Being able to dribble and shield the ball is perhaps the most important soccer skill.
Your players will have a lot more confidence and will play with more enthusiasm if they know they can dribble and protect the ball (phrased differently, a player can't be confident with the ball unless he or she can dribble in a crowd and protect the ball when under pressure). It is very difficult to play soccer if you can't dribble and shield the ball. For young players there is probably nothing more important to practice than dribbling. (See "Most Important Things To Teach, Revised").
I think the best way to teach dribbling is by playing SoccerHelp Practice Games such as Dribble Across a Square where every player has lots of touches on the ball while under pressure and in traffic. (For U6 players, play games such as Monster Invasion or Hit the Coach). If you do that they will learn how to dribble with their head up, how to dribble in traffic, composure under pressure, instinctive reactions, peripheral vision, how to shield the ball, how to make quick cuts, how to turn, and become comfortable with the ball at their feet.
For players U8 and older, the Premium Version of the "Dribble Across A Square Game" is the best way to teach control dribbling, speed dribbling and turns and we strongly recommend you play it 4 times to start every practice (twice with the square about 10 of your player's steps wide to teach Control Dribbling and twice with the square 15-17 of your player's steps wide to teach acceleration into Open Space and Speed Dribbling). For players U4 and U6, just play any of the U6 games and have fun. They all involve lots of touches on the ball. For U8 and older, the "Shoulder Tackle & Strength On The Ball Game" and "Attack & Defend Ball Tag" are a great way to teach shielding and strength on the ball. There are many other good Premium Practice Games that teach dribbling, such as "Dribble Around A Cone & Pass Relay Race", and the "2 Team Keep Away" game is a great way to practice controlling the ball in a crowd and while under pressure and also involves a lot of "transitions" from offense to defense and from defense to offense. You can also watch the Free Soccer Coaching Videos for ideas. See "How To Teach Soccer Dribbling" for more on this subject and for the advantages of the "Dribble Across A Square Game". If you don't subscribe to Premium, try the version of the "Dribble Across A Square Game" on SoccerHelp Basic. There are also many good dribbling games on Coach Doug's site for U4 and U6 players.
What is the best way to teach players to dribble with both feet?
I think the best way to teach dribbling with both feet is to use SoccerHelp Practice Games where players will learn it naturally. The single Best No Lines Soccer Drill to teach dribbling with both feet while looking up is Dribble Across a Square - you will see improvement in one or 2 practices and some of your players will become great dribblers who have to be double-teamed. Use it as a warm-up to start every practice. It teaches players to keep the ball between their feet to shield it when in traffic, so they are learning to use both feet, to look up while dribbling, and to accelerate into Open Space. It is at Dribble Across a Square
If your players are U9 or older, try Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race - it is a passing and receiving game that requires speed dribbling – you can require your players to go around the cone on the right side, or the left side.
Here's an idea for you about how to teach Natural dribbling - play SoccerHelp Practice Games that force them to dribble a lot under pressure and in traffic and let them dribble the way that works best for them. Expose them to the idea that they can use all parts of the foot and expose them to turns, and then play Practice Games that make them dribble a lot in practice. If you do this, your players will improve quickly and become good dribblers.
Natural vs. "Artificial" Teaching - How to teach players to naturally dribble with both feet? You want your players to be able to dribble naturally, comfortably, confidently and instinctively without thinking - you don't want them thinking "which foot should I use". For these reasons, I think it's best to practice dribbling by using Practice Games that force the use of both feet, rather than the coach having to watch and artificially say "use your left foot". An analogy is how Dribble Across a Square teaches players to naturally look up while dribbling, instead of the old artificial method of dribbling through cones with the coach saying "Look up" over and over. SoccerHelp Practice Games will teach kids to naturally dribble with both feet they will learn it without knowing they are learning it, and without feeling they are being "coached". In addition, practicing dribbling with only one foot is unnatural because no one dribbles with just one foot - you may use one foot more, but you use both feet.
One of the best dribblers ever was George Best. He was so good that his fans used to say "Maradona good; Pele better; George Best." I have watched footage of him, and he used only his right foot to dribble a great deal of the time (even when playing on the left side of the field), and on one of his most famous goals (for San Jose in 1980) he dribbled thru 5 defenders using only the inside and outside of his right foot to control the ball. The point is, he was one of the best dribblers in the world and used his right foot 70% of the time. So if anyone ever tells you a player has to be able to use both feet equally, it isn't true. George Best proved that you can be a great dribbler if you are great with one foot and average with the other.
I'm repeating the information below about keeping score and how to coach by giving "tips" in several newsletters because it is very important:
An example of how to coach by giving "Tips" in the Dribble Across a Square Practice Game:
Each player should keep count of his or her trips across the square. A player gets one point each time he or she turns. Have the first player to reach the target score (e.g., 12 or 10) yell "Done" and raise their hand. As soon as a player yells "Done", blow your whistle and have all the other players stop as soon as they get back to the closest side of the square. Then, ask each player his or her score so you can monitor each player's progress and give tips for improvement. What I would do was start with one player and ask: "John, what was your score?" and then quickly ask each of the others. It is also an opportunity to praise anyone who has improved or to give tips such as "It is very important to keep control of the ball on your turns. If you lose the ball it will cost you several points". This only takes 2 or 3 minutes. The game is self-teaching, but it is helpful for the coach to be encouraging and to point out at the end of each Game how players can improve their performance by giving "tips" on how they can improve their score. A simple way to do this is to point out what the player did who won the Game. For example, in the smaller square, the winner will be the player who keeps the ball near his feet, "Shields" the ball from traffic, and makes the turns without losing the ball -- the winner will keep control of the ball. In the larger square, the winner must still keep control of the ball, BUT the winner will also look for Open Space and kick the ball into it so he can Speed Dribble, and he will still make the turns, so he can't kick it too hard. This is very much like a real game, where if you don't keep control you will lose the ball. This approach works because the players want to improve their score and if they use your "tips" they will see immediate results and get higher scores.
An example of how to coach by giving "Tips" in the Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race Practice Game:
Let's say you're playing "Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race". Play it once and ask "Who wants to win this game?" Tell them you will give them a tip that will help them win. Here's an example of a tip: Tell them that the player who starts with the ball can kick the ball in front and run to it as a way to go faster. Tell them they will just have to be sure to not kick it too hard. (Demonstrate or have a player demonstrate). Another tip: Pass the ball as soon as you can after you have rounded the cone. Another tip: The Receiver must stay on his toes and watch for whether the pass is going to his left or right and start to immediately move that way - the Receiver's most important job is to STOP the pass, because if one pass gets by him his team will lose the game (this will start to teach Receiver's that they can't just stand still and wait for the ball to come to their feet - the Receiver MUST stop the pass, just as they must in a real game). Another tip: The Receiver can start moving toward the ball as soon as it is passed (that's the rule in this game and probably would also be how you want the receiver to play in a real game), but the Receiver can't just rush at the ball... it's not that simple... he must be sure the ball is coming at him, because if it's a bad pass he may have to move sideways to stop it. Another tip: The Receiver can block the ball in front of him and run to it as a way to speed up (again, this is good training for a real game). Another one: The pass MUST be accurate... one bad pass can lose the game... the pass needs to not be too hard, but it can't be too easy either... they will learn the proper "weight" by playing this game. These are some of the things this game teaches, and your players will learn by playing the game.
David at SoccerHelp