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Learning to dribble effectively can enhance players' confidence in any situation

This is an excerpt from Coaching Girls' Soccer Successfully by Debra LaPrath.

Learn more about dribbling by checking out
Coaching Girls’ Soccer Successfully.

Mastering dribbling and attacking skills gives players confidence with the ball and makes them capable of maintaining possession while controlling the tempo of the game. The difficulty for most coaches is finding the time to cover all aspects of the game in the short amount of time they have with athletes. The season is typically only a few months long, and you are training various ages and maturity levels as well as various skill levels. For this reason, technical training on the ball becomes even more important.

For players to become technicaly solid with the ball, they have to spend time on their own to reinforce the necessary skills and develop confidence and creativity with the ball. You can encourage this habit of working on their own by insisting they get a ball and dribble while waiting for practice to start. Once they feel a little success in their dribbling abilities, they will become more committed to training. In short, players must understand that they must be strong individually to play strong collectively.

The following dribbling drills will teach your athletes when and how to execute the correct dribbling techniques in a variety of tactical situations while becoming more confident on the ball.

Figure Eights

Objectives Dribbling warm-up to develop change of pace using the inside and outside of the foot while making sharp turns and keeping the ball close.

Description Players work individually with a ball and two cones 6 yards apart. On your signal, starting at one cone, players dribble figure eights between the cones with explosive movements as they turn around one cone and accelerate to the next. Players follow your directives for dribbling with the inside of the foot, the outside of the foot, and a combination of inside, outside foot patterns. They should rotate using both the left and right feet and change the direction of travel after each round. Rounds last 30 to 60 seconds.

Attacking the Square

Objectives To develop the ability to take players on 1v1, gain confidence in their ability to maintain possession, and expand on their moves.

Description Groups of eight players are in 10- x 10-yard grids (see figure 8.8). Players are designated as four attackers (O) and four defenders (X). Each attacker has a ball. Defenders stand 5 yards from the outside of the grid lines; they cannot cross into the square. Attackers start 10 yards from the defenders. The attackers try to maintain possession and dribble the ball into the square, getting a point each they they are successful. Players play 60- to 90-second rounds. If the attacker gets in the square before time runs out, she can come back out and try again for another point. Attackers rotate clockwise on your signal, getting an opportunity to go against each of the four defenders. Attackers and defenders rotate after a full round. Keep track of points, and have a championship round with the top four players with the highest scores.

1v1 to Goal

Objectives To develop the fundamentals of beating opponents in a 1v1 situation with game-like pace; also develops great communication opportunities between the goalkeeper and her defenders.

Description Separate a team into offensive and defensive players. Set up two standard goals on the same end line, approximately 20 yards apart. Split defenders (X) and place them at all four goalposts. Place a goalkeeper (GK) in each goal. Split attackers (O) into two lines at the midline with balls. Place a cone 10 yards from the midfield, lined up in front of each goal. The first attacker in each line sprints to the cone in front of her and checks back to receive the ball played by the next person in line (see figure 8.9). As soon as the attacking player checks, one of the defenders releases with a verbal cue from her goalkeeper. Both the attacking and the defending player continue the 1v1 until a shot is taken or the defender clears the ball out of the area. Having both goals at the same end line creates a loud, chaotic environment and keeps the drill moving quickly at game pace. All players must remain focused and calm and learn how to finish under these circumstances.


  • Attackers can be given specific instructions instead of reading the situation, such as "turn and shoot" as soon as they receive the ball, or "take on the goalkeeper" instead of shooting.
  • Attackers can start their runs from the flank.
  • Defenders can take on specific tasks such as "do the opposite of what the goalkeeper says," or "don’t release unless the goalkeeper uses your name."

Dribbling Breakaways

Objectives To develop dribbling speed, improve reaction time, increase awareness of goalkeeper positioning, and improve decision making about what type of shot to take.

Description Separate a team into offensive and defensive players. Split both into two groups and place a goalkeeper (GK) in the goal. One group of offensive (O) and one group of defensive (X) players line up side by side approximately 10 yards from the sideline (separated by cones or flags) and even with the tip of the center circle. The other group lines up the same way on the opposite side. A server (S), typically the coach, is in the center circle with the balls (see figure 8.10).

Starting on the left side, the first offensive player checks to the server while calling for the ball, but then quickly turns upfield to prepare to receive a ball played into the space near the top of the 18-yard box. As soon as the offensive player checks, the defender must run and touch the last flag in line before she can chase down the offense. With a trailing defender coming, the offensive player (dribbling at top speed) must decide whether to take on the goalkeeper in a 1v1 situation, chip her if she’s way off her line, or take a shot depending on the goalkeeper’s positioning. As soon as a shot is taken, the next group on the opposite side begins the pattern. The offensive player should have a big first touch to cover distance while looking up at the goalkeeper. If the goalkeeper is charging, the offensive player should chip it. If the goalkeeper is coming out slowly, the offensive player should go straight at her for a 1v1. If the goalkeeper is moving and off balance, the offensive player should shoot it low. Players should use body feints to get the goalkeeper off balance while dribbling with speed.


  • Run the activity on both sides of the field for more action and less standing.
  • Add a second defender and then release a second attacker.

Read more from Coaching Girls’ Soccer Successfully, by Debra LaPrath.

More Excerpts From Coaching Girls' Soccer Successfully