There has been an increased emphasis upon ball control when it comes to youth football coaching over recent years, with a players first touch allowing them to potentially move away from an opponent, set up an incisive pass or kill the ball dead in a tight space. However, teaching this skill is easier said than done, with having confidence in a variety of different forms of control taking time. The following exercises are designed to improve ball control in a range of scenarios, while they are also suitable for a range of ability levels and ages.
Exercise 1 - Quality Control
This exercise centres around the receiving and controlling of the football, highlighting the importance of a players first touch. Whilst completing the exercise, players should also focus upon communication, body position and creating space.
Five players will stand in a circle, with an additional player constantly working in the middle. The player in the middle will start by calling for the ball from a team mate, before receiving it and passing it on to the next individual in the circle, with only two touches allowed. In order to progress the exercise, the player in the middle can pass to anyone in the circle, apart from the player that they initially received the ball from. For highly skilled groups, two players can work together in the middle of the circle, with one controlling the ball and passing to the other, before the second player distributes the ball back to the outer circle.
Exercise 2 - Gate Control
With more and more teams pressing their opponent in all areas of the pitch, using your first touch as a means of setting up a pass has become crucial for all players. As a result, this exercise encourages players to move in line with the ball, before cushioning it, ready for a pass or shot.
In an area sized 10x10 yards, with gates set up in each corner, there is just one ball between the four players involved. Players will pass the ball clockwise, taking a touch through their gate, before distributing the ball along the floor to their team mate. Coaches can change the direction of the exercise in order to ensure that players are using both their strong and weak foot throughout. When in a game situation, the skills learnt from this exercise should stand out, with players encouraged to knock the ball into space with their first touch.
Exercise 3 - Control Away from Pressure
Keeping the ball away from an opponent is made all the easier when a good first touch is achieved, with this exercise designed in order to give players as much time as possible to execute their preferred next move.
With two players standing at each end of a 10x10 metre area, the player with the ball initially will pass the ball across the square, where his partner will control it using the inside of their foot, before passing it back in the opposite direction. Once both players have played a pass, the other two players involved will take centre stage. Coaches are advised to encourage players to control the ball to the right using their right foot and in the opposite direction using their left foot. Good crisp passing and concentration is key when carrying out this exercise, with a development involving players running to the other end of the square after making their pass also an option.
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