If you dream of being the best soccer player that you possibly can, then it will require a lot of hard work and training.
Even the most talented soccer players in the world needed practice to hone their skills, and allow them to perform to the best of their ability.
In particular, one skill that you will really need to develop if you want to be a successful soccer player is dribbling.
This is something that every soccer player will need to know, no matter what position they play, and it really is essential to being good at the game.
But how can you improve your dribbling skills and become more dominant with the ball?
Well, we’re going to tell you in this handy guide with 10 excellent dribbling exercises guaranteed to improve your handling ability of the ball, and make you a better soccer player.
Understanding Soccer Ball Control Drills
Before we get into the drills themselves, we need to take an important look at how these drills will impact your ability to dribble.
You may think that becoming an excellent soccer player depends entirely on your ability to touch the ball, but there are so many things you need to be good at to play this game well. Dribbling is just one of them.
Don’t get us wrong, dribbling, the ability to get a good first touch, and overall control of the ball are vitally important. But, to be good at these, you also need to develop skills in other areas.
You need to practice your agility, build up speed, manage your dexterity with the ball, develop your power, stealth and so much more. Dribbling is just one skill, but there are so many things that go into getting good at it.
Additionally, to get good at dribbling, you also need to develop your touch, technique, and even your footwork.
These skills combined will help keep the ball closer to your feet, which in turn will make dribbling it easier. Keeping the ball close to your feet will help you pick up pace and side step opponents without losing control.
So, what we’re trying to say is that dribbling isn’t a single skill, instead it is made up of lots of different skills.
That means that the dribbling drills we are about to look at not only work on dominating the ball and dribbling, but they will help you develop lots of other skills too. All in all, this will help make you a more rounded soccer player.
With no further ado, let’s take a look at the 10 best dribbling drills to improve ball control and dominance.
Number One: Target Practice
This first dribbling drill includes using a wall to improve your skills, and requires you to set up a target on that wall.
Setting a target can help you enhance your accuracy, footwork, and striking technique, simply because you have something to focus your efforts on.
Some people choose to simply visualize a target for this purpose in their minds, others choose to physically mark the spot using cones, jumpers or marking tape.
No matter what you choose, you will need to set up this target before you do anything else.
Once you have decided what your target is, you will want to take a couple of steps back from the wall.
This allows you to either strike the ball with your laces, or use the inside of your foot to make a placement shot. A placement shot will allow you to identify how on, or off, the target your hits are.
After that is done, you should then move onto practicing your shots. Start off with the stationary shot until you master this, and when you do move onto practicing your one touch shooting, and ball control skills.
Only once you have done this should you start to introduce dribbling into the run-up to taking your shot.
Begin by dribbling around a cone or two before you make a shot, then build up to using the wall as another ‘player’ to make passes before you shoot.
You may not realize it, but this drill will make your footwork, and hence your dribbling skills, better.
Number Two: Dribbling
This might seem like an obvious one, but one of the best ways to improve your close ball skills, to gain dominance, and to get better at dribbling is to simply dribble.
After all, practice makes perfect, and at the heart of close contact ball control is dribbling. So, the more that you do it, the better you will become.
There are lots of ways that you can practice dribbling, but one drill that seems to be very effective is to set up a series of cones, and dribble through them.
This specific exercise is great because it allows you to make the activity as easy or complex as you want.
Therefore, allowing you to advance the difficulty as you gain more confidence and control over the ball.
So, to begin with, simply line up a set of cones, and begin dribbling the ball around them. This might seem easy in your head, but it might actually be a lot more difficult than you expect.
This type of exercise can make you pick up on a lot of mistakes you may not realize that you are making when dribbling on the pitch.
As well as enhancing your form, you can also use this activity to build up your skills. Start off with an easy set up, then begin to arrange the cones into more complex patterns to make the activity more challenging.
This activity also allows you to work specifically on your weaker foot, which can really help your overall ball control.
Number Three: Juggling
Alternatively, another great way to improve your control is to juggle the ball. We don’t mean juggle the ball with your hands, instead we mean juggling with your feet, which is essentially the same as doing kick ups with the ball.
