I think most folks are interested to know when their kids can start learning to dribble a soccer ball. It is often easy to be distracted by what others are doing when trying to get your child to start playing soccer. Try not to compare your children to others, they are all unique and on their own journey. If you try to force your child to play when they are too young or not ready it can lead to frustration from the parent, anger from the child and a tough time getting the child to engage. Let’s dive into the article and learn how a child dribble a soccer ball and how can they learn this.
When can a child dribble a soccer ball?
The average age is around 4 years to 6 years old, although some children may show interest at 3 years old the majority fall into this 4 – 6 age range. Don’t expect the dribble you see to look like a dribble you see on television. It will initially be slow, awkward, and uncoordinated.
With repetition, patience, guidance, and support this will improve. It is key that the experience provided to children who are learning to dribble is both fun and creative, races, storytelling and fun games are ways that coaches can improve the skill of dribbling.
The remainder of this article will outline how to help a child learn to dribble a soccer ball and present some ideas, opportunities, and insight that should make the process of learning more enjoyable and smoother for the child. Some sample drills and dribbling games will be provided to help show what the process might look like.
Helping Children To Start Dribbling
To help a child start dribbling ( Dribble soccer ball ) you will need to find the correct environment for it to happen. I would suggest finding an indoor area, this is so the weather does not influence engagement. I would suggest you need to sign up to a weekly soccer center where small group introductory sessions are offered.
If the groups are larger than 6 – 12 players per one coach I would be mindful that it will take longer for the child to learn because it can make it tough for the coach leading the session to help everyone.
As a parent or guardian be prepared to get hands-on, some soccer centers will expect you to help manage your child during the practice. It may involve your participation in the session to some extent in terms of holding their hand, helping them stay balanced, talking them through the activity, following them around the session until they develop the confidence to do it themselves.
This is normal and is a great way to help encourage and motivate your child to take part. Do not compare your child to others at this point, they are all on different journeys some are just starting others way have been there a while, just be consistent in your message and try to help them develop a love for the game.
Start With The Basics
It starts with ball mastery, which is basically allowing the child to experiment using different parts of the foot to manipulate the ball and it moves in different directions. The basic parts to focus on initially are the insides, outsides soles, and laces of both feet. This can be done on domed cones first so the ball does not roll away from the child, once the child develops a level of confidence using cones a ball can be added. The child should now be encouraged to work with a ball on the spot trying to keep it under control again using the parts of the foot mentioned before. I have added a drill for this later in the article.
Once a child develops a feel for the ball it then becomes important to add movement and changes of direction, again using both feet and various parts of the foot. Fun activities like collecting a bank of football from one area using their feet only and placing them into goals within a certain period of time are simple but fun activities. Each round players could be encouraged to use different parts of the foot.
Another activity that encourages moving and changing direction involves placing lots of cones on the floor, almost like a mini obstacle course and the players have to get from one end to the other without touching an obstacle. Again the basic progression is to repeat this using different parts of the foot.
Once you see that your child or players can handle the ball on the move with an ability to change the direction you can then talk to them about speeding up or slowing down. This develops a player’s understanding of using changes of speed to avoid capture or their ball being intercepted.
A really simple activity for this is a traffic lights game where a parent or coach holds up (or shouts) different colored cones, red, amber, or green. Each color represents an activity so for example, red means stop and put your foot on the ball, amber means to perform a ball mastery exercise using a part of the foot, and green means go as fast as you can. This allows the players to practice speeding up and slowing down.
Some further information you should drip-feed into your little dribblers is playing with their eyes up. Practice doing all the movements they learn or master with their eyes up. This helps them to develop vision, scanning, and awareness skills. When teaching these skills for the first time it is often useful to start with activities that require the performers to use their eyes.
For example, place lots of cones on the floor in all different colors. The players move around the hall without a ball then on the call from the coach (red) they have to find a red cone and stand next to it within 3 seconds. These types of activities help the participant scan and use changes of speed. The natural progression is then to add a ball to this activity.
HOW IT WORKS: This is a storytelling drill in which the coach gradually builds up the requirements of the players. Each aspect of the playing area represents a specific part of the story but it is also an aspect of dribbling for the children to practice. On a 30 by 30 area each player has a football at their feet. To start, the players are told to pretend that their ball is their car (get the players to pick one).
Then tell the players they are going on a journey to collect things, visit people, etc. They are going to use their car (football) to get there. The coach now introduces various aspects of the journey and asks the players to use dribbling as their means to get around.
Each aspect of the picture above will be explained and coaches can add or use this as they see fit
- Yellow disks: Car park for their ball, players have to use ball mastery to enter a car parking space, such as the sole of the foot to drag the ball into place then perform 10 ball mastery moves such as toe taps before they can leave
- Red hoops: Roundabouts to dribble around, players use their ball to complete a full circle around the hoop. They must use their eyes to see where they are going.
- Green disks: Roadworks, the players must dribble and weave through the cones without touching any of them, if they do they must start again
- Blue disks: This is the motorway, players must dribble as fast as they can from one end of the cones to the other without losing control. This allows them to practice speeding up or slowing down.
- White disks: This is the high street, the players need to roll (with sole of one foot) and stop the ball (with the other foot) down the high street so they can stay in control of their ball (car) in a busy area.
- Red disks: Speed bumps, players must navigate through the speed bumps and try not to hit them, they should use changes of direction to do this
I hope that these instructions are nice and clear and you can see how you could build up this stuff for young children, making it fun and engaging to help them learn how to dribble, be creative and master the ball.
HOW IT WORKS: This game is set up on a 30 by 30 square, the defenders in blue stand between two red cones and they can only move side to side to block the gaps between the red cones. The black and whites are the attackers.
They have a ball each and score a point each time they dribble through the red cones and back onto the playing area. If the defenders win the ball they can score a point by passing the ball towards the middle of the area and hitting a yellow cone.
The attacker would just then collect their ball and attack a different red gate. The attackers can also dribble through the yellow area without touching the disks after each time they score a goal.
Teaching a child to dribble a ball should be fun, engaging, and creative. Kids can start to dribble a ball as early as 3 years old but usually, it is around 4 – 6 years old when they start. As parents and coaches, you need to be supportive and patient with the players but with some simple tips and lots of practice, the players will soon have the balance and coordination to weave, speed up, slow down, change direction, etc.
Mastering the ball and using different parts of the foot will help the player to become more competent in their ability. The ideas, drills, and games presented in this article will easily get you started and help you to develop some of your own ideas around teaching a child to dribble a soccer ball.
What if my child goes to practice and does not like it? You just have to be patient, support them as best you can, especially during the first few times they try something, a child will feel apprehensive, nervous, unsure, this is why choosing the right environment is important, it helps to make the child as comfortable as possible, fun activities and games often help them settle. You could also try to attend with a friend or familiar face so the child feels more at ease.