The 7 Best Ball Control Drills For Soccer (Improve Skills Faster)
Ball control: A very basic soccer skill, yet one of the most important by far.
The difference between semi-professional players and professional players is how comfortable they are with the ball.
Comfort with the ball can be split into two ways:
Your First Touch
With that being said, soccer players need to train and master these skills on the training ground before they can be used in their games.
And when we talk about training and improving, we immediately talk about drills. Here are my 7 best ball control soccer drills to improve your skills faster!
What To Do?
Why Ball Control Is Important For Soccer Players
Years ago, I wasted a precious goal-scoring chance because I couldn’t get the ball in the position I wanted it to be.
My touch betrayed me, and just like that I was deemed a bad player and faced disappointment. This is why I encourage soccer players to train as much as possible on their ball control.
I quickly understood that ball control needs to be improved. So I bought a soccer rebounder and trained my ball control ever since. My touch has gotten far better, and I am more comfortable than ever on the ball.
Here are the best ball control drills for soccer that worked for me.
The 7 Best Ball Control Drills For Soccer
Most exercises require a teammate, but if you don’t have this luxury, you could use a soccer rebounder to help you with passing and receiving.
I cannot stress this enough: Juggling is the quickest way to improve ball control. If you master juggling a soccer ball, you will have an easier time controlling the ball in a game.
Juggling builds muscle memory and good instincts that will serve you well in a game. The work you do while juggling will surface during a game without you even knowing.
You can start juggling and get to a specific number, or you can juggle using only specific body parts to improve ball familiarity.
Although juggling is an exercise that does not require soccer training equipment, some exercises could be designed with a soccer rebounder to help level up the skill.
Juggle and pass to a soccer rebounder, and control it back, all while the ball is still in the air. This will practice your touch, passing, and coordination with the ball.
Another one that I currently do a lot is juggling only with my weak foot (left) to improve its touch. This is the beauty of juggling: you can design it in any way you wish!
2. Ball Mastery
Ball mastery drills are exercises you do to get yourself familiar with the ball. These included touching the ball with all parts of the foot to drill your brain to understand the ball.
Ball mastery can also improve your dribbling skills since you become so familiar with a ball that you can run with it and change directions.
Here is a great video on how to improve ball control through ball mastery:
For futsal players, ball mastery is something I recommend to drill your brain to get comfortable on the ball to not have to worry about your technique letting you down during a game.
3. Pass and Receive
Pass and receive is a simple yet effective exercise you can do either by yourself with a soccer rebounder or with a teammate.
The drill is simple: You pass and receive the ball to understand and get familiar with controlling the ball. You can start it off in 3 touches, and work your way to 2 touches (ideally).
For the ultimate challenge, you can pass in one touch.
There are many variations of these drills. Check the Best Soccer Training Apps and choose one that suits you for more detailed drills.
The best way to get a better touch is by putting yourself in the conditions to receive a touch…and what better way than to simply receive a pass?
I always use this exercise for warmup to familiarize myself with the ball, but you can also use it as one of your drills to improve your touch.
4. Long Ball Passes
Long ball passes are one of the best ball-control soccer drills you can do to improve your touch. It’s the same drill as pass and receive, except it’s with long passes in the air (and far away).
While you stand away, your teammate sends you a long ball that you have to control and send back. Oftentimes during games, we receive these long balls (with the extra pressure of defenders around).
This is the best way to master this specific game situation and get better at soccer.
You can challenge yourself by putting a touch limit (3 touches to control and pass the ball back), or you can set up a square section with cones and force yourself to control the ball inside the zone.
If you find yourself alone, you could also use a soccer rebounder that you angle so that it only gives you aerial balls. You then place yourself as far as you can and try to control the balls that come to you.
This is important for players to master the touch after a long ball fast and efficiently to evade aggressive defenders. You will see when you play…it isn’t an easy task.
5. Cone Dribbling
If you want to improve your ball control while moving or your dribbling skills, then cone drills are a great way to do so.
As we know, there are two ways to improve ball control, either by improving your first touch or by improving your dribbling to have more control over the ball overall.
Cone dribbling addresses the latter, allowing you to become more comfortable while moving at high speed (either in a straight line or multi-directional), and sometimes even sprinting.
There are many variations to cone dribbling, but the best one is by far the slalom. Slalom is a popular exercise where you place cones in a line for about 2-3 feet in length, and you dribble around them.
Variations could be added for extra challenges like you saw in the video above.
6. Juggling Passes + Footwork
If you’re looking for simple yet effective soccer ball control drills, then this drill might be for you!
It’s fun, challenging, and has many ways to improve, making it a timeless drill. I started doing this drill when I was a complete beginner, and I still do it to this day.
You need a teammate for this exercise. Your teammate throws you the ball with his hand, and you pass it back in many variations.
