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Top football dribbling drills for individual training

By Lucas Keating, 20 July 2020

The famous Italian football manager Arrigo Sacchi believes that football is “the most important of the unimportant things in life”, and the majority would agree with him.  Players all around the world aspire to become the next rising stars. In the meantime, the trend toward specialized football training in football camps and academies has been growing exponentially. 

Johan Cruyff was a three-time Ballon d’Or winner and an outstanding football coach. In his book “Futbol–Mi Filosofia”, he said that there are five basic elements of football: shooting, heading, dribbling, carrying the ball, and ball control. 

If you want to become a professional football player, these elements are crucial for your success. Some might argue that one element is more important than the other, but keep in mind that top football players have that status because they can do it all. 

Significance of football dribbling skills

Football requires you to make a commitment to the training grounds before you step on the pitch, and efficient football drills set apart professionals from average football players. Each of the five basic elements has a specific set of drills that vastly improve the skills of just about anyone interested in football. Our focus today is on soccer dribbling drills.

It is important to learn how to dribble in soccer at an early age because you can only upgrade your skillset from that point on. Soccer dribbling is an important aspect of the game as it brings out the competitiveness in children. Because of that, dribbling drills for youth soccer teams are a part of every training session at the football schools and academies. However, many professional athletes still use some of the same football dribbling drills because of their efficiency. 

Every soccer fan knows who Messi and Ronaldo are, and just about everyone knows who Diego Armando Maradona is. Many other players like Pele, Ronaldinho, and Neymar share the art of football dribbling that allows them to create space and a better position to score the goal. 

These players are well-known for their ability to storm through the defense, leaving their opponents in the dust because of their masterful football dribbling. What they have learned is how to dribble a soccer ball efficiently. 

Although talent plays an important role, they had to perfect their skills in football training sessions. If you are wondering how to dribble in soccer, it is not enough to watch the greats do it, you will have to train hard. 

Only by committing to these exercises will you become a better football player. Because of your hard work, you will able to maintain possession, advance the ball towards the opponent’s goal, or relieve pressure by creating space. Football dribbling practice will take your technical and conditioning athletic performance to the next level. 

Use of cones for football dribbling development

If you want to know how to dribble a soccer ball properly on your own and get prepared for modern game requirements, you could use the help of cones. Cone drills allow you to improve your ball control and change direction. 

Although cones are immobile and do not resemble a live opponent, do not underestimate the importance of cones because it refines your football dribbling skills. You will need to learn how to move and keep control of the ball before you encounter a real-life defender. These dribbling drills help to improve the player’s weaker foot, which will boost his/her overall confidence in soccer as well as ball control skills.

We have prepared some soccer dribbling drills that will efficiently improve your soccer dribbling. 

Cone Weave

Cone Weave is probably the most popular exercise for the development of dribbling skills, and many have encountered it in an early stage. Even though these cone dribbling drills for soccer are simple, they can have an immense impact as they teach you how to use all parts of your foot and enhance game-specific agility. 

This exercise also improves body positioning. Before doing this drill, set ten to fifteen cones in a straight line about a foot and a half apart from one another. Start by dribbling with one foot in-between each cone to form a small zigzag pattern. This drill is about making as many slight touches as possible. Control each touch and make sure you do not push out and chase the ball. 

You will need to use both inside and outside of your foot to execute this drill properly. If you are doing the drill with your right leg, start by pushing the ball with the outside of your foot around the first cone. Once you reach the second cone, go left and push the ball with the inside of your foot until you reach the third cone. Repeat this around the rest of the cones to complete one repetition. 

The more you practice, the better your dribble will become. There is no limit for this exercise, but you can start by doing five repetitions with each leg. Always concentrate on the ball and your speed will pick up even though you started slow. In the beginning, you might hit a cone, or the ball might escape from you, but the important thing is to continue the drill. Eventually, your dribbling skills will massively improve. 

You can create your versions of Cone Weave, which puts it the group among the most versatile soccer dribbling drills. You could use both feet, but only control the ball with the inside of your foot or the outside of your foot. Also, the number of touches and your body position can vary. 

After some time, try more difficult versions of cone weave like Left or right crossover, Left or right inside-outside or Left or right roll inside touch. But for starters, you will need to master the basic cone weave because it massively improves your ball control and football dribbling.