This technique is great fun, and it is also good training because it allows you to use different parts of your body to prevent the ball hitting the floor.
Throughout this training exercise, you cannot use your hands, other than to drop the ball at the beginning.
Once that ball hits your foot for the first time, it is then your job to keep it in the air using your feet, knees, thighs, chest, and even head, to keep it from falling.
Due to this, you really get a full body exercise, and it also allows you to improve your close contact with not only your feet, but other body parts too.
Again, this is an activity that looks a lot easier than it actually is, and you might be surprised how long it takes you to get good at it.
The best way to master this activity is to only make short, sharp movements and develop a rhythm. This will help manage your balance and control, and make keeping the ball up easier.
Once you master basic juggling, you can make the activity even more difficult by limiting the body parts that you are able to use. You can even limit yourself to just using your weaker foot to keep the ball up.
Overall, this allows you to improve your close contact ready for playing soccer on the field.
Number Four: Toe Taps
Keeping the focus on your feet, another way to improve your control is by doing toe taps. These seem to be very simple activities, and because of this it can be difficult to see how they will improve your ability to control the ball.
However, these are an essential part of improving close contact ability, and something that all soccer players will do in their career, so let’s have a look at how you do them.
Toe taps are a simple way to improve your accuracy, balance, control, and conditioning. They require you to place the ball stationary on the floor, and then to just place one foot on the ball and take it off.
After you have done it with one foot, you should then repeat this activity with the other.
Like we said, on the surface, this activity seems to be very easy, but in reality they simply aren’t.
This activity really challenges your coordination and concentration, and you might not realize how bad your balance is until you try this drill out. Especially as you begin to pick up speed.
With soccer drills, you will often find that it is the ones which seem very easy that actually end up being the most difficult. So don’t avoid doing this one because you think it is easy, it might actually teach you a lot about your soccer skills.
Number Five: Wall Passes
Moving back to drills that include the use of a wall, you have wall passes. This is an activity that you probably will have completed before, but you might not have been aware of all the great benefits that come from completing wall passes.
This drill not only allows you to work on your footwork and control, but it also allows you to practice passes and striking at the same time.
To begin this activity, you should stand a few meters away from a wall and start striking the ball. But remember, when you strike that ball it is going to come right back at you, so be prepared for the rebound.
This allows you to essentially pass the ball back and forth at the wall to help improve your passing ability, and also your ability to anticipate where the ball is coming from.
Once you have done this fairly close to the wall, you can begin making it more difficult by increasing the distance between you and the wall.
This might mean that you need to run to catch the rebound passes, which will improve your skills and also allow you to get some exercise done too.
The main reason that wall passes are such a great drill is because they challenge you both mentally and physically, allowing you to improve your skills in all aspects.
Number Six: Rollover Dribble
Another great way to improve your close contact ball control is to do a drill known as a rollover dribble. This activity helps you to improve your touch, ball control and dribbling ability.
It can also help you refine your technique, which will help improve your performance out on the field.
This type of drill is one that comes with lots of different variations. But generally, all of these variations have one main principle, and that is that you use the sole of your foot to control the ball and move it to wherever you want the ball to go.
Some variations of this activity will see you keep the ball in one stationary spot, simply rolling it around beneath your foot.
Another will try to get you to dribble the ball through a series of cones, only use the sole of your foot.
The best thing to do is start off with an easier option. So begin by staying stationary until you are able to pick up speed doing this.
Only once you have picked up speed should you then move onto physically moving the ball while you dribble.
After you have mastered moving with the ball, you can then improve your confidence by doing this backward, or by picking up speed until you are moving fairly fast.
But remember, you must only use the sole of your feet when you are doing a rollover dribble. If you use other parts of your foot, you are not doing this drill correctly, so you will not see the full benefits of it.
Number Seven: Heading
You might be confused how improving your heading ability can improve your close contact ball handling. But, you don’t really get much closer to a ball than it physically hitting your head.
