Dribbling allows you to move the ball around the field without losing possession.
Most players (including advanced players) dribble incorrectly. Unfortunately, most coaches don’t teach players proper dribbling technique.
This article will teach you perfect dribbling technique. You will learn how to dribble with speed, the types of soccer touches, how far you should touch the ball, how to turn, how to practice dribbling efficiently, and soccer dribbling tips.
5 Steps to Learn How to Dribble a Soccer Ball
1. Use your arms
When you dribble with speed move your arms as you would when you sprint without the ball.
Keep your arms out at all times when dribbling around defenders. You can use them to brush past players, improve your balance, and keep players farther away from you.
Read our article, How to Use Your Arms in Soccer for more information.
2. Stay in an athletic position
An athletic position will help you remain balanced. Good balance will help you cut quickly in any direction while retaining control of the ball.
When dribbling you should feel relaxed and comfortable. Center your position of gravity, bend your knees slightly, and keep your back straight (or lean forward slightly).
3. Use the front of your feet
Every good speed and agility trainer will tell you to land on the front of your feet. Landing on your heels will slow you down and reduce your balance.
Land on the front of your feet every step, whether you are dribbling forward with your laces or cutting across your body using an inside touch.
4. Use your place foot correctly
When you dribble forward your place foot (foot not dribbling the ball) should push off the ground just like you are sprinting or jogging.
When you cut to change directions your place foot should hop slightly. This makes the movement quick and natural and helps you retain balance.
5. Raise up your knee
Speed and agility coaches will tell you to raise your knees high to build momentum (thus increasing speed).
Most players have little or no knee movement, which reduces their speed when dribbling (and running in general).
Having said that, I don’t feel raising your knees super high is necessary. I improved my dribbling speed when I started lifting them high, but discovered lifting knees to a moderate height resulted in an ideal speed.
So I recommend raising your knees up to a moderate height to maximize your dribbling and sprinting speed.
Using the different parts of your feet
There are 4 different parts of your feet, the laces, outside, inside, and sole.
Always use your laces to dribble forward with speed. Don’t imitate players who use the inside of their feet to dribble forward. This is significantly slower than using your laces.
When you use your laces to dribble, touch the ball with each step. This is the key to having the ball “glued” to your feet. When you keep the ball close like this defenders will have a hard time stealing the ball.
Use the outside, inside, and soles of your feet to cut inside and outside of your body, to use moves, and to turn. Which part of your foot you should use depends on the position of the ball and your body. Experiment to see what works best in different situations.
You will turn to the opposite direction many times throughout games.
As mentioned above, you can use any part of your foot besides the laces to turn.
Shift your entire body when you turn and always touch the ball across your body.
If turning across your body exposes the ball to defenders, quickly shift your body the opposite way while turning.
How to Improve Your Dribbling Ability
Mastering dribbling takes thousands of hours of practice.
The best way to practice dribbling is to take a ball to an open space with grass and dribble back and forth.
For instance, dribble with your laces to the end of the green space, turn, than dribble back with your opposite foot.
To learning the other types of touches, turn your body to the side and do the same thing – go to till you reach the end of the space then use the opposite foot to dribble back.
As you get more comfortable, slowly increase your dribbling pace while keeping the ball under control. Eventually you will be able to sprint at fast speeds while keeping the ball close to your feet.
Remember to train both feet equally. Having the ability to dribble with both feet will make you more effective on the field.
Dribbling can get monotonous so I recommend keeping your sessions short (20-30 minutes) before moving onto another skill. All your training will add up overtime. It won’t happen overnight, but eventually your teammates and coach will be stunned at how much you’ve improved.
You may have heard coaches compliment “explosive players.”
You can become an explosive player if you practice changing pace.
Practice dribbling at a moderate pace, than explode (dribble as fast as you can) when you get to a certain area (you can mark this area with a cone). If possible, have someone blow a whistle or shout “explode” at random intervals. Explode for a few seconds when the person yells or blows the whistle.
In game situations, you should explode into open space. Dribble at a moderate pace when there are defenders around you, find open space, then explode into it away from defenders.
How Far Away Can Your Ball Be?
Keep the ball close to you most of the time when dribbling.
However, sometimes it’s beneficial to take a medium or even long touch ahead of you. No matter how good of a dribbler you are, you will be faster off the ball. So touching the ball farther ahead of you will increase your speed.
Touch the ball farther ahead when you have open space and there aren’t defenders ahead of you. For example, if you beat the opposing wingback and have space down the sidelines you can take a touch far ahead of you.
Don’t use a bigger touch unless you’re sure a defender or goalkeeper can’t get to the ball.
5 Soccer Dribbling Tips
1. Shield and dribble
If a defender charges at you, put your body ahead of the ball, than explode in the other direction.
Also try shielding will dribbling forward. For example dribble down the right sideline and touch the ball with the inside of your right foot (this is the only time I advocate using an inside touch to dribble forward). You will move forward while shielding the ball.
To learn more about shielding look at our article, How to Shield a Soccer Ball.
2. Look at the ball less
Good players look at the field more than the ball. This allows them to see potential passes (see How to Develop Vision in Soccer) and opposing players.
Look up, then glimpse down quickly at the ball when you need to, then look up again. Repeat while dribbling.
The more comfortable you become dribbling, the less you’ll have to look at the ball.
3. Dribble with a purpose
I sometimes see player dribble with no purpose. These players often have to shield the ball than pass the ball back to defenders (if they don’t lose the ball first).
Dribbling with a purpose if you want to be effective on the field. Explode into open space, make room for a shot, set up a cross, or dribble away from defenders while you look for a pass.
4. Learn how to beat players
Beating players will open up the field. In other words, you can create great opportunities when you can beat a player or two.
5. Take a ball with you
When you go places take a soccer ball with you in a backpack or carry it. Dribble around when you have downtime.
When you have a ball, wasted time turns into practice. It’s not surprising that many great players such as Messi took a ball with them whenever they could when they were developing as a player.