 

Figure Eight

Figure Eight requires only two cones set about three to five feet apart. You should dribble the ball in and around the cones, thus creating an imaginary number eight. This football dribbling drill has many versions, but some general rules apply to all of them. Do not take long steps because long steps take more time and you might lose control over the ball. If you take short quick steps while keeping an eye on the ball, your football dribbling will benefit more. 

Position your body correctly, and your legs need to be ready to change direction fast. Make sure you are always over the ball with slightly bent knees because this allows you to have a lower center of gravity. Lower center of gravity means that you would be more balanced while making sharp turns. If you want the right results, you will need to stay relaxed in the beginning and proceed to more difficult versions of “Figure Eight” once you master the basic football dribbling drills. Just like with cone weave, you can start by using the left or right foot, one at a time, to maintain the control over the ball. 

Touching the ball with only one foot allows you to use all the surfaces of the foot, which can be easily transitioned to the game. You could use only the inside or outside of your foot to push the ball and maintain possession. Once you become too comfortable with these basic versions, you can move on to more advanced soccer dribbling that use the same setup like Scissors, V-turn or other. 

 

Zigzag Slalom

Zigzag Slalom combines ball control and speed. This drill will also improve your agility and quickness because it requires you to make a sharp turn and a short-distance sprint. The setup for this exercise is not as simple as the cone weave drill. You will need to set six or seven cones in a straight line about three feet from one another. Make a parallel line of six or seven cones about six feet apart from each other. The two parallel lines should be six feet apart from one another, and the left line should start one and a half feet after the right line. 

If you set the cones properly, you see that they form a zigzag pattern crucial for this drill. Just like cone weave, do this drill with only one foot at a time. Start by going around the first cone on the right side, and the outside of your foot until you reach the first cone. 

Once you get to the first cone, make two touches with the inside of your foot, and push the ball in the direction of the first left cone. Once the ball direction is proper, use the outside of your foot to control the ball and get to the first left cone. Your speed on the turn and after pushing the ball should increase. Once you get to the first left cone, use the inside of your foot to make the turn and go to the second right cone. 

Repeat this process until you have reached the last left cone. Do this drill with your right and left foot five times each.

 

Please, be noted, that you might consider joining intensive soccer camps hosted by the professional football academies throughout the year. For example, elite football academy ICEF in Evian (France) which is considered to be one of the best independent football academies in Europe.

Diagonal Dribble

Diagonal Dribble is among advanced dribbling drills for soccer because it imitates real-life movement and going through your opponents one by one. You will need only four cones to set up this drill. Place one cone on the ground and put the next about six to eight feet further. The third cone should be twelve to sixteen feet apart from the second one, and these three cones should form a ninety-degree angle. Place the fourth cone six to eight feet from the third cone, and cones number two, three, and four should form a ninety-degree angle. 

This kind of setup combines a shorter and longer distance dribbling in football. As you might have noticed, there is a short length between the first and the second cone, and between the third and the fourth cone. However, once you reach the second cone, cover a longer distance to get to the third cone. 

In the game, you will never have the same setup, but changing direction and covering different lengths with the ball is a constant. Be sure that you do not make long strides, and touch the ball with each step you make.  Start the drill by the first cone, go to the second one, and make a sharp turn. 

The longer distance between the second and the third cone will allow you to speed up, but still pay attention to the ball. Once you reach the third cone, make a sharp turn around it and move to the fourth one. Go all the way around the fourth cone, and get back to the starting position by doing the same movement in reverse. You will complete one repetition once you reach the starting cone, and you could do two repetitions with each foot.

 

Square Dribble

Square Dribble is a straightforward exercise among advanced dribbling drills in soccer that especially improves your ball control while turning. Before doing this exercise, put four cones on the ground, eight to ten feet apart. 

Place cones in the shape of a square, meaning that every three cones should create a ninety-degree angle. As with previous football dribbling drills, do this exercise with your right and left foot, one at a time. 

Make sure you control the ball with the outside of your foot and move from one cone to the other until you reach the last cone. While you are running towards the last cone, make a turn with the outside of your foot. Once you go around the last cone, return to the starting cone, but use the inside of your foot to cut corners.

Pay attention to the form because you do not want to make lousy turns, and always accelerate immediately after going around a cone.  Just like with diagonal dribble, do this drill at least two times with each foot, and be sure to rest between repetitions.

 

Square Turns

Square Turns uses the same cone set up as the previous drill because it is only a variation of the square dribble. However, instead of only cutting the ball at ninety degrees and running to the next cone, you will need to go all the way around the cone before proceeding to the next one. This means that you will perform a three-sixty degree turn around each cone. Again, while you are going from the starting to the last cone, use the outside of your foot to make turns. When you reach the last cone, make a turn, and use the inside of your foot to make three-sixty turns. 

