Get Better As A Player: 5 Simple Ways
Learning to Train at Home
If your player wants to get more time on the field for his or her team, have them engage in these activities on the off days, and watch as their confidence and skills grow. A few minutes with the ball every other day will work wonders.
As a player, I grew up without any technical coaching until I began to travel to play on other teams and go to residential camps. No kid in my neighborhood played soccer. Recreational league soccer was a drive across town, and you could not find a coach who had played the game. In my front yard, I had a goal made out of PVC, and in the back of the house a garage door that served as my kickwall. At camps in Indiana, Illinois, and California, like in my front yard at home. I was alone.
So I grew up with a ball in my front yard and a goal made out of PVC pipes my father had constructed Without even a friend to kick to, no keeper, and no coach, I realized I had to find a few ways to become a better player without these advantages.
My first step was to learn to juggle and breaking my record became my passion. I remember that early on, my record would increase by one, and it took a long time to get back as high as six, then seven, then nine. After I could get twenty or so juggles pretty regularly, my record pace accelerated. I would break my record by ten or twenty touches at a time. This was all mostly on the thighs, with some feet, and no bounces. The ground in front of my house was not smooth enough to allow juggling with a bounce. I had a paved driveway for that, and a special ball that had the cover torn off.
I remember summertimes when the World Cup was on, I would watch a half then run outside and juggle, dribble, shoot, and score. Then run back into the house to watch the next kickoff. I would spend days like this to get inspired by watching the game before I practiced in my front yard. Watch and emulate! Learn and copy what you see and like. But players who want to improve can work at these exercises for 30 minutes every other day for as long as they want to gain skills and confidence, for as long as they want to improve.
Hint: Watch the game as much as you can learn to watch like a student. Focus on individual players when they don’t have the ball and when they get it. What do they do to get open? What do they do with their first touch? What did they accomplish with their possession? On game days Watch a game and focus on a player who plays your position. Create a mental image of swerving a cross or settling a ball played from 70 yards away. I have won two championships as the final kicker in penalty kick shoot-outs, and I always had a mental image of my penalty kick.
5 simple ways
#1 BallTouch Exercises
Watch a YouTube Video of a BallTouch Exercise: http://youtu.be/J4Op9GxcPKg
Balltouch exercises involve rolling the ball using the various parts of the foot. These exercises can be learned while sitting in a chair.
Eventually as skill and balltouch improve the player can learn to balance while controlling the ball underfoot. After one month the entire skill-set will improve; confidence will improve; the kid gets better.
Create a juggling challenge environment: Juggling with the feet and thighs with a bounce or without a bounce (start with 50-100 touches/session). Juggle until you have set a record higher than three. Continue every day to beat your record. Push your record setting. Ten will seem like an infinity until twelve is easy and so on. Spend time lifting the ball off the ground with your foot and start to juggle from the ground. Juggle with the head for 3 minutes of every session, bouncing it straight up with the forehead and pushing up slightly from the knees. Juggling became my summer hobby. I pushed to reach 100, and that involved many touches. Whether I attained that goal or not, I was getting better.
#3 Cone Dribbling
Watch a YouTube Video of players doing Conework: http://youtu.be/dWcxpziRYyQ
Create a dribbling challenge environment: 5 minutes/day as many repetitions through a straight line maze as you can get without becoming dizzy. Space cones four feet apart for one week and slither through them, making soft, round turns rather than sharp angled cuts. Move the cones to three feet apart for week #2. You are looking to better your time, but also your control. Balancing speed and control is key. turning the “corner” in a tight close loop takes time to learn. Move the cones to two feet apart in week #3, and time yourself through the grid. Begin to put the cones in zigzag formations and produce sharper cuts to turn around the outside edge of the cones. Week four has the cones 1 foot apart, dribbling is between the feet, left to right, using the inside edge of the laces and the arch of the foot as well.
#4 Foot Squash:
Create a footsquash challenge environment: I can think of no other name for this game, but I would kick the ball off of our garage door, which was roughly the size of a goal. On the occasions I would lure a neighborhood kid to play against me, we would play squash, essentially. trying to hit a shot your opponent can’t return. I would offer a three-touch restriction for the suspecting neighbor kid and a one-touch restriction for myself.
Even if you can’t find a neighborhood kid to play, kicking the ball off of a flat surface to have it return is an excellent way to develop ball control. Played alone, receiving the ball as it comes back to you simulates playing pass with a second kid. This allows for the aspects of a) playing a ball properly and b) “trapping”–as it was called then–or settling–controlling a bouncing ball and getting a good first touch. It is important that proper kicking is practiced, with the side of the foot or the laces.
Watch a YouTube Video of Athens Soccer Academy Individual Training–Player Learning to shoot.–
I see many advanced players still do not shoot properly (driven ball), because they have never been taught, or they are afraid of stubbing their toe. Those residential soccer camps I mentioned in the intro taught me to learn to shoot on my own. That method informed me to teach kids to shoot. Athens Soccer Academy uses a modified version of that method to teach the proper mechanics for the instep drive.
Learning to kick with the laces involves learning to play a ball out of your hands, straight in the air, and developing the muscle coordination to transfer power from the kick at chest height to the shot with the ball on the ground. The soccer “shot” is known as the Instep Drive. A well driven ball is too rarely seen. Players typically come at the ball with their toe at an angle, and will generate lift and loss of power dynamics. Yet the instep drive is the basis for the shooter’s art.