How to teach dribbling

Dribbling is, perhaps, the most important skill a player can have or work on. Your children will put opposition players out of the game by dribbling past them.

They will also demoralise the opposition and make themselves feel good.

And by dribbling they’re showing that they’re not afraid of being tackled.

That said, there are occasions when it is wrong to dribble.

Why? Because the most skilful dribbler cannot always beat the opposition.

So, if they are dribbling in the attacking third, a 90% success rate is good and your children will score plenty of goals.

But if they dribble near your goal the same success rate can easily lose the game because every time they lose the ball they will present the opposition with a great chance to score.

The lesson is? Don’t dribble in front of your own goal!

Start your dribbling practice with games that have players repeatedly touching the football. Add pressure as the practice continues by limiting the space and adding defenders. End the practice by having players perform skills in match like conditions.

Two games in particular – Musical Balls and Blob Tag – are also great warm ups to begin a dribbling session. Your kids will love playing them!

Some basic dribbling moves

The Stop and Go.

This is simply a change of pace. You jog slowly with the ball, usually when a defender is along side of you, and then burst past the defender. The key is a change of pace with the ball.

You can also put the sole of your foot on top of the ball when stopping the ball and then push it forward with your instep when you break off on the dribble again to escape the defender.

The Cut Back.

With the inside of the foot you cut the ball back behind your body. Using your right foot to cut the ball back you plant your left foot to the side of the ball and then bring your right foot up to cut the ball back.

You can often tie this in with a fake shot. Dribbling away from a defender into space you fake a pass or shot and then chop the ball back with the inside of the foot you used to fake the pass or the shot.

The Fake Shot.

Simply cocking the leg back like you are going to shoot can buy you time.

The Step over.

You take your right foot over the ball and dribble away with your left. Also often called the scissors.

Inside Outside.

You kind of fake like your going inside and then rush to the outside. With the inside of your foot on the ball you carry the ball a little bit to the inside and then when you think the defender is off balance or not ready, you make a dash for the outside and with more space to cross the ball, or make a pass, or shoot.

Outside Inside.

This time use the outside of your feet, this is usually more difficult because you don’t have as much control with the outside of your feet, in terms of surface area, so make the dragging of the ball to the outside a little shorter in distance. Same as above but reverse.

Dropping Your Shoulder.

Dribbling slowly at a defender you feint with the shoulder, kind of ducking your shoulder down a little bit one way and take off the other.

Sole of the foot turn.

Pull the ball back with the bottom of your shoe and burst away with a change of speed.


Life the ball over the defender’s foot. This is usually done while feinting one way and then scooping the ball the other way just over the defender’s planted foot.

After you lift the ball over the defenders foot make sure to take off with a burst of speed. Often, you want to scoop or lift the ball over the defenders foot and to your other foot so your body will be between you and the defender after you make the move. So you are dribbling with your right foot and scoop the ball over the defenders foot and to your left foot or the other way around. Also, this move is also usually done when you are in an almost standing position and the defender is rushing at you or you’re suckering the defender in and then lifting the ball over their foot as they came in towards you to fast and you then slip away.

The Lean.

Leaning to one side, as if you are going to dart that way and then when the defender leans that way take off in the opposite direction.

Sucker them.

Entice the defender to try to go for the ball, exposing the ball as if the defender can steal it and when he or she makes a move to go for the ball you cut the ball away and take off. Again, change of pace is the key when beating a defender on the dribble.


Have all team members choose a partner. Use markers to define a playing area about the size of a centre circle or smaller if you have few players. One ball between two.

One of each pair sits on ground, randomly placed in the area. Those that remain standing are to dribble around in the area, keeping the ball away from seated players. Those seated can grab any ball that comes within their reach. If a seated player gets a ball then they play keep away with other seated players – throwing the ball from seated player to seated player.

Standing players who lose the ball must retrieve it with their hands and resume dribbling. Encourage them to physically wrestle the ball from the seated player. Cheer them on!

