Making the Most of Your Time with the Ball

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By Scott Leber, – This fall, thousands and thousands of hours are going to be spent training to improve a young player’s technical ability. And a great question to ask is, “Are we making the best use of that time?” Across the country, players are getting a lot of touches on the ball – however, they may not be training at the speed or the sharpness that is required in games.

Coaches often ask players to dribble in a box or allow players to have less than perfect touches. But in a game, we are not dribbling in a box and the ball turns over every time there is a lazy or poor touch. When we don’t provide enough pressure, a time constraint, or a space constraint, we may not be challenging our players to develop the proper tools to solve the problems that the game demands.

Therefore, as much as possible, we need to train in game-like setting when working on our individual skills.

So how do we do it?

First, we have to ask the player to be deliberate with every single touch. Try and isolate a specific skill or skills to leave no room for interpretation – the coach and player knows exactly what is being asked to perform and players can really see where their weaknesses are. If the first touch has to be with the outside of the right foot and at a forward angle, demand it. If you want the pass to hit the right foot, demand that type of accuracy. If you want a quick outside right touch and then an inside right foot touch past the defender after the scissor, demand it.

Next, we can limit the time they have to do the skill and keep score. When placing a time constraint and a score to a skill, we are requiring players to perform the skills at their absolute maximum speed for that time period. You will be amazed when the work rate jumps 15 to 20 percent! Players will consistently want to beat their old scores while wanting to compare themselves with their teammates. Building a healthy sense of competition in practice can be motivating and fun for all the players.

Finally, when you add deliberate training + time constraint + score keeping, we are applying the best pressure we can to an individual player – the pressure to be better than yourself. Players can now set their own goals and see their own improvement. Individual achievement in a team setting can be very powerful. The strongest and weakest players on the team can score and improve at their own rate without being dependent on anyone else.

So let’s make the most of this fall! Be deliberate with every touch. Perform the skill at game speed. And always push yourself to improve your score!

Scott Leber is the Founder and CEO of iSoccer was founded in 2008 with a single objective: How to motivate players to train harder and increase their technical ability. Check out to learn more about the iSoccer skills test, tracking tools and age group technical standards.