Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. It is played in every corner of the world and on all continents by hundreds of millions of people. What’s more, the sport is still getting bigger. The U.S.A is emerging as a growing market, where soccer is getting more and more popular by the day. In the technological age, we are immersed in digital content on countless platforms. There has never been more access to soccer. If you are youth beginning soccer or you want to become a pro, this article is for you.
What skills can I practice alone to improve my soccer skills?
- Ball Control
- First Touch
- Running with the ball
Basic training is an essential component in the successful training of a high-level soccer player. It is the first set of steps that send a player on their way to becoming elite. This article focuses on soccer drills for the beginner. The sections below outline a number of drills to help lay the foundations for developing a complete skillset.
“It’s preferable to repeat some movements several times, than to run through the full panoply of the young players’ repertoire in one session”. The repetition of a drill re-inforces skill and technique and makes them become instinctual.FIFA
- Ball Control: One Person Plan
- First Touch
- One-Touch Wall Pass
- Two-Touch Wall Pass
- Controlling a High-Dropping Ball
- Volley Wall Passes
- Chest-to-feet Control
- Thigh-to-feet Control
- Head-to-feet Control
- Turning: Training Drills
- Dribbling: Coaching Drills
- Long Sprints: Ball Speed
- Shooting: Scoring Improvement
- Passing: Accurate Technique
- Key to Success
All drills have a primary skill focus but incorporate secondary skills too. A small amount of equipment is needed. In most cases, a ball will do, but for some drills, cones and or goalposts come in handy. If you don’t have either, find some sort of markers to use (old shoes, clothes, rocks, etc.).
Ball Control: One Person Plan
We all want to have the ball control of our soccer heroes. Who wouldn’t want to pull the ball out of the air like Neymar, dribble past an opponent like Messi, or have the dazzling footwork of Cristiano Ronaldo? To get to this level, there have to be solid foundations in place.
When one gets the basics right, the trickier and more complicated skillset becomes much more achievable. The drills in this section are useful for all players to practice, especially beginners and intermediates.
A quality first touch is one of the most important skills to have. The ability to make a killer first touch is vital for a player to make their next move. Not all first touches come from a good pass, at the right time, and on your strong foot. Often, a player is required to take control of the ball from a poor pass, on their weaker side, and or from an awkward height.
They may be forced to control the ball using different parts of their body such as their feet, knees, upper legs, chest, shoulder, and head. Luckily there are plenty of individual drills that one can practice on their own with minimal space or equipment needed.
Main focuses of the first-touch drills;
|Primary Focus||Secondary Focus|
|Use of weaker foot||Agility / Reactions / timing|
|Use of full body||Passing|
One-Touch Wall Pass
For this drill, all you need is a ball and a wall.
Stand 6 to 10 feet from a flat wall, with the ball at your feet. Pick a spot on the wall and pass the ball to that point. When the ball rebounds, get into position to make another first time pass against the wall.
Do this for 60 seconds at a time. Make sure to use both feet.
If you have a training partner, even better. Simply stand 6 to 10 feet from each other and practice the first time passing the ball back and forth. You can increase the distance gradually.
- Stay on your toes
- Know where you are aiming your pass
- Keep your eye on the ball
- Concentrate and stay patient – this drill is tricker than it seems
See this drill at 0:12 of the video below;
Two-Touch Wall Pass
Essentially this is the same drill as above, but you are taking 2 touches – one to control the ball, and one to pass. There are several variations of this drill;
- Right foot touch and pass: using only your right foot to control and pass the ball
- Left foot touch and pass: using only your left foot to control and pass the ball
- Touch and pass with the opposite foot: take a touch with your right foot, then pass with your left (and vice versa)
- Use a cone as a marker: You cannot step past the cone. Pass the ball from behind the cone. When you receive the ball, use your first touch to take the ball to the other side of the cone, then play your pass
Use different parts of the foot when taking your touch. This can be done with a training partner also. Substitute them for the wall.
Controlling a High-Dropping Ball
A high dropping ball is one of the most difficult to control the first-time. It requires the ability to judge the flight of the ball, awareness of your position and surroundings, as well as a delicate touch. A dropping ball carries a lot of momentum due to gravity.