Repeat this process at least two times with your right and with your left foot, and rest between repetitions.

 

Football dribbling drills with gates

Football dribbling isn’t only about the change of direction. If you want to become a professional football player, you will need to run with the ball a lot. Once in a while, you will have the opportunity to cover a lot of distance with the ball in a straight line.

Fast Lane Dribbling is among the best soccer dribbling drills that improve your speed with the ball while going linearly, and there are two versions. Before starting this exercise, set six cones in a line seven feet apart. Make a parallel line of cones three feet apart from the first line. The first cone on the right and the first cone on the left create a gate that you should go through and the same applies for the rest of the cones. 

This drill is simple, but effective. Go through each gate as fast as you can, and make sure you stay inside the gate every time. Do not focus on the number of touches that your foot makes with the ball, but maintain control over the ball. Just like with two previous exercises, do this drill with each foot at a time. 

Start at the first gate and push the ball with the outside of your foot. Once your foot moves the ball, immediately plant with your foot, and move the other foot in a running motion. You should take two steps in between the touches to control the ball properly. 

Do this with your right and left foot five times each, and make sure you have enough time to recover between the repetitions. This is among the best exercises for dribbling in soccer when it comes to fast breaks. 

The setup for the Second Version of the Fast Lane Dribbling drill is the same. However, the second version requires you to pay attention to the number of touches while running with the ball. You should touch the ball with every step that you make with your dribbling foot. 

Messi first comes to mind when you do this drill because he always maintains control of the ball as if it is glued to his leg. That is because he touches the ball with his dribbling foot every time he takes a step. You won’t be able to do this drill at full speed, but eventually, your speed will pick up and get close to ninety percent of your max speed.

Make sure that you push the ball with the outside of your foot because it is easier to control the football that way. Do the same number of repetitions with each foot as in previous football dribbling drills. 

 

There are many professionall football academies presented on Sportlane, a player can register for if he/she is ready to give it at least 3 months of soccer training. In general, high-performance football academies have residential programs with duration from 6 to 12 months. 

Shuttle Runs 

Shuttle Runs are among the drills that most athletes do daily, but they are also among the efficient soccer dribbling drills. Soccer dribbling is an art form that requires many stops, changes of direction, and covering distances of different lengths. To learn how to dribble a soccer ball, you will need to know these key elements. That is why shuttle runs are among dribbling drills for youth soccer teams. 

You need at least four gates to execute this exercise and improve your soccer dribbling. Start at the first gate and run with the ball to the second gate. Make sure you touch the ball with each step you take. Once you reach the second gate, make a sharp one-eighty degree turn and return to the first gate. You must speed up as much as you can once you make each turn. Sprint from the first to the third gate, make a sharp turn and go to the first gate. 

To finish one repetition, sprint to the last gate, and return to the starting gate. Repeat this process with each foot at least two times. 

 

Gated Turn 

Even though it seems like an easy drill, Gated Turn combines many essential elements of football. This drill will improve your explosiveness, agility, and ball control both while turning and running linearly. You will only need three cones to set this drill up. In the beginning, make a gate out of two cones that should be three feet apart. The third cone should be about ten feet apart from the gate. Go through the gate, accelerate down to the third cone, and go around it. 

While you are turning, make sure you use the outside of the foot to maintain the control of the ball, and make a sharp turn. Sprint with the ball to the gate and stop the ball at the gate. Do not step on the ball. You should use the outside of your foot to stop the ball, and your body should be positioned laterally when you reach the gate. 

The reason for this kind of body position is that you might need to do this again in the game, and this stance enables you to react swiftly. Do this exercise ten times in a row with your right leg, and rest a bit. Once you recover, execute this drill with your left leg.

It should be noted that the athlete should dedicate his/her training time to different skills beneficial to the game. Along with dribbling, it is recommended to develop passing and shooting skills as well and thus to include football passing drills and football shooting drills into your daily practice. 

Conclusion

Football is the universal language and has a positive influence on many young people all over the world. Whether you play it with your friends on the streets or watch Ronaldo or Messi destroy their opponents, the love for the game is never-ending. Yet, watching games alone will not improve one's football dribbling skills, thus, the player must train regularly, and take any possibility they have to get better, be it 1-1 coaching sessions, summer soccer camps, or long-term residential football academies.