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As a Young Player Take Chances

·         Take people on.  Dribble at people and go by them and take a shot or lay the ball off to a teammate at the last minute.

·         Ask for the ball all the time.

·         Get the ball and give it, switching play or making a pass with the intention of getting it back; spreading the ball around and finding the open player.  Pass and move.

·         Think like you should always get the ball.  Put yourself in a position and a state of readiness to receive the ball. This keeps you in the game and on your toes.  Be active.

Sharp Passes

It is easier to control a crisp pass and make your next move with the ball when you receive a sharp pass rather than a soft lazy pass.  It takes less effort to re-direct the ball into a space when it is played to you with pace. 

However, there are also times when you want to play a soft pass.  Send a different message by the weight of the pass. A slow pass means the player should come back to receive the pass, thus opening up the space behind the player.  A hard pass means you are marked tightly and must shield the ball or play a one touch pass.

Striking the ball with pace also creates intensity around your game. You are ready to receive the ball back and it sends a message of assertiveness, you want to play, it keeps the game flowing quickly, and again it is easier to control a sharp pass. 

Most importantly though, a teammate is only open for a short period of time before they will be closed down, it's key to get that teammate the ball as soon as possible to take advantage of the time and space they have - to shoot and score.

Keep the Ball Moving

Set your teammates up in positions where they can take players on. Get the ball and then give it back to them when they are in a position with more time and space - when they are open.  You are acting like an outlet for them so they can setup the defender and take them on.  You can always get the ball back, just keep it moving. 

Also, know what you want to do with the ball before you get it.  Know where your teammates are.  Keep your head up.  Control the ball away from the defender and into the space you want to move – control the ball a bit out in front of you, so it’s easier to make that next pass.  If there’s a great deal of space – control the ball into that space and attack it.

When Things Aren’t Going Right

·         Try to get into the rhythm of the game by making the simple play. Make a few short simple passes and build off of that.

·         Make a good tackle.

·         Work hard and play tough defense to get yourself out of your rut.

·         Take the criticism of people as they are just trying to help you.  Don't take it personal.  Again, take all types of criticism with a grain of salt and just try to work hard.  Usually making a tough tackle or working hard will get you out of a rut.


Play with Emotion

Play with emotion – a great example of this is Robbie Keane of Tottenham Hotspurs and Ireland. He does cater wheels after scoring, but moreover, he just shows so much exuberance and emotion that it is no doubt contagious to his team mates. He is not glorified with himself, it seems, but just purely happy with scoring and helping his team. He is having fun and passionate and that is inspiring to his team.

Another example is Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Brazil, he always has a new celebration after scoring – a dance or a gesture – and a huge smile on his face, another player that has fun while playing and scoring and inspires his team mates.

Another great player who plays with passion and desire is Roy Keane.  He is a force, and demands the best from his team mates by giving his best – always consistently playing hard. He has calmed somewhat over the years, now less focused on reckless tackles and overall more focused on tough play and sharp passes. 

However, it is important to stick up for your team mates.  If one of your players receives a touch challenge or tackle, you owe to that player to be there when he or she is taken down - rush over to the play to stand up for your player.  And, if there's a chance to make a fair but tough tackle on that player later in the game, you take that chance.  As a team you need to support one another and players need to know they have that support.  That's why a player like Roy Keane is great.  He's always there for his team and has a strong personality on the field.



It might seem strange or unrelated to playing soccer but this is a great way to get your mind thinking about achieving a certain goal.

Before you go to bed, while relaxing, picture in your mind where the game is going to take place.  What the field is like?  The weather even?  The more details the better - this creates stronger markers for your mind to remember and re-enact the goal you want to accomplish.

Whether scoring a goal or dribbling past a defender or making the game winning pass. Try to picture yourself making the play and imagine how your body will move when you are faking out the opponent or taking the shot - imagine all the steps that lead up to that play.  Envision the things you want to accomplish.

Often you are doing this kind of visualization on your own and don't even realize it.  Try to improve the way you picture yourself playing soccer by adding more specific details.  Visualize where you want to play the ball and what you want to take place next.

'I receive the ball on the right side, act like I'm going to dribble hard down the line - to get a cross in, take a few dribbles, and when the defender's on their heels cut inside for a shot - bend the ball to the far upper corner with the inside of my left foot’ - perhaps you throw a step over into this vision.  Again, try to picture as many details as you can to make this vision as real as possible.

Take Action

You have to try before you can accomplish any goal. You have to take the steps to make it even possible to achieve you goal - if it is scoring the game winning goal you have to repeatedly practice taking that shot, and when the opportunity arises take the responsibility upon yourself to make it happen. Look for the pass or go seek out the ball.  Take that important free kick or penalty kick.

Attack the Ball

Have a friend or teammate pass the ball to you with a lot of pace at maybe 10 or 15 yards away.  Have him or her play the ball on the ground, as hard as he or she can over hit the ball. Try to control the ball out in front of you.  You are exaggerating the pace of the pass to practice your control.

Go to the ball and control the ball our in front of you with your first touch.  Then dribble off at speed at various angles.

It's first a controlling touch out in front of you a few yards away – out of your feet.  Move to the ball and then dribble off.  Make this all one movement, do not stop and start.

