I remember growing up as a child watching match of day and seeing the likes of Ryan Giggs score his great solo goal in the FA cup against Arsenal, or watching Paul Gascoigne in Euro 96 score his brilliant goal against Scotland. The two players were brilliant dribblers of the ball who frightened many when they turned and ran at you with pace. What was also great about them was that they were British, and proof that we can produce players who can run with the ball, like the players we see today such as Messi and Ronaldo.
But just as it was back then, British players who are great dribblers of the ball are few and far between. Have you ever wondered why this is? why do professional players in the United Kingdom seem to be afraid to take a player on or cut inside and run across players?. Lately, It’s not just the United Kingdom who are experiencing this problem. Other big footballing nations are beginning to produce fewer players that have the technical ability to go past players.
Do you remember Brazil in the 90s and early 2000s? with the likes of Cafu, Rivaldo, Ronaldo (original and best Ronaldo), Ronaldiniho and many others all on one side. The Brazil of old would produce players of this standard all the time but now their talent pool has started to dry up.
What can we do to make sure we encourage these players to stay in the game? Why are so many great dribblers like your Rivaldo’s, Ronaldo’s and Messi’s are becoming less and less?.
Embrace The Streets!
The sight of seeing young players learning their craft in the streets is becoming less and less. With new housing developments, a choice of great computer games and social media publicising almost every crime by your doorstep, fewer children are either choosing not to play or not being allowed to play football.
This has led us to become more reliant on the methods of our football coaches on the playing field. Unfortunately, coaching standards at the grassroots level haven’t been good enough. This has mainly been down to FA not having a coaching system over the years, that embraced all the things that street football did well, and create a program which encourages creativity and tactically sound players. The current youth modules are a step in the right direction but I believe a lot still needs to be done before we start seeing a conveyor belt of skilful and tactically sound footballers.
Growing up, I always felt the most skilful players that I saw play the game, were the one’s who played hours on end in the streets or hard-surfaced football cages almost every day. This included no interference from coaches or parents just kids setting up a pitch outside with whatever we could find (mainly jumpers or bricks) and playing until there was no more light. Playing on the hard surfaces meant, that the ball didn’t always roll so you had to prepare for the bobbles and bounces, meaning your reactions had to be quick.
Limited spaces taught you to shield the ball away from danger, holding your arm out when stationary and when dribbling the ball, which I don’t see many coaches teach at a grassroots level. With the tight spaces, players were forced to recognise the gaps to run into. This meant they would keep the ball and force another opponent to try and close them down, which would then create space for others. The speed of the game was always at a high tempo and players were never given much time on the ball, this forced you to have quick feet and use feints or tricks to get out of trouble.
As you can see, playing the game this way taught you a lot of the critical skills coaches talk about today. Now playing in the streets isn’t perfect, as there are important aspects of the game which are not taught and can only be shown with the right guidance. This is why coaches should try to replicate elements of street football into their coaching methods, because when the players learn the critical skills, teaching them everything else about the game becomes a lot easier.
I believe, that to create players who are comfortable in possession of the ball then your sessions must be realistic to the game. Using static drills or long bus cues will not help your players to transfer their skills to the real game. Players have to understand why, where, when and how to use their techniques, this is the best way to produce natural football players.
The term ‘realistic coaching’ does not mean setting up some matches or fun games and letting the kids get on with it. It means creating an environment where the players have to make decisions that would occur in the real game, this normally requires the coach to condition the practice so the players are confronted with a repeated problem they must over come.
To produce ‘natural players’ you must condition your practices in a way that the players will be encouraged to dribble the ball in a realistic scenario. Here are certain area’s to be aware of when teaching players to dribble the ball:
- Be positive when dribbling.
- Dribbling with your eyes up, players should learn to see the ball in their peripheral vision and scan what options are available.
- When and where to dribble.
- Exploiting the space. After deciding to dribble, the player should look to accelerate away to stop the defender from recovering.
- Dribbling the ball on the safe side away from danger.
- The player should also learn to keep their arm out when dribbling under pressure, to keep defenders away from the ball.
‘Don’t Run with it! Keep it Simple!’
Hearing parents and coaches scream from the sidelines ‘Just keep is simple!’ or ‘stop trying to be Ronaldo!’ happens all too often in grassroots football. Why would we want to stop our children from trying to play like Ronaldo or Messi? Why do some coaches prefer our young players to do the ‘simple things’ and never look for the spaces to run with the ball, creating overloads.
A great coach once told me ” if you always try to play it simple, what will you do when the game becomes hard? What happens when simple isn’t good enough”. Young players need to have guidance on when and where to dribble the ball, not told to stop doing it all together. Do you think anyone ever told Messi to keep it simple? or Ronaldiniho to stop trying his tricks and pass it? of course, there are times when the best option is to pass the ball, but we must educate our players to decide when is the right time to pass or can they dribble through space instead.
Teaching kids to have a more positive attitude when dribbling may mean they will make the wrong decision from time to time and lose the ball, but this could also happen if they were told to continually ‘pass it’ as well. So guiding your players on when or where to take those ‘risks’ will benefit their game a lot more in the future. If our attitudes towards our younger players running with the ball changes, then maybe we may start to see more players seeing the gaps and penetrating them with speed, or making runs with the ball across defenders creating opportunities for themselves and others.
Let’s Play the Game Ltd is a provider of excellent 1 to 1 and team football coaching in Birmingham, Walsall, Dudley and Sandwell. For those who would like to try our services don’t hesitate to contact us. Don’t forget to subscribe below to never miss any of our posts. You can also like our Facebook page or subscribe to our You Tube channel for more football coaching tips.
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