Practice certainly does makes perfect! There is no doubting that simple fact. Indeed it is equally true that the famous benchmark of 10,000 hours is the famous benchmark for setting any player on the right track for success. But how can those hours and that dedication be optimized? By ensuring that a range of different skills and the fundamentals are honed so that over time the results that you produce a fully-rounded player with a totally accomplished technique and a readiness to shine when it comes to game day.
Technical skills have never been more vital in the game of soccer and with top scouts judging whether a child will be able to “make it” or not from as young as 12. The fundamentals that we will discuss in the following paragraphs need to become part of every aspiring soccer player’s daily routine from the very beginning.
Starting with the very first stage of fundamental skills, your practice will need to include at least 30 minutes of skill practice time per day, training your feet initially. This should start from the earliest days just get to know and understand how that ball feels when its at your feet. How do you feel most comfortable moving with the ball?
Naturally you will find a favored foot which you will be playing with the majority of the time but it is key to involve both feet so that as you develop your able to pay with either foot. Practice walking and running with the ball at your feet as well as turning suddenly. You will start to learn the unique way in which you control the ball and will eventually be able to predict where it is without looking at it. But all these things take time so just make that soccer ball your best friend first and teach your feet to know where it is at all times.
Once you’re familiar with how the ball feels when it’s at your feet you need to make sure you perfect your first touch. This is where to cushion and control a moving ball and it is something that you absolutely must master. A player’s first touch can often define them and is a major part of a player’s basic technique. You can practice for this by repeatedly kicking your ball against a standard wall and trying to control the rebound. Be sure to test yourself by hitting it against the wall at different angles so as to create new challenging scenarios for you to deal with and eventually master.
Once your first touch is beginning to enable you to control ball coming at you, it is time to practice your passing. In order to play in any position on the soccer field effectively you will need to be able to master a variety of different passing styles. Immediately essential will be the short, sharp passing style which you can practice by hitting the ball against a wall at a specific target before receiving, controlling the rebound and passing again to a different target on the wall. Add obstacles for you to avoid and practice doing this from longer distances before you are able to confidently pick out targets on the wall from around ten meters. Mixing between long and short passing will keep you running and having to control the ball lots before firing off another pass. Doing this activity with friends can also be very beneficial as you both can set new challenges for each other.
If soccer is all about goals then you must work on your shooting. In an ideal world you are able to shoot with both feet so it is important that you practice with both feet, simply because not all goalscoring opportunities will come to you on your favored foot. Practice by aiming initially for targets on a wall but then also when playing with friends try shooting with both feet – you might just surprise yourself. Bare in mind that shooting is not all about hitting the ball as hard as you can, it’s about putting it where the goalkeeper can’t get it, so practice shooting with every part of your foot, after all a goal is a goal, you don’t need to thunder in a bullet shot that tears through that net every time!
It might seem totally unnatural but heading is an essential part of being a complete soccer player. A good headerer of the ball can score goals, clear dangerous defensive moment and win the ball back for his or her team in the midfield. Initially just throw the ball up and try and control hitting it off your forehead back into your hands. Gradually build up o throwing it higher and higher and try and challenging yourself to head the ball in certain specific directions until you feel that you are able to control where your heading goes. Next try hitting it off a wall a then making moving to control the header. These exercises will come in very handy during a game situation when you need to challenge for a high ball. Just remember one thing — keep your eyes open!!
Once the basics are in place for your game you need to try and practice keeping possession. Your team can only score when you have the ball right? So, not giving it away easily when you have it will be important. You will need to practice shielding the ball by using your body as an obstacle to your opponent from getting the ball while you are still able to pass or shoot etc. The best way to achieve this is by playing one on one with a friend or relative and trying simply to stop them getting the ball. It is equally rewarding (not that it will feel like it) trying to win the ball back from someone who is really good at shielding it, as you will be able to see what they are doing well and try and replicate it in your own game.
Last but by no means least, make sure you express yourself with some skills. Seen something cool on TV or some awesome skill that someone has just pulled off? Try it yourself! Skills and tricks are as important as any other part of your game as they will enable you to have that little something extra that your opponent will not be expecting. Plus, the feeling when you try a trick and it actually works for you in a game is just amazing! Try new skills all the time, make up some of your own, express yourself and be creative, and most of all enjoy it!!