A player must be able to absorb some of the force of the ball while killing its momentum. Failure to control the ball results in the ball taking a heavy bounce, giving your opponents a chance to gain possession. There is very little margin for error.
This control by Manchester United’s Juan Mata is hard to believe;
The most effective way to practice this type of touch is very straightforward, but the technique itself can prove quite difficult. Throw or kick the ball high in the air. Keep your eye on the ball and control it before it hits the ground. Try to keep your touch as close to you as possible.
Use different parts of your foot, paying particular attention to the laces and the inside of the foot. If you have a training partner, take turns throwing or kicking the ball in the air for each other.
For tips, check out the video below;
Volley Wall Passes
In-game situations, you will often have to control the ball at an awkward height. The drills below are essential for improving your first touch in these scenarios.
- Touch wall passes: throw the ball at a flat wall. Use your instep to volley the ball first time back at the point that it rebounded from. Catch the ball and repeat
- Touch wall passes: throw the ball at a flat wall. Take one touch to control the ball, then take a second touch to volley the ball back at the point that it rebounded from. Catch the ball and repeat. You may use different parts of the body to control the ball. Useful areas to concentrate on are your chest, head, and thighs
- Touch wall passes: throw the ball at a flat wall. This time, throw it so that the rebound is at chest height. Take the first touch with your chest, take a second with your thigh or foot, then take a third touch to volley the ball back at the point on the wall. Catch the ball and repeat
These drills are demonstrated in the opening sequences of the video below. If you have a training partner, take turns in different roles. One player throws and catches, while the other volleys the ball back.
As with the above drills, throw the ball against a flat wall. Chest the ball to cushion it to your feet.This is a simpler drill than above but the aim is to take the ball down and control it, rather than to volley it back.
- Throw the ball against a flat wall. Use your thighs to control and cushion the ball to your feet
- Throw or kick the ball in the air. Control it with your thigh before it hits the ground
Throw the ball against a flat wall. Control the ball using your head and cushion the ball to your feet.
Turning: Training Drills
Neat and controlled turning can buy a player valuable seconds on a soccer pitch. All elite players train to be able to turn on the ball, no matter the circumstance. However, we have seen countless occasions where players turn into trouble.
Whether they lose control of the ball or are not aware of their surroundings, a bad turn can lead to a goal for the opposition. Therefore, it’s crucial that turning, as a skill, is drilled religiously. The following drills are very basic but are absolutely key for beginners.
Main focuses of the turning drills;
|Primary Focus||Secondary Focus|
|Change of direction||Speed|
|Control / balance||Quickness|
|Acceleration||Agility / Reactions / timing|
|Use of weaker foot||Dribbling|
Dribble and Turn
Set up 2 cones or markers 10 – 15 feet apart (see diagram below).
Start with the ball at your feet at the first cone and dribble to the other. When you reach the second cone, use the techniques below to turn 180 degrees and dribble back to the first cone. Repeat this a number of times.
- Inside Cut: using the inside of your foot, touch the front of the ball, stopping the forward momentum and changing its direction. Turn 180 degrees and dribble back to the starting point
- Outside Cut: using the outside of your foot, perform the same move as outlined above
- Sole Roll-back: stop the momentum of the ball by putting the sole of your foot on top of it. Then, roll it backward, again using the sole of your foot. Turn 180 degrees and dribble back to the starting point
These types of turns are the bread and butter for the likes of Iniesta, Xavi, David Silva, and Pirlo.
Use both feet in this drill as you will not always be able to turn on your stronger side in a game. The initial focus should be on a controlled and tidy turn. You want to avoid getting the ball stuck under your feet but you must also be wary of taking a poor or heavy touch on the turn. Balance and a low center of gravity are key here. The next focus should be on turning quickly and accelerating away after changing direction.
These drills are demonstrated in the video below. Skip to 2:30 for the most important parts;
Dribbling: Coaching Drills
Dribble around the Cone
Set up 2 cones or markers around 10 feet apart (see diagram below).
Dribble from one cone to the other. When you reach the next cone, dribble around it. Use the following techniques:
- Inside of the right foot only
- Outside of the right foot only
- Inside of the left foot only
- Outside of the left foot only
- A combination of all of the above
Repeat each technique 4 times. Remember, this is different from the turning drill above. The player is dribbling around the cone, not turning at it.
