Practice Makes Perfect
Once you feel comfortable moving the ball around the field, you can make it more interesting and turn yourself into a whiz-bang dribbler by trying some of these variations:
1. Dribble only with your left foot and then only with your right. Then dribble alternating between the two feet every time.
2. Dribble only with the inside of your foot. Then dribble with only the outside. Then just use your instep. Try alternating between those three.
3. Make your course curvy instead of a straight line. Pretend that the trees and bushes are defenders that you have to avoid. Use sweatshirts or leaves or anything else if you're playing in a place without trees.
4. Place your hand under your eyes to block your vision of the ball. Now try to dribble through your course. The best players are able to look up and see what the field situation is like. They can't be watching the ball the whole time.
5. Time yourself. Set up a course and see how fast you can get through it. Don't do this in a wide-open field, however, because all you'll end up doing is kicking it much too far ahead. You want to practice speed in an area where you still need to control the ball and keep it close to your feet.
6. Use the line markings on the field. Dribble up to the 6-yard line, turn around and dribble back to the baseline.
Now dribble to the 18, then back to the 6. Now go to the middle of the field, turn around, and go back to the 18.
7. Turn some of these dribbling exercises into a race.
Regular practice with your dribbling will make it become automatic, which is an important step in moving toward the fancy footwork of fakes. Think of it like math class. You have to learn basic addition, subtraction, and multiplication before you can learn algebra. You need the base in order to build.
A Soccer Spin on a Classic Game
Red Light, Green Light has always been a great kids' game, and it can be played with a soccer ball as well. One person is the “traffic light” at the far end of the field. The rest are the “cars.” They each have a ball. The player at the far end yells, “Green light!” and turns around. The cars all begin dribbling their balls until they hear the traffic light yell, “Red light!” at which point they all must put a foot on the ball. If any players can't put their foot on the ball because it's too far away from them, then they're sent back to the beginning. The winner (and next traffic light) is the player who crosses the field first. This really teaches you to keep the ball close yet still dribble quickly.
Practice, Practice, Practice
First, read this advice from Michelle Akers, a U.S. Women's World Cup player. She says, “My suggestion is to use your [weaker foot] as much as possible. That means use it all the time, every time, for everything you do on the soccer field. Use it in warm-up, for dribbling, shooting, receiving, in drills, when you train extra, etc. Whatever you are doing, use only your [weak] foot.”
Now, figure out where to put each of the scrambled letters in the following puzzle. They all fit in spaces under their own column. When you have filled in the grid, you will be able to see what Michelle Akers promises this practicing will help you do!
If a player isn't fooled by your turn, try another one immediately. So now you've turned 360 degrees, and you're heading right back in the direction you started.