So, while close contact soccer does include your feet, it also includes your head, so it is important that you work on these skills too.
Headers very often come up in a soccer match, so you don’t want these to let you down. That is why it is so important that you practice them.
There are lots of different ways that you can do this drill. Some people choose to use a wall to throw the ball against, and then header off the bounce of it.
Others choose to have a friend or family member throw the ball at their head.
Whichever method you choose, drilling headers will not only improve your ability to do them, but it will work on a lot of your other skills too.
Practicing headers will also allow you to better your ability to anticipate the movement of your ball, and it will also help you improve your jumping skills.
These skills won’t only come in handy when doing headers, but they will also help in other areas of the game.
While headers are a common part of any soccer game, they are something that a lot of players struggle with. So, while you are doing other drills, don’t forget to practice your headers too!
Number Eight: The Cruyff Turn
The next two drills that we are going to look at operate on a very similar level to one another. They are very similar to one another, and both are a great challenge for your coordination and control.
Additionally, the Cruyff also helps with balance, dexterity, agility, and lots more. So, this activity is guaranteed to help with dominating ball control.
To complete ‘the Cruyff’ or the ‘Cruyff turn’ as it is also known, you want to take the outside of your dominant foot, and use this to push the ball to one side of your body. You will then complete a ‘Cruyff turn’.
To do this, you will take control of the ball after pushing it away from your body, but you will do so by bringing the ball behind your leg, so that it moves in a circle.
You will continue doing this, moving forward, so you are essentially kicking the ball away from you, and passing it around your body with one foot, and then the other, as you move.
When you first begin doing this, you will likely be very slow, but as you build up the skill, you can increase the speed and then the difficulty.
Not only is this drill improving skills that you will use on the field, but it is also teaching you how to do a ‘Cruyff turn’ which you can then use in games to turn on the spot and evade the opposition.
So, if you want to improve your close ball control, then the Cruyff turn is a great way to do this.
Number Nine: The Inside Out
As we said, this drill is fairly similar to the Cruyff turn as it focuses on your coordination, control, and footwork simultaneously.
It is also similar as both the inside out and the Cruyff turn both teach you a specific skill that can be used when you are up against an opponent on the pitch, to actively keep hold of the ball.
To do the inside out, you must begin with the ball between your feet. With one foot, push the ball with the outside of your foot, so that it moves 1-2 steps away from you.
With the same foot that you just used, you then need to stop the ball from moving too far away (using the inside of that foot). To do this, you should tap the ball back the way that you just hit it from.
When the ball then hits your opposite foot, you should repeat the same move, but going in the opposite direction.
The theory behind this is that you continue doing this until you can do so seamlessly, keeping the ball under control at all times.
Once you have mastered doing this trick on your own, you will then be able to do it on the soccer field if you need to dodge an opponent that is fairly close to you.
Of the Cruyff turn and the inside out, the inside out is definitely the easier option. But both are excellent skills to develop by doing drills off the field, so that you can use them in a game.
Number Ten: The L Cut
Finally, we come to a drill known as the L cut. This is excellent for working on touch and technique, and also great for enhancing your ball control and footwork.
So all in all, it is a very well-rounded soccer drill. Just like the two previous drills we have looked at, this is another that is great for getting the ball away from an oncoming defender, so it is vital that you know how to do it.
For this exercise, you once again begin with the ball by your feet. Taking your dominant foot, you should begin to drag the ball backwards, and to one side (in an L shape) using your studs.
Simultaneously, you open your body out, ready to cushion the ball forwards with the interior of your foot.
Once this is done, you then need to take a hold of the ball with the studs of your second foot. You can then repeat this motion, moving the ball back and forth between your two feet until you get the hang of it.
After you have mastered it, you can then pick up speed to increase the difficulty.
Just like the last two drills we have looked at, the L cut is a handy skill to master because you never know when you might need to use it. So this is a great drill to practice for ball control.
In short, there you have it. In this guide, we’ve given you 10 different drills that you can complete to help improve your dribbling and close control ball skills.
So, if you want to improve your skills on and off the field, then check them out.