The ability to dribble past an opponent is an invaluable asset to the player and team. It is another way of creating space, a prime factor in soccer.
This skill should be mostly performed in the attacking part of the field (forwards are generally the dribblers) and rarely in the defensive area. It is a difficult skill to perform, but one of flair and excitement.
Key elements in dribbling include a) close ball control, most using the inside the outside parts of the feet; b) good balance and body movement, including the ability to "feint;" c) development of running with the ball at different speeds and to really accelerate when necessary.
Remember, soccer cannot be played at a "breakneck" pace. We look for fluency of movement. There is a time to dribble and a time to pass the ball. If you decide to dribble and are facing your opponent, "attack" him with the ball. To delay can lose time and space.
Coach divides players into two groups. Group A positions themselves, like markers, inside the center circle at various points. Group B has a ball each. They dribble the ball, at a jogging pace, in, out and around the Group A players (no resistance given). Use all necessary parts of the feet. Develop your own style of dribbling, express yourself.
On the coach's whistle different skills can be accentuated: e.g. a) accelerating over a short distance; b) turning 180 degrees with the ball; c) using only one foot. After approximately two minutes change groups.
Rules: The ball should not leave the circle, touch another player or another ball.
Sometimes a forward may receive the ball with his back to the goal and an opponent in close attendance. It may be necessary for the forward to screen the ball. If the opponent attempts to oppose him, the forward, by keeping his body between the opponent and the ball, may be able to maneuver around and go past the opponent.
Body contact is generally made; therfore, strength and balance play an important role. The ball is close to the feet, head down and eyes on the ball.
Set up these one-against-one situations in practice.
(Note: Keeping the eyes fixed on the ball certainly is not always necessary. To be able to keep close possession of the ball, yet see two or three yards in front of you is a technique to be mastered.)
Because they are related, I would like to mention in this column running with the ball. Sometimes opportunities are created which allow a player to run with the ball over longer distances (30 to 40 yards).
So that momentum is not affected and maximum speed can be retained, the ball should be pushed forward several yards; it is not necessary to keep it close. The part of the foot used for this is the outside part of the instep. By doing this, no "hesitation" in the run is caused. Playing with the ball inside of the feet would alter and interfere with the stride.
Practice should include these types of "stretch" runs with the ball.