Soccer Foot Skills: Components for Success
"Foot Skills" is quite an encompassing term that technically covers any time your foot touches the ball. Therefore, "foot skills" is an umbrella term that involves when you dribble, when you shoot, when you pass, when you receive a pass, when you juggle,... However, for this article, we are going to be addressing the receiving of a pass (ball comfort) and dribbling with the ball (using soccer moves). Let's dive into a few of the essential factors to have in quality foot skills to be able to dominate your opponents.
Something sad to see with young soccer players is that they often spend more time practicing skills they will hardly ever use. One example of this is the countless players I see work on taking shots from the top of the 18-yard box, with the ball stopped, and they aren't even their team's free-kick taker. Practicing this way is disheartening because to have success in soccer, one of the first, if not the primary areas of soccer that you should develop is your first touch. Why? Because to shoot a ball, make a pass, or attempt to dribble like Lionel Messi, you need to be able to receive a pass. Sounds simple enough, but so many soccer players assume that once they can trap a ball relatively well, they don't need to work on their first touch anymore. The truth of the matter is that you should start by being able to trap/stop a soccer ball, but need to quickly develop trapping the ball into taking a first touch with the ball. The quickest way to make someone that is not a fast runner into one of the fastest soccer players is for them to develop their first touch. Having a great ability to be able to take an attacking touch into space in the direction that you want to go to help your team achieve its objectives will make you very shifty, very quick, and a speedy soccer player. Though, being able to sprint quickly sure does help. Keep in mind that most high school soccer players are going to be better soccer players than Usain Bolt (the fastest man on the planet) because he has a terrible first touch because he does not practice and developed it.
Control of Your Body
Some may call this having strength, but strength is much more one dimensional than having total body control. Being able to adjust your body position swiftly, move with quick agility, and quickly get your feet off the ground will increase your ability to develop your foot skills tremendously. One way to improve the control of your body is to be active and on your toes. Now, you have probably heard that saying many times in your life or have given it many times in your life, but a quick way to ensure that you are on your toes is to make sure you check to your passes. Checking to your passes means that you don't wait for the ball to come to you, you must go to it. This is important because if you're moving towards the ball, it will naturally put you on your toes, which will make it easier for you to adjust your body's position to be able to receive a pass. However, if you are making me a run and your teammate is playing you a through ball, then don't worry about checking to your pass. It is the person making the pass that's responsible for having enough pace on the ball, so that it does not get intercepted.
"Ball control" is having comfort and confidence when you have the ball. Ball control is the ability to advance with the soccer ball, without giving up possession to the opposing team. Ball control is crucial for all soccer players when dribbling, regardless of what position they play. This comfort comes with know what portion of the foot to use and when to use it. There are multiple portions of your foot that you can strike a ball with and each has their benefits and drawbacks. Similarly, when receiving a pass, there are numerous portions of the inside of your foot that are useful for taking your first touch and with the outside part of your foot too. For example, when receiving the ball with the inside of your foot, receiving it towards your heal will make it easier for the ball to bounce off of your foot, which creates an excellent attacking touch. Taking a touch with the inside of your foot, by your toes, is better for completely stopping the ball with your first touch. However, taking a touch with the inside of your foot, by your toes, while also moving your leg slightly backward as you take the first touch will allow for you to slow the ball, but not having it come to a complete stop. Moving the leg backward is effective when you have looked behind yourself before receiving a pass to see you have room to turn and attack with the soccer ball, without limiting your speed.
Being more explosive, agile, and faster than your opponent is one thing, but knowing how to get the ball by him or her while maintaining possession is another. If you are faster than the defending you are going up against, then don't worry too much about doing a move. Merely push the ball by them and explode to keep up with the ball, assuming that they don't have another defender behind them to steal the ball away if you push it too far. However, if your speeds are comparable or they're a little bit faster, then doing a foot skill, such as a Jab Step or a La Croqueta will allow you to maintain possession of the ball and successfully dribble by the defender. You must push and explode by the defender to ensure that you can get by them successfully to create the time to pass, shoot, dribble, think, look at both teams' positioning, or whatever else you may need to do.
Often, its said that "practice makes perfect." However, this saying should be taken one step further by saying "perfect practice makes perfect." This distinction is crucial because so many soccer players practice, but they practice incorrectly. It is important to realize that practicing the wrong thing over and over will not make you a better soccer player. More time spent does not always mean time well spent. You can train individually, with a teammate, or in a group. However, when working independently, you can often go faster with your training, as you do not have to wait for others. However, some players tend to be more likely to train when there are others around, so find what works best for you. Pairing up with a teammate is also a great way to improve your soccer passing in a way that is often more difficult by yourself. Furthermore, something that is super helpful when practicing dribbling with a teammate is each one of you taking turns attacking and defending to improve each of your abilities on the soccer field.
Check out the book Soccer Dribbling & Foot Skills: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Dribble Past the Other Team to read more on these areas and other areas relevant to the soccer player such as shooting, mindset, passing, defending, nutrition, and many more.