Set out 10 to 15 cones in a straight line with about 1.5 to 2 feet between each cone. Start at one end of the row with the ball at your feet.
- Two-footed dribble: using both feet, dribble between each cone, shifting the ball through the gaps. Once you reach the end of the row, turn back, dribble straight to the starting cone and go again
- Single-foot dribble: Execute the same drill, but this time you use only one foot. Practice using your left and right feet
Start off slowly and build up your speed in this drill. Speed is important but ball control is the main focus.
See the below (under slalom dribbling) for a demonstration of this.
Slalom / Diagonal Cone Dribbling
Set up two rows of cones (4 to 6 in each row), diagonal to each other by around 8 feet. Dribble from one cone to the next one diagonal to it, then dribble around that cone and diagonally to the next one, etc. The player is constantly dribbling in a zig-zag formation. When you round the final cone, dribble straight back to the first cone and start again.
Practice this drill with the right and left foot. Remember to start off slowly, increasing speed as you go. This is a great beginner drill as it involved close control, mid-distance dribbling, turning, and changing of pace.
See 1:18 on the video below for a demonstration of this;
Long Sprints: Ball Speed
Although close control and controlled dribbling are hugely important in the game of soccer, there are also circumstances where players must run longer distances with the ball at their feet. This requires the ability to get the ball out of feet and to cover distances at speed. The drills below are aimed at developing dribbling speed in straight lines over long distances. Speed and control are the primary focuses.
Create a lane using pairs of cones as ‘gates’. Place 2 cones, 4 feet apart to create a gate. Then in 15-foot intervals, place 3 more gates, each one directly in front of the next. See the diagram below.
There are 2 ways to practice this drill;
- Controlled speed: Dribble through the gates while concentrating equally on speed and control. Having the ball close to your feet at all times is not necessary but you must always have the ball under complete control. Increase speed each time you complete a run-through
- All-out speed: Take as few touches as possible and get through each gate as quickly as you can. You must stay within the lane at all times. This is harder than it looks as one poor touch can set you outside of the lane
This drill is fantastic for developing speed and control. Dribbling through the gates means that the player must be aware of their position, while also controlling the ball, and moving at high speed.
See 2:22 of the video below for demonstrations of each of these variations;
Shooting: Scoring Improvement
Scoring goals is often lauded as the most difficult skill in the game of soccer. Attacking players generally get the most praise, and high scoring ones generally get paid the most wages! Simply put, goals win games. Therefore, shooting is a skill that must be honed by all players, at every level.
Ideally, a player would have goalposts and a decent amount of space for the following drills. It is important to find a balance of power and accuracy with these drills. A powerful shot off-target is no use to you or your team, but a shot with very little power is likely to be saved by a goalkeeper.
Main focuses of the shooting drills;
|Primary Focus||Secondary Focus|
|Use of weaker foot||Ball control|
This drill focuses on shooting a stationary ball from a number of different areas. The player places the ball down, steps back far enough to line up their shot, then takes their run-up and shoots at goal. The first shooting position should be central and quite close to the goal. The PK spot is an ideal starting point. Then the player should move to a different angle or further back as the drill progresses.
A good way to perform this drill is to aim at both corners of the goal, high and low, and set targets for the number of times you want to hit these spots. When this target is reached, the player should change position. This drill provides a fantastic opportunity to practice your weak foot technique.
Roll and Shoot
This is similar to the above drill but it involves hitting a moving ball. Using the sole of your foot, roll the ball out in front of you, then run onto it and shoot at the goal. Again, start off centrally and not too far from the goal, progressively moving further away and creating different angles. Set scoring or aiming targets and drill the shots until you reach them.
No goalkeeper? No problem. Set goal and accuracy targets and hit them.
Dribble, Turn & Shoot
This drill is more difficult than the above 2 as the player and the ball are moving. It involves dribbling and a quick turn.
- Set out one cone at a shooting angle. As above, start close to goal, but this time you don’t necessarily need to be central
- Stand 10 feet from the cone with the ball at your feet to start.
- Dribble toward the cone as if it were a defender
- When you reach the cone, make a quick turn away from it to create a good shooting angle
- Pick a spot and shoot at goal
This is a very useful drill as it emulates an in-game scenario. Although a cone isn’t the same as a defender, it forces a player to change direction before shooting. This makes the actual shot far more difficult. Having good ball control is essential here. If a player takes a poor touch at the cone, it could make for a difficult shooting angle.
