Open your hips. This makes the right angle much easier to obtain and helps ensure accuracy.
- Aim for the middle of the ball. Hitting beneath the ball causes it to fly in the air and contacting the ball too high will result in slow, inaccurate passes.
Navigating the field with the ball is known as dribbling. While your coaches will encourage more passing than dribbling in games, it’s important to know how to dribble when you are in a one-on-one situation with a defender.
How to improve your dribbling:
- Practice dribbling with both feet. Try using your laces (the top of your foot) to take small touches. Also, remember to practice dribbling with the inside and outside of your feet to increase your versatility as an attacker.
- Keep your arms down and out to your side. This will assist with balance while preparing to shield defenders away from the ball.
Sometimes the best offense is a great defense. It’s important to understand the basics of defending as soon as you begin playing soccer as a kid.
How to improve your defense:
- Don’t let your opponent dribble to the middle of the field. Position your body diagonally, directing him to take the route toward the sideline (away from the center where the goals are.)
- Wait until the offensive player makes a mistake before you try to steal the ball. Lunging in while the ball is near their feet is what the opposing player wants. It’s a trap! Once you stick your leg out for the ball, there’s a good chance they are going to get you off-balance and dribble past you.
- Stay on your toes. Standing flatfooted will undoubtedly leave you at a disadvantage.
Once you become comfortable with the basics of these four skills, you can begin to finetune your shooting, which is normally the first thing that kids want to learn (since scoring a goal is the most exciting.) Remember, in order to even be in a position to score, your team will likely have to complete multiple passes and dribbles while exhibiting adequate ball control and defensive practices.
The 422 Sportsplex in Pottstown, PA, teaches soccer at summer camps for kids ranging from pre-K to middle school. Our blend of fun and fundamentals show kids the importance of working together. Older children (including adults) can join our recreational but competitive leagues to put their skills to the test. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 610-323-9600 if you would like more information on any of our sports programs.