How to Dribble a Soccer Ball: Essential Tips to Become a Better Dribbler
Have you ever watched soccer players and been impressed by their insane ability to dribble and get out of any difficult situation?
You would think the soccer ball is literally glued to their feet…
I know I’m not alone when I watch professionals dribble and immediately feel the need to do it in my next game.
As much as it is sexy to watch, dribbling, mixed with footwork, is an important skill for soccer players to master, regardless of their position.
So prepare your brain to learn some valuable information for you to become a complete player or a futsal legend.
Step-By-Step Guide On How To Dribble A Soccer Ball
For complete beginners who never dribbled a ball before, this is a good introduction to your dribbling journey!
Why should you be good at dribbling? No matter your position, dribbling is a key skill to learn if ever you are in a dangerous position during a game…you need to know how to dribble your way out.
I strongly recommend you mix dribbling practice with juggling practice, as they both contribute to comfort on the ball.
Step 1: Dribble With The Outside Of The Foot
When we dribble, we need to push the ball with the outside of the foot. This is because it is the most natural way to run while pushing the ball.
Point your toes down, and push the ball with the outside (laces) of the foot.
Tapping the ball with the inside of the foot is awkward, and can result in losing your steps or confusing your brain.
Step 2: Lock Your Ankles
Locking your ankles is important when dribbling because it allows you to have control of the ball. It’s the same thing when shooting a curved ball: You need to lock them to keep it steady.
When your toes are pointed down, you need to lock your ankles so that the position remains stable.
When dribbling, especially when running, you need to push off the ball continuously, to react suddenly if something arises, like a defender or a tackle.
This is why your ankle needs to be locked…it is ready to react. If it is loose, your foot will go in all directions, and raise your chances to confuse your steps and lose control of the ball.
Step 3: Body Posture
A good posture is key to dribbling efficiently. This is a subtle detail that is often overlooked.
A good posture is a result of habit, and habit is earned through repetition.
Having a strong body is important, but using it efficiently is key!!!
This is crucial as it helps you keep balance and control over the ball and yourself, which is everything in dribbling.
Keep a low center of gravity by bending your knees slightly and lowering your center of gravity. This helps you stay balanced and makes it more challenging for defenders to push you off the ball.
Keep your upper body relatively upright but lean forward slightly.
Use your arms for balance and ball shielding.
This posture allows you to maintain better control of the ball while keeping your head up to scan the field for teammates and opponents, or to have a sense of where the net is.
Step 4: Push The Ball Close To Your Body
When we are dribbling, it is important to push the ball close to your body. This is because you need to react to the net obstacle fast.
Think about it: If you push the ball too far, you often have to run after it and chase it…and that is not dribbling.
On the other hand, pushing to ball way too close to your body will only get caught in your steps, and you will trip and fall.
There is a perfect middle: The best way to determine that middle is a step’s length. Normally, the ball should be pushed as far as your next step.
This is also important because you could pick up the ball immediately after. The more the ball is touching your shoes in dribbling, the better.
Step 5: Coordinate Your Run With The Ball
This step goes hand-in-hand with the previous step. Running is easy, running with a ball at your feet becomes a little bit complicated.
Coordinating your run means timing your steps with the touches of the ball so that you are moving while still being in control.
To do this, you need to take the smallest steps possible and move your body carefully: Almost as if you are skipping forward.
Here is a great guide on dribbling, which shows all the steps and how to run with a ball, as well as coordinate your run:
Learn Other Soccer Skills
How To Improve Your Dribbling?
Like everything else in life, mastering a skill takes time and patience.
These steps might feel like baby steps at first, but remember that doing this in training and a game are two different things.
For these steps, you don’t need exclusive things to make it work. Your standard soccer training equipment will do just fine.
1. Master the Basics
Make sure to be comfortable with the ball before starting to dribble. Build up your footwork skills with ball mastery drills.
This includes getting comfortable with your dominant and non-dominant foot, as well as understanding how to use different parts of your foot to manipulate the ball.
Ball mastery drills are the best way to start this process. Grab some cones and start moving the ball in all the possible ways.
Practicing your ball mastery is a great way to master the basics:
Get familiar with all parts of your foot touching the ball.
Get familiar with taking the ball forward, backward, left, and right with different areas of the foot.
2. Learn To Dribble In A Straight Line
Now that your ball mastery and body are in check, you can start dribbling forward and backward and get familiar with moving with a ball in a straight line.
How do you practice dribbling forward?
Practice going from point A to point B with a moderate pace at first, keeping the ball close to your body (2-foot length).
Take heavier touches to practice faster dribbling when you have space and time.
Get familiar with shifting the ball from your right foot to your left foot to stay unpredictable (The idea of dribbling is to keep your body between the ball and the defender, and switching feet is mainly how you keep him away).
Dribble with all parts of your foot to stay versatile.
Remember that in a game multiple defenders will try to take the ball from you so you need to be as unpredictable as possible.
Unpredictability in dribbling is switching feet, lighter or heavier touches and anything that might throw the defenders off.
