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Young players moves with the ball

Whenever you plan a session, consider your players' stage of development. For example, children around six to eight instinctively focus on 'me and the ball'. As a result, it's helpful to maximise individual opportunities to move with the ball. This includes things like 1v1 and 2v2 practices.  


Every child needs to develop physical literacy. These skills enable confident movement – and can be honed using tag games. For example, if 'tagged', a player has to balance on one leg. Then, to get 'free', they must seek out and high-five a teammate. Games like this encourage basic skills like agility, balance and coordination. They also make excellent arrival activities.


To help players dribble, we need to expose them to lots of game-based experiences. This allows them to process different situations and build a toolkit of responses. For example, while U8s play 5v5 on matchdays, their sessions should include lots of 1v1, 1v2 and 2v2. Get creative with the STEP principle and encourage players to observe their options. For example, ask your team to play 'like meerkats'. As they dribble, they need to keep their head up and scan!  


Players need to know when to move with the ball – and when to release it. To develop this skill, your team must practise their decision-making in realistic situations. It can also be helpful to ask players to focus on their awareness, body position and control. This encourages the development of good 'individual tactics' – on and off the ball.  


How players dribble depends on what's happening around them. For example, if space is available, they may choose to run. If it's tight, they may decide to turn. If marked closely, they may use multiple touches to hide, move and reveal the ball.  

Whatever your player's decision, encourage them to evaluate their execution. This could include peer observation and 1-2-1 interventions. Remember: if you're providing feedback, always start with a positive.  


When helping players to dribble, try to factor in each of the four corners. Here are some areas to consider.  

  • Psychological: the perception of pressure and space when scanning the pitch.  

  • Physical: the change of pace and direction to exploit space.  

  • Social: the ability to combine with a teammate to move or 'lend' the ball.  

  • Technical and tactical: the skill to control the ball – whether close or far.  

One of the joys of football is having the ball at your feet and moving it comfortably and confidently. When developing a young team, this 'love of the ball' must be a priority. 


Check out our bib tag session – it’s a great way to practise dribbling with your players.  


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