Fancy Footwork

Once you've mastered the straight dribble, it's time to add to your bag of tricks. And “tricks” is the right word! You want to use your dribbling to fool the defenders. There won't be many teams that will let you take the ball from one end of the field to the other without trying to stop you. So what can you do?

If a defender is closing in on you quickly, the first thing you're going to want to do is look to pass the ball off to someone who is open. But many times, you don't have that option, and it's all up to you. Uh oh. What now? Well, it's time for a fake.

There are many different fakes, but they generally fall into two categories: fakes that turn you in a new direction and fakes that allow you to keep going forward.

Changing directions works best when the defender is running alongside you, going in the same direction. That way her momentum will be carrying her forward and it will take her a second to recover and go in the other direction, especially if you catch her by surprise.

Many times your turn will redirect you back toward your own goal, but this isn't a problem. If the turn lets you escape from the defender, you're in good shape. Keeping the ball in your possession is the key to winning. And now you have a second or two to look up and find a teammate who is looking for a pass.

Here are some of the most popular turns:

The drag back: This is where the bottom of your foot comes into play. You step on top of the ball and pull it back behind you. Spin 180 degrees and take off. When you turn around after doing a drag back, turn toward the leg that pulled the ball back. That way you see the ball the whole time you're turning.

The drag back

The inside turn: Step over the ball and using the inside of your foot, push the ball back in the other direction.

The inside of the foot turn

The outside turn: For this one, you'll want to nudge the ball backward with the outside of your foot, again turning your body 180 degrees and following the ball.

The outside of the foot turn

The box turn: This is similar to the inside turn, but you push the ball under your body before you turn your body. Make an L-shape with your two feet and push the ball under your body. Then spin and take off in the other direction.

JOKIN' AROUND

Question: Why do soccer players have terrible table manners?

Answer: Because they're always dribbling.

Speed is the key to a great turn. With a speedy move, you catch the defender by surprise when you are both running quickly in the same direction. You know when you're going to make the turn, so your body is prepared to slow down and go the other way. But the defender has no idea. He is going to need an extra second to do all that, and that's when you lose him. However, if you don't move quickly leading up to the turn, then the defender will find it much easier to stop and turn with you. Or if you don't make your turn quickly, then he'll find it easy to catch up with you afterward.

WORDS to KNOW

Shielding: The process of keeping your body between the defender and the ball to prevent the defender from getting to the ball.

But what if the defender is coming full speed right at you? Turning and running in the opposite direction might sound really appealing, but it's not your best option. The defender will actually have an advantage! This is the time for a fake.

Try Turning

To see how well a turn works, you and a friend should try it without a ball. Find a good starting point, like a tree or a fence. The idea is to have a race, away from the tree and then back to it. But your friend isn't going to know how far out you plan to go. Say ready, set, go, and then you both start sprinting away from it in one direction. Suddenly, turn around and sprint back to the starting place. I'll bet you beat your friend. Now let her be the one who turns. This time, she'll beat you.

Fake Basics

A fake basically means that you're going to try to make the opponent think that you're going in one direction when you really plan to move in the other direction. Time for some superior acting skills!

There are a whole bunch of different fakes, but all of them have a few things in common. You have to:

  • Be fast
  • Use your whole body
  • Be convincing
  • Stay low

No matter what fake you try, you aren't going to fool anyone if you don't do those four things.

  1. The first one is obvious. If you're trying to fake someone out, you have to make your move fast. If you take too long, then even if you do fool the other player at first, he's going to have plenty of time to recover.

  2. The second tip is important, too. You might not realize it, but you generally move your whole body when you change directions or make a move. Many players give themselves away when they only fake with their legs. The defender can tell that you're really not going that way because it doesn't look natural. Or in other words, your fake looks fake. So make sure you get your whole body involved.

  3. Third, be convincing. In general, this tip should follow naturally if you're concentrating on the first two tips. If you're moving quickly and using your whole body, you'll most likely look as though you're going the way you're faking. Just make sure that your fake is significant enough to be noticed. Make a dramatic hard shift to the left or right with your whole body, not just a slight lean.

  4. And finally, stay low and keep your knees bent. It's going to be hard to keep your balance with all that shifting back and forth. You want to get the opponent off balance, not yourself.

Here are some common fakes:

The step-over: Swing your leg as though you're going to pass or shoot the ball, but instead lift it a little higher and step over the ball. Then push the ball in the opposite direction with the outside of your foot.

The step-over

The shimmy: Shift your whole body in one direction without lifting your feet off the ground. Then kick the ball in the other direction.

The stop and start: For this move, you want to dribble hard in one direction and then stop the ball as if you're going to switch directions. As soon as the defender moves to block you in your new direction, continue in the same direction.

FUN FACT

The Goal of the Century

In 2002, FIFA asked fans to vote for their favorite goal of the twentieth century. The winner was a goal made by Argentina's Diego Maradona in the 1986 World Cup tournament. He received the ball on his team's side of the field and then managed to dribble 60 meters, through five different defenders, take the shot, and score.

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