Switch the seated with the dribblers after about 2 minutes.

Options: Have the dribblers only use only one foot or have them dribble at a seated player and cut the ball in with either the inside or the outside of their foot. Or the dribblers can dribble at a seated player and use the sole of their foot pull the ball back and make a 180 degree turn.

Coaching point: Dribblers should use soft touches so the ball stays close to them at all times and under control.

Speed dribbling

speed dribbling

speed dribblingHere is an activity that works on speed dribbling and also getting the ball under control after dribbling with speed.

Start with a 40-yard field with a 5-yard “buffer zone” on each end.  If there are 15 players at a practice have 12 players start on the end line, each with a ball.  The other 3 players start 5 yards back without a ball.  See the diagram below for the basic setup.

When the coach tells them all to start, the 12 players with the balls try to dribble at full speed down to the other end line and get three touches on the ball in the far buffer zone.  The 3 other players are trying to stop them by either winning the ball, playing the ball away or knocking the ball over the end line.  If the players with the ball are able to control the ball in the opposite buffer zone with three touches on the ball, they get to go again in the next round.  If the players with the ball lose the ball, they join the defenders in the next round.  The last player with a ball wins.

With 15 players you can play this game 5 times to have each player have a chance starting as a defensive player and each player has 4 chances starting as an attacking player.

Not only doesn’t this activity work on speed dribbling but also it’s great for shielding, turns, change of pace and direction, as well as excellent fitness work.

Long shot

This is my U9s favourite game to play at end of football practice. It is definitely a “warm down” type of activity but the kids love it and whenever I announce we are going to do it they cheer. Strange because it is basically a line drill and uses elimination which are two things I try to avoid… but the kids love it so that is what matters most.

Set up

Work with a normal sized goal and penalty area (marked by lines or cones);

Two teams (X and Y) line up by cones, (shown as small triangles in the diagram above);

Two goalkeepers are chosen, one from each team.


Player from team Y dribbles and has a shot on goal from beyond the penalty area (marked by cones);

The player then moves towards coach C1 who passes a ball for a one-time shot on goal;

The player then moves towards coach C2 who serves a ball for the player to head towards the goal.


If you…

  • score 0 goals, wait on the end of the line to be freed (see 3 and 4, below);
  • score 1 goal and stay in the game;
  • score two goals and free up a team mate who is waiting on the end line;
  • score two goals and free all of your team mates.

The team that last the longest wins!


This game requires every player to have a football.

You should have as many cones as players

Set up: The cones are placed an equal distance away from the circle, say 10-20 yards, depending on age of players

To start with I have the players dribble inside a circle (usually just using the inside circle of the field). The circle is primarily used so the players will keep their head up while dribbling in a confined space.

My instructions inside the circle will include “pull backs”, “outside of foot dribble” and so forth. Anything to keep their head up while dribbling.

After about a minute of dribbling I will yell the word “explode”. At this time, the players will then explode from the circle to find a cone to dribble to, turn around, and then come back to the circle. The key here is that no two players can go around the same cone, so they have to find another cone if somebody is already ahead of them. I (the coach) stand in centre of the circle and first one back to slap my hand wins.

Other rules I have in place are when players come back to circle they must have control of the ball and stop it in front of me and then slap my hand (I learned this after doing this drill and having the balls fly all over the place because they did not have control of the ball coming back into the circle). It is competitive and can be treated as a fitness drill.

You can also do the drill by how many times each player has come back to the circle to slap hands for a two minute time period.

Circle, dribble, tag!

To develop dribbling skills with subtle defensive pressure.

Advanced beginner, intermediate

Two soccer balls and four game markers for every six players

8 to 10 minutes


Level 1

Place six players in a 10-yard-by-10-yard grid.

Four players form a circle.

Two players, each with a football, stand outside the circle on opposite sides.

Designate one of these players as the tagger.

On the coach’s signal, the tagger has 30 seconds to catch the other player with a ball while both players are dribbling.

The tagger may cut through the circle, but the player being chased may not.

