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Dribbling. Simply put, this phrase means staying on the ball while moving it around the pitch. Players can use different techniques to achieve this, like hiding and revealing.  

Dribbling is an important skill to develop. It allows players to:  

  • run into space  

  • manipulate the ball to stay 'on it'  

  • change direction and skip past an opponent  

  • help their team keep possession.  

This was demonstrated in Euro 2020, where lots of English players, such as Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho, made the most of this skill.

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Example

This video demonstrates some of the many ways you can dribble and move with the ball. It also highlights the role of key skills, such as perception.

Now, let's look at the image below. Here, Jadon Sancho is surrounded by three members of the opposing team – Ukraine. If one of your players was in a similar position, would they know what to do?  

England's Jadon Sancho uses his ability to move with the ball to glide past two Ukraine players at Euro 2020. 
England's Jadon Sancho uses his ability to move with the ball to glide past two Ukraine players at Euro 2020. 

Sancho did. And this is down to his football experience.  

In response to this situation – while surrounded by defenders – Sancho moved the ball and worked his body to disguise his intentions. Sancho is exceptionally confident in using multiple parts of his foot to shift the ball.  

Ultimately, Sancho succeeded in this situation thanks to many years of practice. To help your team gain this experience, give them as many opportunities as possible to test their skills. Remember that dribbling, and staying on the ball, go hand in hand. We need to support players to develop in both these areas.  

 

At times, moving with the ball can feel a bit risky. This means you may see it more in attacking areas – where there's less at stake if you lose possession.  

As a coach, your role is to help players feel comfortable dribbling in any area of the pitch. To do this, your team must have the opportunity to test their skills in both opposed and unopposed game-based experiences. This will help them gain 'football memory' and become creative, confident players.  

When coaching your team to dribble, here are some key considerations.  

  • Before you get players moving with the ball, help them to master their body.  
  • Make staying on the ball your primary focus.  
  • Create sessions that give players realistic opportunities to practise.  

Remember that players face a slightly different situation every time they move with the ball. To get used to this, your team must explore the weight of their touches, what part of the foot to use, changing direction and how to beat defenders – all while staying on the ball. This is especially true if you work with younger players.  

As coaches, we're probably all guilty of yelling the odd "pass!" from the sidelines (especially on matchdays). But that's rarely helpful for team development. Instead, let's try to encourage more dribbling – and provide players with the support they need to do it.