How to Use Practice Games and Patches to Teach
Speed Dribbling and Breakaways

(Following is a letter and my reply on this subject).

Hi SoccerHelp,

I have been a member of SoccerHelp Premium for about 2 years now and it has just been the greatest resource I have run across. Thanks for all your work putting this all together.

I have come to ask for suggestions for Practice Games. I coach 11-12 yr old girls, a Rec team, and they have not lost a game in almost 2 years now, in fact, they have only had 8 goals scored against them the whole time (thanks in large part to SoccerHelp). However, I am always looking for ways to improve upon their skills and play. The problem I am seeing now is that when they have breakaways and are running with the ball, they all tend to kick it too far in front of themselves and end up losing control of it or they have it taken away by the defense before they have the chance to shoot or make a pass.

"Dribble Across a Square" has been used in the past as a game to try to improve their dribbling skills, but they tend not to really enjoy it that much. What other games or drills can you recommend that will help them keep better control of the ball when they have a breakaway toward the goal, or even when they are bringing it up from the midfield area?



Thanks for the letter and for being a SoccerHelp Premium member, and congratulations on your success.

This is a common problem, but it�s one that I think you can easily solve.

Your players need to learn how to "Speed Dribble". The SoccerHelp Practice Games below are "self-teaching". All you have to do is motivate your players to want to win the SoccerHelp Practice Games. Below I explain how you can use our patches to motivate them to learn what you want.

I can think of 4 ideas for you:

  1. HERE'S MY BEST IDEA, AND TRUST ME THIS WILL WORK: Do you use our iron-on patches? If not, buy some of the Star Patches. You only need 60 -- buy 30 of either the Blue OR Red Stars (your choice) AND 30 of the Gold Stars, and use the Blue or Red Stars to reward the winners of the games below AND use the Gold Stars to reward proper execution in a real game (don�t require they score a goal, only that they execute a breakaway should give them in games for the rest of the season, and by the end of the season you will see great improvement). Let those be the ONLY ways they can earn those patches -- do NOT give them for anything else until this skill is learned, they must be coveted. As of May 2007, the 60 patches cost 42 cents each.
  2. Play SoccerHelp's "Dribble Across A Square", but make the square 15 steps wide. This will force your players to "Speed Dribble" in order to win (i.e., kick the ball and run to it when they get into open space), BUT they will have to keep it under control in order to make their turn, or they will lose (if they kick it too far, they won't be able to make the turn). Play �Dribble Across� 3 times to start each practice for the next 3 practices and give the winner of each game a Blue or Red Star Patch.
  3. Play SoccerHelp's "Dribble Around Cone and Pass Relay Race". This game also requires "Speed Dribbling" (kicking the ball in front and running to it) BUT they MUST still keep control, or they will lose. Play this 3 times at each practice and give a Blue or Red Star patch to the winners.
  4. If you want another game, try our "Pass to Space, Run With Ball and Shoot" game. Also, give a Blue or Red Star Patch to players on the winning team.

With some games such as �Dribble Across A Square�, a few players might win all the time unless the rules are adjusted. I don't think you would have that problem with the "Dribble Around Cone and Pass Relay Race" and similar games because you can balance the teams.

If the same few kids are winning the Practice Games all the time, here are some ideas to think about:

  1. Use an approach sort of like a golf handicap: start the weaker players with a few points. For example: everyone but the very best kids start with "1" or "2" or even "3".
  2. The best approach is to give the rewards for "individual improvement". A way to do that is similar to a bowling average. Let's say one kid's average was 7 in "Dribble Across". If that kid gets 9, they would have earned a patch based on their improvement. That way everyone could win one.
  3. For the "Dribble Across A Square" game, instead of a Square, make a rectangle and have your best players dribble across the long side and the weak players dribble across the short side. Adjust the lengths of the sides so it balances things out and creates a challenge for everyone (for example, make it 10 x 12 instead of 10 x 10). Let there be 2 sets of winners: a winner among the �Best� players and a winner among the �Weak� players, both of whom get a patch. That way everyone will be motivated to do their best and feel they have a chance to win a patch, and you can monitor improvement.

I'm very confident this will work, but please let me know. I'll be very surprised if it doesn't work.

David at SoccerHelp