What are the drills to improve ball control skills?

What are the drills to improve ball control skills? 

In football, ball mastery is an essential skill for players of all levels. Any player can show impressive ball control skills once or twice after some practice, but to do this consistently requires dedicated training. With the right knowledge and commitment, you can improve these skills with a few fun exercises and drills.

This type of training is best practised with other players or with the assistance of a coach, but there are some training drills that can be done alone. Ensuring that you practise whenever you can will help you build the foundational skills you need to play at a pro-level. Keep reading to explore some of the different ways you can improve your performance both individually and as a team.

What is ball control in football? 

Ball control is a strategy used to keep the ball out of the possession of the opposition. However, this term also refers to technique, as ball control is one of the most important skills that a player can have. How well you can keep control and travel with the ball can influence your performance. Often, the player’s first touch with the ball determines what their strategy will be, as they will need to quickly decide if they are going to pass, dribble, or run with the ball. These reflexes are all part of learning ball mastery, for example, if a player tends to trap the ball with the sole of the foot, this will limit their ability to shoot long distances, as well as reduce the amount of time to make a decision whilst opposing players are closing in to try and take possession. It’s therefore important to learn the different methods in which a player can control the ball, and how this influences their game performance.

Football control drills

Playing football to a professional level requires a large amount of skill that can only come from repetitive training. Naturally, this is a sport that is highly competitive and relies on multiple players. The exercises listed below contain a number of options to cater for both team training sessions and individual practice and improve a range of skills in addition to ball control, such as dealing with pressure and improving balance. However, these exercises should be modified accordingly depending on the skill level of yourself or your players if you’re a team coach. It’s vital that all players practise using both feet, and experiment with different speeds and using different body parts as their skill level improves.

Ball control in tight spaces

Whilst ball control is an essential skill in football, some players may find it difficult to implement this skill effectively when under pressure. Of course, when playing a competitive game of football - there will be an increasing amount of pressure to keep control as the opposition surrounds the ball. You can have your team prepare for this by organising a fun game: 

  1. Set out a defined square area of 12x12 metres and have 10-11 players stand in the square.
  2. Each player should have their own ball.
  3. The players must dribble their own ball whilst trying to kick an opponent’s ball out of the defined area.
  4. The winner is the last player to remain in the square with their ball.

This game is challenging and can take practice to master, but it does help to hone in on essential ball mastery skills. To discourage cheating or confusion with such a large number of footballs, get your team to put their football back into the football bag once they have been eliminated. We also recommend the use of training balls for this game to keep match day balls in top condition.

Toe touches 

Toe touches or toe taps may seem like a basic exercise, but these are an essential ball control drill for all players. Toe touches are a great way to teach players the right technique for managing the ball and this can be completed as a solo activity, so is perfect for practising at home.

  1. Place the ball on the ground in front of you.
  2. Starting with either the left foot or right foot, only the studs at the front part of your boot should be placed on top of the ball.
  3. Push off using the foot that is on the ground and bring that foot to the top of the ball.
  4. At the same time your other foot should return to the ground.
  5. Quickly repeat this process so that you’re switching between feet, in a similar motion to running up a flight of stairs.

As player skills start to improve, different types of toe touches can be added. Try using the inner sides of your feet to touch the ball while moving forward to practise controlling it whilst travelling.

Relay races

Relay races are an excellent way to practise close control of the ball, and these provide a fun activity for the whole team to participate in. Though there are different variations of relay races, if you’re just getting started, you can follow the basic method outlined below.

  1. Divide your team accordingly, make sure that each team has the same number of players.
  2. Set a starting line and have each team line up in a queue.
  3. Set out dribbling cones in a line in front of each team.
  4. The players at the start of the queue must dribble the ball through the cones, turning around at the end and repeating the process before passing the ball to the next player in the queue.
  5. Once each team member has completed their turn they must sit down and the first team with all team members sat down wins the relay race.

This drill can be modified to incorporate other skills, such as having the players shoot the ball into a goal once they have reached the last dribbling cone to practise shooting skills. Additionally, training bibs are extremely useful to differentiate between the teams so it can be more clearly seen who has completed the exercise before moving on to the next, or for assigning goalkeepers in game modifications.

Trapping and controlling

Trapping the ball refers to taking control of the ball while it is in the air. Trapping can be done by using the chest, feet, head, or inner thighs. It’s a good idea to practise using  these different body parts to trap and control the ball. Mastering this skill is a matter of repetition, and you can practise with your teammates, coach or a partner. There are lots of ways to practise trapping and controlling but there is one foolproof method to help you improve and advance your skills. 

  1. Have a teammate stand around 3 metres away from you, and specify whether you’d like them to trap the ball with their head, torso, inner thighs, or feet.
  2. Throw the ball up in the air towards them so that they can trap the ball.
  3. After the first touch, have them pass the ball back to you and repeat the process.
  4. Swap roles after ten turns so that each person has the chance to practise. Remember to do this method with each of the different body parts to gain complete control.

If you’re practising at a team session, the coach can increase the urgency by having players stand in a line before throwing the ball and shouting the names of two players who will run to the ball to trap it. 

Level up your performance with Avec Sport

Whilst hard-work and dedication will get your players to where they need to be, their performance can also be influenced by their equipment and kit. To keep your team looking and feeling their best, we highly recommend opting for teamwear that has been engineered to help improve athletic performance. Browse through a range of team accessories, training clothes, and more.