Level 2

Repeat level 1 procedures 1 through 6.

While the tagger is chasing the other player, teammates who have formed the circle move as a unit to shield the player being chased from the tagger.


Players need to use good visual habits to know when the tagger has changed directions. Changing directions and speeds frequently will help the player being chased.

Dribble through the gate

Dribble through the gate

Age group: 8 and up

Number of players: whole team

Equipment: flat cones, bibs (two colours)

The first thing to do is start with a warm up for this drill. Set a number of gates up throughout half of the field like below. Each gate should be 2 yards wide (a gate is imply two cones set up as things to go through such as a goal)

Dribble through the gate
In the image on the left, the x’s are cones

Have half the players wear white and the other half blue. Have a white and a blue player match up with each other with one ball per pair. This is simply a 1v1 game where the players try to score points by dribbling through as many gates as they can.

The white player starts with the ball and tries to score as often as possible in the first one minute half. If the blue player wins the ball, then she tries to score goals.

The only restriction is that the players can NOT dribble through the same goal two times in a row. After a one minute half, they rest (and stretch) for a minute, then play the second half with the blue player starting with the ball. With a team of 16 players, there will be 8 games of 1v1 going on at the same time. This will encourage the players to dribble with their heads up (or run into each other). At the end of the second half, you might let the winner rest for a minute while the loser does some type of “punishment” such as a couple of push-ups.

The key is to turn this into a very competitive match. The next game should feature a white winner matching up with a blue winner and also have the losers match up with each other. You can do this three times and get a very strenuous work out going which will continue into the next drill.

The next progression of this series (which will begin to work with spacing and switching fields) is set up the exact same way with the gates remaining the same. It’s essentially the same game with the major change being that there is only one ball for the whole team. Now it’s all of the whites against all of the blues. In order to score a goal, the ball must be passed through a gate and received by a teammate. Those are the only rules that need to be explained.

Start them off playing a 6 minute game with a 1 minute break at “halftime”. This break is very important because typically, the first 3 minutes of this drill is dreadful. It has been my experience that players will try to dribble to a gate and then pass the ball through to a teammate who inevitably is marked up. During this one minute break, explain to the players that it actually takes 3 players to score a goal and not just the two they are trying to use (the player with the ball and the target through the gate). The three players are the player with the ball, and then two other player who are working together to find an open gate. Once they find an open gate, the player with the ball can drive (or chip) the ball to one of these open players who then play it through the gate to the other one).

Once they start to think in terms of needing three players to score a goal and that two of them must find an open (or unmarked) gate, then they will start to experience success in this game.

As the players get accustomed to this game, they will get more comfortable with playing with their heads up and looking to players who have proper support and spacing.

Five great dribbling games


Provide a 20 yd x 20 yd. grid (or approximately 1sq. yd. per player). Each player has a ball. Players dribble inside grid randomly using correct techniques and avoiding other players. Players should practice inside and outside foot dribbling, stopping changing direction and pace, and maintaining control while in the beehive.

King of the Ring

Provide a 20 yd. x 20 yd. Grid. Each player has a ball except one player (or coach) who is “it”. Players start to dribble inside the grid while trying to avoid having their ball kicked out of the grid by the player who is “it”. Players may re-enter grid after retrieving their ball.

Attack and Protect

Provide a 20 yd by 20 yd grid. Each player has a ball. Players dribble around the grid trying to kick each other’s ball out of the grid while protecting their own ball.

Shadow Dribbling

Have players pair up, each player with a ball. Leader dribbles while second player follows, also dribbling. Remind players to keep their heads up. Encourage creative dribbling – changes in direction, pace, and technique. Stress control and change leaders frequently.


Players pair up, each couple with a ball in a grid. Player with the ball is “on the attack” and the other player is the defender. The attacking player tries to dribble to any of the cones (aside from the one behind her/her) and touch the cone with the ball. Defending player tries to prevent this. Players switch possession of ball when attacker accomplishes her goal or when ball goes out of bounds.