Then try to do this in the air.  Have your teammate play you a ball in the air, this time from a further distance of 30 or 40 yards.  Get to the ball before it hits the ground.  Control it out in front of you – into the space and dribble off for ten yards or so.

Use your first touch to get the ball on the ground. When you have mastered this you can try to control the ball in the air out in front of you, as if you are juggling, and then bring the ball down after a few juggles, maybe juggling the ball over a defenders head for example.

Practice opening yourself to the field at different angles - make angled runs or diagonal runs and have your teammate play the ball into you - control the ball out in front of you a few feet.  Don't kill the ball right in front of you so you have to stop, but control it out in front of you (away from your body) and open yourself to as much of the field as possible.  This could just be turning your shoulder so you face the whole field and not just one side.

Don't Let the Ball Bounce

Similar to the previous section, try to always get a touch on the ball before it bounces. Whether from a goalkeeper’s punt and heading the ball to a teammate, or as a forward and flicking the ball on to a teammate, or controlling the ball and bringing it down.  Rush to the ball to get a touch and don't wait for the ball to come to you.

All of this of course depends upon how much time and space you have and if there are defenders near you, but try to go to the ball and get a controlling touch on the ball before it bounces in all cases.

Skills and Control

Try kicking the ball high in the air and control the ball with the top of your foot.  Using the top (just below the laces) of your foot to deaden or cushion the ball.  Act like there is a defender behind you rushing to steal the ball so you have to shield the ball with your body, as well as control it. 

You can then try kicking the ball up high in the air and controlling it with your thigh, chest, and head.  Essentially you are trying to re-create a goal kick or punt when you kick the ball high into the air – exaggerate the height of the kick to make the actual event in a game situation easier. 

Soon you will become accustomed to controlling and shielding the ball in any situation.  As you get better at this, kick the ball into the air ten or so yards away from you so you have to run and meet the ball before it bounces.  As you further improve, try to juggle the ball once or twice back up in the air before you deaden the ball and control it.

Another good test for your control is kicking the ball over your head and turning.  Kick the ball over your head and turn to find the ball in the air and control it into the space, maybe dribble off at speed for a few yards.  Make sure you do everything at a good pace to make it a real game like situation.  The key is the change of pace - control the ball then break away at speed.


Dragging the Ball Back

Use the top of your foot pull the ball back and push the ball to the right or left with the inside of your foot.  Then try pulling/dragging the ball back with the sole of your other foot and use the instep to push the ball to the right or left.  Then use the side of your foot – pull the ball back with the sole of the foot and push it to the side with the outside of your foot.

Quick Pass to Yourself

With the inside of your foot pass the ball to your other foot and push the ball by the defender.  The trick is timing this move.  Make sure the defender is off balance or is standing flat footed.  You also need the momentum to pass the ball across your body to your other foot, and push it past the defender.  Your body should be between the defender and the ball, so he or she can only foul you or try to catch up with you.

Double Pass to Yourself

This time pass the ball to your other foot.  Then back before playing the ball to the side and past the defender.  You are trying to read which direction the defender is going to go.  If he or she looks like they are going to beat you to the ball after you play it by them, play it back to your other foot and push it by the defender.

A good drill is passing the ball back and forth between your legs with the inside of your feet.  Then add subtle moves to this.  Make two passes between your legs and then put your foot on top of the ball.  Make four passes and then turn with the inside of the foot - then pull the ball back with the sole of the foot, and throw in a fake a shot.  All the time going back to knocking the ball back and forth with the inside of your feet (ten times) after each move or turn.  Add different moves to your routine – create a long series of steps and dribbling move. 

Step Over with One Foot

This move is usually done when you are not dribbling but standing or maybe moving at a slow pace - most often it's a set up play to take a shot or swing in a cross.  Take either foot and bring it over the ball (almost as if you are going to make a pass or take a shot) and take the ball away with the outside of this same foot you’ve just used to fake the pass or shot.  You’re swinging your leg over the ball and then taking the ball to the side with the outside area of your foot.

It is important to set your defender up for the move.  Go slow for a few steps -touching the ball with the inside of your foot in the opposite direction in which you want to go after you do the move.  Again, after you do the move, quickly dart into space with the ball at speed.  It is slow, slow, slow, do the move or feint, and then take off at speed.  Lull the defender to sleep and then swing your leg over and push the ball to the space – this gives you a quick opening to hit a cross or shot.

Quick Tip

Use your teammates as outlets or means of escape.  For instance, your two center midfielders might play a short square pass to one another to settle the play and get time to make the next pass.  A few short passes to relieve pressure and then a long pass to break pressure.  Short short long.  Two quick passes and then with the third pass you hit a penetrating pass to team mate making a run.  Those two short passes get you out of trouble or pressure from the other team and enable you to see and make the great pass.

See Live Games

See games live – go see games, whether a college or professional game, it’s hard to catch the speed of play, physicality or hear the talk and chatter that’s a part of a high level live game.

Training Habits

In training you’ll develop habits, both good and bad, that you’ll use in games.  So train smart so those habits are good ones that you’re carrying over to the game.  Remember these three points: 

  • Get your head up.
  • Take a picture (be aware of your surroundings before you receive the ball).
  • Be on your toes.

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