Modern soccer is faster in pace and more challenging than it was in the 70s and 80s. Due to the increasing pace of the game, keeping the ball in control has become more difficult especially while running and trying to evade defenders.
Any soccer player who isn’t properly groomed in the art of controlling soccer balls will always find it difficult to control balls with their first touch. Such players will also find it tough making lofty ball drops in soccer, as well as performing successful dribbles.
Adequate ball control is an essential soccer skill. Having the right amount of control over the ball will enable you to gain dominance and authority on the soccer pitch—even when you don’t have the exceptional speed or enormous physical strength.
Players like Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta are some examples of professional soccer players that fall under this category. Although controlling balls might come easier to some soccer players than others, the importance of adequate training and exercise cannot be neglected.
Persistent training can help improve not just your natural abilities but also advance your soccer skills. In fact, to make any tangible progress as a soccer player, you must first build your ball control ability to a sufficient level.
By reading this article, you will understand some practices and drills that can help you have better ball control in soccer.
How to have better ball control in soccer?
Controlling a soccer ball effortlessly requires a lot of mastery which can only be achieved from consistent training. Not all effective soccer training is tedious. Some can be done.
Amateur soccer players can get specialized training on ball control by attending soccer camps or football academies. In academies, you will be put through key soccer drills that can help advance your ball control and generally improve your game.
Having adequate ball control doesn’t just stop at juggling or freestyling with soccer balls, it also covers giving precise passes, dribbling successfully, and shooting balls accurately while on the pitch.
To attain a good level of ball control, soccer players must actively engage in drills that train the parts of their body lawfully allowed to touch the ball during games. Every soccer player must learn and master the four basic types of touches used in soccer.
Types of touches in soccer
“Touch” is a word you will hear frequently in soccer during matches, although not every soccer fan understands what it means.
There are many ways of describing a good touch to regular soccer fans, some of which include:
- When a player performs a successful dribble from a difficult position
- In a situation where a striker evades multiple defenders when trying to score a goal
- Giving a difficult but accurate and well-calculated pass on the pitch, etc.
Below is a well-explained list of the four basic types of touches in soccer:
1. The sole touch
The sole we are referring to here is the bottom of the soccer boot which makes direct contact with the ground. It requires a lot of practice to make a successful first touch with the sole.
A good sole touch can be used to destabilize a difficult defense and even used to properly position the ball for a shot on goal. To execute a successful sole touch, get your foot to gently rest on top of the ball.
After getting the ball to rest, you can execute a couple of dribbles based on your proximity to opponent players. A good sole touch will enable you to easily switch directions, transition into other touches, and give accurate passes.
2. The lace touch
This touch is very popular among soccer players and involves using your knotted shoelaces to control a ball in motion.
Making proper use of the knotted part of your soccer boot in controlling balls has a couple of benefits. It enables you to move into open spaces and easily perform quick dribbles, as well as properly control aerial balls.
To perform the lace touch, you just need to lift your knee, lock your ankle, and point your toes downward. When the ball approaches, try making contact by giving it a nudge with your laces.
When making this contact, be careful not to push too hard or too gentle. You may lose control of the ball if you hit it too hard or too gently.
Keep practicing until you figure out the right amount of force to apply for this touch.
3. Outside touch
The outside touch used to be very common in the early years of soccer. It involves using the outside of the foot to control balls. Skilled players often use this touch to keep defenders away from retrieving the ball.
In terms of general body movement, the outside touch takes less effort to perform than the lace and sole touch. To execute this touch, you need to move your foot a bit inside and then lock your ankle.
After locking your ankle, shuffle your foot out wide to hit the ball and make it halt close to your body. If you can master this touch, it will enable you to quickly switch directions.
4. Inside touch
This touch is what distinguishes professional players from amateurs. It is easy to learn but requires constant practice so you don’t make mistakes while performing it on the pitch.
To perform this touch, simply position your kicking foot with the inside facing the approaching ball then lock your ankle. Nudge the ball with the arch of the foot across your body to the side.
While nudging the ball, adjust your foot’s ankle to prevent the ball from stopping too close or too far from you. Learning how to execute this touch with both of your feet will help you excel in your soccer career.
Aside from mastering the various kinds of touches used by professional soccer players, implementing some ball control techniques can improve your style of play.
Techniques used in controlling soccer balls
Great soccer players can instantly bring balls under control no matter the speed or direction of the ball. By applying the techniques we will be showing you, you can have a good first touch which will give you ample space and time to either dribble, pass, or shoot the ball.
1. Wedge control
This technique is also called a “wedge trap” and it is used in stopping balls when receiving a pass especially when you intend to play the trapped ball into free space.
To perform this technique, stay on your toes in preparation to give the ball a quick chase if you fail to trap it when it bounces. Make contact with the ball using the rigid sole of your boot.
Trap or wedge the ball to the ground with the sole of your boot while preparing for your next move. Always have your next move ready on queue even before trapping the ball.
You can also use either the inside or outside of your foot to perform this ball control technique.
