Over the weekend a player parent overheard me advising a young player to skip practicing dribbling and work on passing and trapping. When the young player had left the parent stepped up and asked what I meant by “skip practicing dribbling”.
“Dribbling is such a small part of the game, or should be,” I replied, “that time is better spent on more important things like trapping and passing.”
Their puzzled look told me I needed to explain further.
“Kids dribble naturally, not well but they can move the ball from a very young age. They can’t trap the ball well. They have trouble passing instead of dribbling. I believe they need to trap well and think about passing not running with the ball.
“If a player is dribbling the ball all over the field he’s not playing soccer, it’s not good for the team. The ball hog may appear to be a skilled player but he is a detriment to his team.”
She nodded at the term ‘ball hog’.
Look, knowing how to dribble well is important in soccer, it is part of ‘controlling the ball’ that every team strives for. However, when we look at how much time is spent dribbling and how much more important the first touch and a quick distribution is dribbling pales in importance. When we add in off the ball movement which makes up as much as 95% of a players game dribbling becomes almost insignificant in importance.
When we have 3-4 hours per week, or less at lower ages, to train our players we must focus on core skills that create better players faster. But, if a coach is incorporating proper drills, touch warmups, the 1,000 touch workout, etc., dribbling naturally becomes part of practice, we’re just not spending 40% of our time running dribble slaloms. And that’s not to say that adding a fun dribble game in a practice once a month isn’t a great idea. Just don’t spend hours of valuable practice time on a skill that is less important than the core soccer skills.
Remember, I believe in training the 20% that makes up 80% of the game. With limited time we as coaches focus on those things that will best benefit our players and team.
Here’s a drill idea if you have an issue with ‘no dribbling drills’:
- Pair your players up and have the partners stand 20-30 yards away from each other.
- Each pair has one ball and each player stands at a cone with a short slalom of cones set out in front of them.
- A player passes the ball to his partner who must cleanly trap the ball then dribble through the cones and pass the ball back.
- This is repeated.
The distance can be set near or far to train short and long passing with trapping.
The slalom can be set at various angles so that the player can practice trapping directionally.
Two sets of slalom cones can be set out at 45′ angles from the starting cone and the receiver will alternate the direction of his trap and movement.
We can incorporate all sorts of skills into a single drill which will help make our practices more efficient.
One thing I really don’t like seeing is a long line of young kids waiting to dribble through a line of cones for 20 minutes. That to me is a sign of a coach who does not know how ti fill practice time effectively or does not understand the game of soccer.
Skip the dribbling drills and teach your players to trap, pass and move.