Usually, sudden changes of direction are the best way to surprise the opposing player, which requires good conditioning.
3. Practice Changing Direction
Now comes the fun part. Start training your change of direction with a ball.
This is important to keep the ball away from the opposing player and maintain control over the ball.
After receiving the ball properly, you are in control of the move. The defender is reacting to you!
In soccer dribbling, there are two ways to eliminate an aggressive defender (killer move): either by a sudden sharp turn or by a sudden change of pace.
In order to properly change direction, you need to
Be able to change it from any point of contact (inside foot, outside foot, etc.)
Keep the ball very close to you
Keep your eyes on the ball
When you want to go in the opposite direction, it is important to remember that fluidity and smoothness are key. You can only achieve that through maximum control, and control is earned in practice.
One of the best dribbling drills out there is the slalom, and it can be done everywhere!
4. Master Changes of Pace
One way of sending the defender the wrong way was to change direction suddenly.
But there is another, and that is the change of pace when dribbling.
When dribbling, YOU ARE IN CONTROL. That means you set the stage, and the next move is yours. The defender is reacting to what you are doing.
Therefore, when you dribble and suddenly change speed, you are taking the opponent by surprise. A sudden change of dribbling pace can beat almost any defender, or draw a strategic foul…either way, you will win!
Here is how you can hone that skill:
Acceleration and Deceleration: Practice quick bursts of acceleration followed by sudden deceleration.
Have different speeds: Don’t always dribble at the same pace. Mix in moments of quick acceleration and slower during your training drills.
Take one heavy touch, followed by small close touches
Learn more here:
A heavy touch means you are free of the ball for a short while, meaning you can focus all your energy on sprinting instead of running with a ball.
Usually, heavy touches are to go faster, and quick close touches mean you are standing your ground, ready for your next ”killer move”.
5. Vision and Awareness
Kaoru Mitoma from Brighton did a thesis on dribbling the ball. He tested the difference between semi-professionals and professional soccer players when they dribble a soccer ball.
Here is what he concluded:
Professional players kept their eye on the ball, but they also kept a close eye on the upper-horizontal part of the body of their advisory, along with the surroundings.
Basically, pro players were more aware of the body of the opposing defender, as well as the position of space and teammates around.
Needless to say, when we dribble we need to be aware of everything that is going on around us…
How to improve your vision and awareness:
Continuously scan the field to be aware of your surroundings. This is done before you receive the ball (you can’t scan while dribbling).
Train your peripheral vision to be aware of what’s happening around you without losing focus on the ball.
Train reflexes: you never know when a leg is going to come, or from where. A good reflex can help you evade that
Understand when to dribble and when to pass. Sometimes, the best option may be to release the ball to a teammate in a better position, or else you might be losing time and opportunities.
6. Some Moves For Extra Sauce
So, you have learned how to dribble a soccer ball efficiently. How can you level up?
You can now start adding extra moves to fancy it up.
When it comes to dribbling, it is all about setting yourself up for success, in other words, that killer moves that will send the defender the wrong way.
Whether it is a sharp turn or a change of dribbling pace, you need to confuse the defender to open up for a shooting chance or a pass.
Here are ways to do that
Stepovers: raising the foot over the ball in one way. It can be done many times, usually, 3 times is enough.
Drop of the shoulders: Messi’s favorite. You drop your shoulder and tilt your body on one side, and immediately go the other. Your body is a paid actor.
Basic feint: when you fake passing or shooting. The defender gets ready to intercept, but you still have the ball and he is caught lacking in an awkward position.
There are many other moves to include in that list, but these are the best since they are most likely to be used in the game.
Why Is Dribbling Important For A Soccer Player?
Dribbling is important for soccer players because it serves as the foundation for many aspects of the game.
It allows players to:
Navigate through tight spaces
Evade defenders and pressing
Create scoring opportunities.
It also allows you to have more control over the ball, making you a more technical player.
Effective dribblers can change the course of a match, break down stubborn defenses, and eventually help get that ball in the back of the net.
Ultimately, it’s a fundamental skill that separates exceptional soccer players from the rest, in my humble opinion.
- Play Futsal. This version of soccer forces you to become a better dribbler.
Dribbling with the outside of your foot can set up your killer move nicely. It is awkward to explode with the ball if you are padding it with the inside of the foot
Keep it simple. Dribbling is fun and looks good, but in the end, it is a team sport and you need to do the best action to progress the play, not to inflate your ego.
Dribble as much as possible during training. You can only master this skill if done under pressure, and better to risk it in training than in a match where there are high stakes.
Congrats! You Know How To Dribble A Soccer Ball…What’s Next?
Now that you learned all the steps to start dribbling efficiently, what is next and how can you apply that to your game?
By mastering the basics, improving your ball-handling skills, enhancing your vision and awareness, mastering changes of pace and direction, and committing to regular practice, you can elevate your dribbling abilities and become a more valuable asset to your team.
So, get out on the field, put these tips into action, and watch your dribbling prowess grow with each passing game.