2. Sleep control
The sleep control is also referred to as the “cushion control” and involves absorbing the energy, speed, and pace of the soccer ball using your boots so that it can rest exactly where you want it to.
To perform this unique technique, you have to first of all position yourself properly on the field so that you can see the ball from any angle it might be approaching from.
The next thing you should do is to suspend your foot close to the ground along the ball’s dropping path. Then, lock your ankle and try cushioning the ball when it lands on your foot.
Use your toes to properly cushion the ball while bringing your foot down slowly. If the ball is properly cushioned, its impact will be neutralized and it wouldn’t bounce off your foot.
You can also cushion balls with your chest if they approach chest level. All you need to do is to bend backward and allow the ball to land on your chest while you cushion its impact with your chest and legs until it loses momentum.
3. Dribble control
Dribble control is the ability to hold onto the ball while changing direction quickly. It requires changing the direction of the ball using the inside and the outside of the foot.
Dribbling through opponents on the soccer pitch while maintaining control over the ball requires confidence and the right skill set. Professional soccer players can dribble their way into the opponent’s goal area without looking at the ball.
Not every professional soccer player is good at dribbling. Knowing how to dribble correctly in soccer will increase your ball possession and conversion rate.
To improve your dribbling skills, you must learn to practice beyond the training initially receive from your coaches alone. While dribbling, some soccer players juggle the ball to get out of a crowded situation.
While dribbling, use your arms to maintain balance and control over the ball while using your shoulder to shield the ball from opponents. There are special drills that can help you to improve your dribbling skills.
Soccer ball control drills
To further develop your close ball control skills and great first touch, you can constantly engage in a few exercises or drills. These drills must be able to enhance your balance, speed, dexterity, agility, and strength.
To have mastery of the soccer ball, you need to work on your footwork, touch, and technique. If these aspects are carefully developed, you can easily dribble your way past defenders, create smart chances, and even balance balls on your neck.
Below is a short list of drills you can actively engage in during training to help improve your overall ball control.
The toe tap drill is a popular and effective way of improving a player’s ball control skills. It looks easy but can increase your coordination, balance, and speed of your footwork.
To perform this drill, place the soccer ball in a stationary position on the ground then put one foot on top of it. Switch your feet on the stationary soccer ball as if you are jogging and continue increasing the speed at which you do this.
The difficulty in this drill comes from being concentrated and coordinated enough to keep the ball stationary while switching feet, especially when you are doing it at a very fast pace.
To put your footwork to the test, try rotating around the ball while doing the toe taps. This drill doesn’t only test your footwork, it also makes you aware of the soccer ball’s position in synchronization with your body.
- Improves your foot-handling skills, balance, and speed
- Lowers body fat and burns calories
- Increases your coordination and concentration on the soccer pitch
- High risk of slip and fall
Soccer players often use their heads during soccer matches although not as often as they use their legs. Heading drills are crucial for soccer players because it improves their overall aerial ball control, confidence, and also enable them to keep soccer balls in the air.
The most common heading drill requires you to either head the ball against the wall or return it to a teammate with your head when they throw it to you. You get better at heading the ball by constantly practicing this drill.
By constantly practicing different heading drills, you will come to master how to properly direct balls using your head. You will also learn how to give precise passes to teammates and even score goals with your head.
You should time your run, footwork, and jump to attain as much height on your leap as possible when trying to score a goal with your head. Soccer players who are very good at heading balls always find it easier to score goals during corner kicks and free kicks.
- Helps you control balls in the air using your head
- Strengthens your neck muscles
- Improves your accuracy in giving passes and scoring goals with the head
- Can lead to concussion and trauma when done carelessly
We have seen soccer players juggle their way out of dicey situations during a soccer game. Cristiano Ronaldo and Jay-Jay Okocha are two superstars that easily come to mind for their incredible ball juggling skills.
Juggling is a great way of improving your overall ball control because it involves keeping the ball afloat for as long as possible using different parts of your body permitted by the rules of soccer.
Besides being entertaining and fun, it improves your balance, coordination, and touch. Juggling also works on many parts of your body including the head, chest, thighs, neck, and feet.
One of the most common juggling drills involves kicking up a ball from its stationary position on the ground or dropping it to your foot from your hands while you switch feet in trying to keep the ball from touching the ground.
Make sure you combine sharp, hard, and soft touches in a coordinated rhythm while juggling the ball to maintain your body’s balance which will, in turn, increase your level of control over the ball.
Regardless of the juggling drill you might be doing, make sure you keep your knees slightly bent. Doing this will help you retain control of the ball.
Juggling isn’t often used by players during matches. However, it helps in making them more creative and confident when dribbling.
- Improves leg-eye coordination for better reaction time
- Juggling builds concentration, strategic thinking, spatial awareness, and reflexes
- It relieves stress
Soccer players must develop the ability to always remain in charge of the ball at every moment on the pitch, especially when under pressure. A player will always be rated low if he or she is fond of losing possession of the ball.
Having adequate control of the soccer ball will enable you to successfully pull off exhilarating skills on the pitch without much difficulty. Your ability to utilize chances during matches will increase drastically if you get your ball control skills right.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!