How to Coach – Dribbling

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css_animation=”left-to-right”]An Excerpt from the US Youth Soccer Skills School Manual – available in full under “Player Development Resources” on the ASC website.

(Introduce dribbling at U5/U6)


A change of direction and change of speed are crucial to successful dribbling. Change of direction is the ability while dribbling to alter course to the left or the right or a 180° turn. Change of speed while dribbling could be from slow to fast or fast to slow, to come to a complete stop or to move from a standing start.



Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: stay on the balls of the feet; knees slightly bent; lean a little forward at the waist; arms out somewhat for balance; head steady; eyes glance up to see the dribbling path
  2. Contact: eyes glance down to ensure proper contact with the ball; touch the ball at the horizontal midline (line A) with the instep or the inside or outside of the instep (front of the foot near the toes); the ball can be touched at the vertical midline (line B) or slightly left or right of that line to change direction with the ball
  3. Follow Through: the sole of the foot can be used to stop the ball or to change direction


Running with the Ball

Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: balance and good running motion
  2. Contact: push the ball forward with the instep; each push of the ball should go several yards and then run to catch up with the ball; touch the ball forward in the natural running stride; when touching the ball with the instep look at the ball
  3. Follow Through: look up and search for any passes or shots that might be on while the ball is rolling forward; when the ball is a few strides away the head is up and the eyes scan the field



Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: take up a side position to keep the ball away from the opponent at the furthest point; stand on the leg closest to the opponent with the knee slightly bent for balance; the arm closest to the opponent should be to some extent up and locked for balance and to hold off the opponent (do not push); lean with the shoulder closest to the opponent; head steady; use the foot away from the opponent to turn away thus screening the ball
  2. Contact: eyes on the ball; center of gravity lowered to help balance; the leg furthest from the opponent should be extended to hold the ball as far away from the opponent as possible; place the sole of the foot of that leg on top of the ball (alternately form a wedge by the inside of the foot and the ground)
  3. Follow Through: firm base provided by supporting foot; if the opponent commits to one side then roll in the opposite direction

Training Activity: Dribble Attack

Play 3v3 in a 30 x 20 yard grid. Put the two groups of three into different colored training bibs. Each player in one group has a ball. Attacking players must dribble past defending players. The defending players should try to gain possession and (if they do) then dribble past an opponent. Players may dribble in any direction inside the grid to start. The activity can progress when the coach gives the attack a direction (e.g., dribble to a specified goal line). Play a round for a set amount of time. After a round the groups switch roles.

U5/U6: play one minute rounds

U7/U8: play two minute rounds U10: play three minute rounds

U11/12: play four minute rounds

U14: play five minute rounds


Figure 9 Dribble Attack


Coaches will try to teach and players will try to learn ‘moves’ for dribbling through the use of fakes and feints. Yet what is the distinction between a fake and feint? A fake is a move that is done with the ball; actually moving the ball. A feint (body swerve) is done only with the body, no contact with the ball until the player in possession finally plays the ball. A fake is done with the feet. A feint could be done with almost any part of the body. The goal of either a fake or a feint is to get the opponent off balance (wrong footed) or going in the direction opposite of where the player in possession of the ball really plans to go.

When using either a feint or a fake subtle control of the body is required. The center of gravity should not be moved too far sideways from the body’s midline. If the body weight is unnecessarily shifted in the direction of the swerve, the player will find it difficult to make a fast second move. Changing direction quickly during a fake requires the player to keep a low center of gravity until the second move is started.

Coaches must be cautious with the systematic instruction of feints and fakes. In coaching, the main thing is to develop the abilities that will help the players in making effective ‘moves’, such as speed, mobility and a sense of how to shift the center of gravity economically. Once a player is comfortable with the basics of dribbling then cunning must become a part of the skill.