Probably the single most important thing a child can learn in soccer is to be comfortable with the ball at their feet. And the most effective way to establish and enhance that comfort is to give players multiple touches on the ball i.e. increase their foot skills. Ball Mastery exercises provide the foundation for ball control. Players experiment with various exercises which include all surfaces of the foot in a small, contained area. Progression will be from simple to complex and from low intensity to high. First touch, close control, coordination, and rhythm are all developed.
Foot skills should be the foundation of every practice session no matter how young or how old the child is. Why? Because:
• Working on foot skills at the beginning of a practice session is a good way to warm up.
• You can easily adjust the complexity of the skill depending upon the age and skill level you are coaching.
• There is always a way to progress to harder and harder skills
• You get multiple touches on the ball right away.
• Done at speed it can be a good aerobic training tool and is much more effective, overall, than running laps
• As time passes, and mastery is achieved, the skill becomes instinctive and you’ll see it be used in a game unconsciously.
Let me provide an example that we may all be more familiar with, hitting a baseball. Hitting a baseball may be one of the hardest overall skills in sports. There are a lot of different muscular movements, which require coordination, involved in hitting a baseball. Some of them are bat position, stance, head (and therefore eye) position, bat movement, feet movement, hip movement, etc. etc. If a player had to think about all of them before he actually did something the child wouldn’t be able to hit a beach ball. But after sufficient practice, hitting a ball becomes so instinctive that a large percentage of the population under the age of 15 can actually do it.
The same can become true for our soccer players. Multiple touches on the ball builds confidence and most of all, builds the kinesiology, the brain/muscle coordination, that makes a first touch on the ball instinctive. Checkout the videos for examples of ball mastery skills coaches can include into their practices and also for players to practice at home.
At NGS we have 5 levels of Ball Mastery Skills – Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Master and Pro Level.
Challenge your players to master all the skills and take their game to the next level!
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