Precise accuracy is very difficult in this drill. A good starting point is to concentrate on hitting a solid goal-bound strike. Once the target is being hit with regularity, a player can focus on hitting the corners.
Back to Goal: Turn and Shoot
The most difficult of the shooting drills in this article.
- Set out a cone or marker 18 feet from the goal
- The player should stand at this point with their back to the goal and the ball at their feet
- Take 1 or 2 touches to turn goalward and create a shooting opportunity
- Shoot at goal
The player should practice turning both left and right and should take turns using their strong and weaker feet. Awareness is key in this drill as the player must instinctively know their position on the pitch in order to take an effective turn. As with all shooting drills, goal and accuracy targets should be set and reached.
Check out the video below for demonstrations of these drills and more;
Passing: Accurate Technique
Passing is a difficult skill to drill on your own. At least one training partner is needed for truly effective passing drills. However, there are some useful individual passing drills. If you have several soccer balls, they will come in handy. If you just have one, you will have to spend a lot of your time running after your passes.
Main focuses of the passing drills.
|Primary Focus||Secondary Focus|
|Use of weaker foot||First touch|
Earlier on in the article, we covered passing, one-touch, and two-touch drills that require you to use a wall as a training partner. These drills were focused on first touch and ball control. However, they double up as great individual passing drills. This time, shift your focus to hitting accurate and solid returns at the wall.
Short Passing Gates
- Set out 2 cones or markers around 4 feet apart to create a passing gate. As this is an individual drill, a net or blockade to collect the balls would be useful here. Alternatively, the gate can be placed in front of a wall
- Set out 1 cone or marker 10 feet from the gate. This marks the player’s passing position
- The player hits a firm and accurate ground pass from the cone through the passing gate as if it were to a teammate
- The player should set targets for how many passes in a row they can get through the gates. Once the target is reached, they should increase the distance of the pass
It’s important to hit a firm pass so that the ball doesn’t get intercepted or take awkward bobbles, however, the player must consider that their teammate needs to be able to control the pass. Practice using both feet for this drill.
For this drill, the more space that is available, the better.
- Set up 4 cones in a square shape, with 5 feet between each. This is the target
- Set out 1 cone 20 feet (starting distance) from the square. This marks the player’s passing position
- The player must pass the ball from the cone, into the box. The ball does not have to stop inside the box but it must pass through. If a player is hitting an aerial pass, it must bounce inside the box
- The player should set targets for how many passes they get into the box out of 10. Once the target is reached, the distance of the pass should be increased
Try using different techniques at different distances. A deft chip may work at middle distances but at a longer distance a high ‘pinged’ pass might be more useful, or perhaps a Paul Scholesesque daisy cutter could work.
Key to Success
There are huge benefits to extra individual work that a player might undertake, be it recovery, strength, and conditioning, or skill work. At the beginner level, drilling soccer techniques is crucial. The quicker a player gets solid foundations under them, the more they will improve at a faster rate.
It’s proven to be effective to focus on specific types of techniques in each session. For example, one day the session should revolve around shooting and passing, while the next day the session should focus on dribbling and close ball control. Therefore, when planning a session, a beginner should set out to practice specific skills and drills.
Unsurprisingly, the more sessions that a player can squeeze in, the better. The more you train (correctly), the better you will become. That being said, it’s important to listen to your body. Overtraining is a real thing and it can cause injury, which will almost certainly set a player back in their progression. It is also essential to warm up before each session.
As mentioned several times throughout the article, a player should set targets when training individually. There is no coach around for guidance and feedback so target setting and monitoring is a great way to measure and analyze performance and progress.
Enjoy these drills and best of luck on your journey to becoming a better soccer player.
How do you start soccer practice? 1. warm-up and stretch your muscles – flexibility is key in soccer. 2. Carry-out short and long sprints to open your chest and activate your muscles. 3. Get a feel for the ball, play with it and loosen-up.
How long should soccer drills last? Intense soccer drills can be as short as 5 minutes and the longer ones go up to 30 minutes that focus on game-play.
How can I run faster in soccer? Minimal body fat is required for top speed. Practice short and long sprints to increase muscle capacity – read more.