So much of soccer relies on dribbling: all of your jukes, moving the ball around the field, setting yourself up for passes, kicks, and ball recoveries, etc. With all of the pressure to maintain a good dribble, it’s easy to forget that there’s an entire field full of players around you. Field awareness can feel like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at first, but the more you practice it while dribbling, the easier it gets.
But just as there is no “I” in “team,” there is no “me” in dribble. Soccer requires you to take in information about the field constantly — you can’t solely focus on your footwork. You have to learn to respond to what everyone else is doing while keeping the ball under control.
Keep Your Center of Gravity Low
Focus on keeping your center of gravity low — bent knees with your head and chest over the ball. It will help you adjust your position, direction, and speed at a moment’s notice, alongside helping you control the ball while dribbling. When you know that your body is in a stance to control the ball better, your mind will let you focus on the field.
Avoid Dribbling No-Nos: Keep that Head Up
Don’t look down at the ball. If you’re starting out, this can be a frightening idea. But you’ll excel both in dribbling and field awareness much faster if you learn to trust your feet. Build this confidence by using proper dribbling techniques.
- Don’t dribble with your toe, but dribble with your laces.
- Don’t kick the ball far away from you when you dribble. The closer you can keep it to your feet, the more control you’ll have.
- Don’t dribble with straight legs. Keep your knees bent.
- Don’t keep your arms by your sides. Though you shouldn’t hit players with your arms, use your arms to assist in balance and as player sensors.
If you record your soccer games, go look to see what your dribbling looks like compared to the list above. It should give you a great idea of where you can improve your technique.
Watch Other Players
Part of practicing soccer is watching soccer. Using game film to review how teams work with each other can increase your spatial intelligence. This way, the next time you recognize a field configuration during a match, you’ll be able to act quicker than before.
Tools like Trace can assist coaches and parents in narrowing down moments that highlight a player’s field awareness, or lack thereof. This can enhance a team’s overall field awareness and an individual player’s self-awareness.
Keep Your Ears Open
Field awareness is more than just sight. It’s sound too. If you are trying to pull off a particularly hard maneuver and need more visual on the ball or suddenly become rushed by opposing players, listen out for your teammates. A simple audible cue from a teammate can clue you into exactly where they are on the field. This means you can pass off the ball before it’s lost to the other team.
Use Peripheral Vision
You should always have one eye on the ball and the other on the field. The ball should take up the lower part of your peripheral vision, with the field in the upper and outside regions.
It’s Not Me, It’s We
The important thing to remember is not to become so focused on dribbling the ball that you forget about your team and what’s around you. Dribbling is one of the essential skills you have to have as a soccer player and one of the biggest distractions to your game. When you practice dribbling, practice your field awareness, too.
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