“Every time I went away I was deceiving my mum. I’d tell her I was going to school but I’d be out on the street playing football. I always had a ball on my feet.” – Ronaldo
A skilled dribbler like Ronaldo can destroy even the best-organized defenses and embarrass opponents with slick footwork and improvisation. His perfected technique, combined with strength, control, speed, and awareness of other players on the field make him an masterful dribbler that leaves his fans in awe.
Dribbling is a form of self-expression. You may not be able to control the opposition, if someone passes you the ball, or how your teammates are going to react in a play but when you have that ball, you OWN that ball. All eyes are on you and how you manage that ball will determine how successful you will be in this game.
All exciting players can dribble a ball in their sleep but they didn’t get there without proper technique.
- Foot Surfaces – dribbling is more intricate than simply putting a foot to a ball. It’s also important to know what part of the foot to use and when. The Inside – the best surface to maintain control when pushing the ball. The Outside – use this when going full tilt down the field. The ball will remain outside of your sprint so you won’t accidentally trip over it. The Sole – to stop the ball and change direction quickly. Always use your ball of your foot for the best control. Toes are no-no.
- Keep your Head Up – Scan the field between touches to be aware of player positions and open spaces. Keep an eye on the ball through the bottom half of your eyes. Focusing simply on the ball will leave you open to defenders who appear suddenly from your blind spots.
- Close Control – The ball MUST always be within one stride of you at all times. This gives you the freedom to change direction quickly in case an opponent tries to make a steal.
- Balance – Bend your knees. A low center of gravity allows you to stop, start, accelerate, and change direction quickly.
- Change Direction – Running head on trying to bowl over your opponent will only result in ugly collisions and injury. Quick, sharp changes and cut-backs will keep them guessing. Never EVER run around the ball to change direction. Use your foot surfaces.
- Change Pace – Being predictable is boring. Mixing explosions of speed and slow dribbles will keep your defenders on their heels.
- Feints – Fool out your defender with a body shake or a head fake to get them off-balance while manipulating the ball.
- Bravery – Not so much of a technique as much as a trait. No great dribbler has ever been successful by being timid. Be not afraid of trying to get around an opponent. You may get fouled. You’ll probably be kicked. But risking this and not being afraid can lead to goals, penalty kick, and free kicks.
- Shielding – Protect that ball with your body. While facing an opponent, position yourself sideways-on and keep the ball on the farthest foot from the defender. Your arm and leg closest to the defender will become your moving barrier as they poke for the ball. Your opposite arm should be out for balance.
Common faults in dribbling you should be made aware of are:
- Keeping your head down (Eyes up or you may get clocked!)
- Dribbling with your toe (consider your toes as taboo as your hands when controlling the ball)
- Dribbling too far away (Why make it easy on the defender to steal?)
- Attempting to beat the same opponent twice (if one player has figured out your moves, trying again will just increase the chances of a lost possession. Move on to someone else.)
- Upright Stance (this equals slower reaction time)
- No change of pace or direction (be unpredictable…but controlled)
- Keep the ball moving (in today’s soccer, standing still is giving the defense the freedom and time to close in on you)
- Facing an opponent head-on (might as well just hand them the ball)
Combining all of these techniques successfully in the right proportions and limiting your faults will help develop your own dribbling personality on the field. With the right combination of skills, you will maintain control of the ball and dribble just as well as Ronaldo.