Foot and Ball Skills are the Most Important Things to Teach to a Soccer Player
While there may be a feeling that you need to be teaching your soccer players all the tactical aspects of the game and other random skills like how to defend corner kicks or take penalty shots, by far the most important skill to learn in soccer is ball skills with your feet. Your team won’t be finding themselves in many positions to take penalties if they are so terrible on the ball that they simply cannot get it out of their own half! Your players should be working on ball skills each and every day and it should be the primary focus of soccer practices, especially at the youth soccer level.
Countless studies have shown that the more touches a developing player has on the ball, the more talented at soccer they will eventually become. Many soccer leagues around the world have actually begun to transition youth soccer to focus on small-sided games with less of an emphasis on team wins and larger teams. With a diminished squad and games of 5 vs. 5 or 4 vs. 4, all the players will have that many more touches in the game and will be thrown directly into the action time and time again.
Regardless of how your particular league operates, you would be wise to utilize small-sided games in your practices so that the players will gain ball skills and touches. This is a much more beneficial training than big-sided scrimmages where your players will spend the majority of their time just running around back and forth without the soccer ball.
The reason that increased numbers of touches are so beneficial to a young soccer player is that so much of your foot skill is dependent upon muscle memory and your feel of the ball. The only way to really gain these skills is through repetition and practice with the ball at your feet. No amount of speed or tactical knowledge will actually help you perform in a soccer game. It really is that simple, the more you have the ball at your feet, the more you are learning how to maneuver the ball.
Another important factor regarding ball skills is that you will want to gain the confidence on the soccer ball that comes along with these learned foot skills. As you become more comfortable using the ball, you will be inclined to try new tricks and start developing the ability to look up from your play to find open teammates and begin working towards the attack.
By focusing your team’s training on ball skills and footwork, you will be making your players the best prepared to learn the tactical game later in their playing careers. With these fundamental skills harnessed, the tactical game will be much easier to learn and the players will actually have the capability to perform such work. By the time they reach the professional levels, one-touch passing is an absolute must and such a skill can only be learned through constant work on the ball.
Therefore, help your players really develop in the sport of soccer by simply placing the ball at their feet and letting them get to know it. The more touches that a player accumulates over the years will have a definite impact on their future success, so ensure that your team is ready to succeed in the future with an emphasis on ball skill training!