You can also add a shooting sequence at the end to get a more complete drill.
Some of the variations I recommend are:
Inside foot pass (one touch).
Laces pass (one-touch).
Chest control pass (two touches).
Tigh control pass (two touches).
Header (one-touch). I like to throw the ball higher, making the player jump high and meet the ball in the air, as you would do in a real game.
The footwork is to add that extra game realism. In a soccer match, you never receive the ball in a stationary position, and doing some footwork will prepare you for that.
7. Oriented Touch (Directional) Exercises
This video from Zidane says everything a football player needs to know about oriented touch. Once you master all the prior exercises on this list, then you can start adding oriented touches to elevate your game.
Oriented touches are great because they allow you to eliminate the opposing defender with one touch, allowing you to create space easily and making you a faster and better player overall.
Of course, making a successful oriented-touch requires spatial awareness and vision, something you can only unlock in training.
My favorite oriented drill in my soccer training bank is this one:
You will need either a training partner or a soccer rebounder for this exercise.
Take this exercise slowly, as it requires lots of focus and concentration.
Your teammate passes the ball in space #1. He then yells out a number from 1 to 5.
If he yelled #1, you pass it back in one touch to him.
If he yelled #2, you take a touch in space #2 and pass him back(2-3 touches max).
If he yelled #3, you take a touch in space #3 and pass him back.
- If he yelled #4 or #5, you take a touch towards the appropriate space and pass him back around the cone.
What Do You Need For Better Training?
When it comes to training your ball control skills, you need training and repetition, there is no doubt about it.
Mastering a skill, whether it’s your football ball control, finishing, or passes, requires constant training to build muscle memory so it becomes instinctive during a game.
And with constant training, I suggest you get the right equipment for improvement. Training with teammates is ideal, but not everybody has the luxury of having a friend train with them at all times.
The best equipment you can get to develop your ball control is a soccer rebounder, by far. It did wonders for me during my solo training sessions.
Here is a list of things you might need (keep in mind they are not mandatory, and you can always improve on your own. However, these tools can speed up results and efficiency in training):
Obviously, a soccer ball
A soccer rebounder to pass you back
Cones (many options with cones)
How Do You Improve Ball Control?
As mentioned earlier, ball control is divided into two aspects:
- First Touch
The more you practice those aspects, the better you become.
Think of each repetition as a step towards perfecting your control. Every touch, dribble, and pass reinforces your muscle memory, making your responses more instinctive and your movements more fluid.
Repetition not only hones your physical skills but also sharpens your mental aspect as well, allowing you to make quicker, more precise decisions on the field (and instinctive).
Researchers found that consistent, focused repetition of a task significantly enhances neural efficiency.
In simple terms, the more you practice, the more your brain adapts to perform that skill effectively and efficiently. This neurological change is crucial in sports like soccer, where split-second decisions can make a huge difference.
Therefore, to improve your ball control put yourself through a variety of drills. Juggle the ball, practice dribbling through cones, and engage in passing exercises.
Vary the drills to challenge different aspects of control, from soft touches to precise passing.
The key is consistency and persistence, as improvement is a gradual process built on the foundation of repeated practice.
Do these 7 drills to improve ball control in order. Start by mastering juggling and ball mastery, and then level up by adding drills from 3 to 6.
Oriented touch is a slightly difficult skill to master, especially in the game, and this is why I think you should master the other drills before.
Of course, these are only my suggestions and what worked with me and the players I trained. You can always do it your way.
But whatever you choose to do, I always suggest putting your reps in. The more you do something, the better you become…it’s as simple as that.
How can I improve my ball control in soccer?
Regular practice is key. Engage in juggling, dribbling, and passing drills. Focus on using different parts of your foot and vary your pace and direction.
How do you teach a child to control a soccer ball?
Start with simple activities like rolling the ball and basic juggling. Keep the practice sessions fun and positive, emphasizing gradual skill development.
How do you get ball control like Maradona?
To mimic Maradona’s control, practice close dribbling, quick direction shifts, and using your body to shield the ball. Learn techniques like the ‘Maradona turn’.
How do you master ball control?
Consistent practice, focusing on touch, dribbling at different speeds, and controlling the ball from various heights. Work on your footwork and reaction time.
How can I improve my ball control without a football?
Work on your agility, balance, and foot coordination through exercises like skipping rope, cone drills, and balance training.
How do you control the ball like Messi?
Close-touch dribbling, rapid direction changes, and low center of gravity. Focus on quick, controlled foot movements.
How can a beginner improve ball control?
Start with basic dribbling, gentle juggling, and simple passing. Gradually increase the difficulty and complexity of the drills as skills improve.
Fields, D. (n.d.). How Does “Muscle Memory” Work? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-new-brain/202106/how-does-muscle-memory-work#:~:text=,extremely%20rapidly%20through%20the%20brai