Dribbling in soccer serves much the same function as dribbling in basket-ball-it enables a player to maintain possession of the ball white running oast opponents. Effective dribbling skills used in appropriate situations an break down a defense and are vital to a team’s attack. Dribbling in inappropriate areas of the field might hinder or disrupt the team play necessary to create quality goal opportunity. Players must be schooled to recognize when and where to dribble and to respond accordingly. In general, dribbling skills are used to best advantage in the attacking third of the field nearest the opponent’s goal. A player who can successfully take on (dribble past) an opponent in that area has created a potential scoring opportunity—or at least a situation that can lead to a scoring opportunity. Less dribbling should be done in the middle and defending thirds of the field, areas where the potential penalty (i.e., a goal against) for possession loss is greater than the potential reward of beating an opponent on the dribble.
Two general dribbling styles are employed in game situations. Players use short, choppy steps and sudden changes of speed and direction when dribbling in tight spaces. In such situations, eluding defenders and protecting the ball are of paramount importance. When players run with the ball in open space, ball protection is less important than moving the ball at speed. In open space, players push the ball forward several steps with the outside surface of the instep, sprint to the ball, and then push it again.
There’s no single best technique to use to dribble the ball. Players should develop their own dribbling style that achieves the primary objective of beating an opponent while maintaining possession of the ball. Granted, key elements such as close control of the ball, deceptive body feints, and sudden changes of speed and direction are common to all successful dribbling styles. The ways in which players incorporate such maneuvers into their dribbling style can vary, however. In essence, if a style works for a player, that style is right for the player.
Shielding skills are often used in conjunction with dribbling skills to protect the ball from an opponent challenging for possession. The player with the ball positions her body between the ball and the opponent attempting to steal it. The ball is controlled with the foot farthest from the opponent, and the dribbler readjusts position in response to pressure from the opponent. This technique is called ”screening” the ball.
Tackling is strictly a defensive skill used to steal the ball from an opponent. Three different techniques—the block tackle, poke tackle, and slide tackle— are used, depending on the situation. The block tackle is used when an opponent is dribbling directly at a defender. The poke and slide tackles are used when a defender is approaching the dribbler from the side or from behind. The block tackle has advantages over the poke and slide tackles. The block allows for greater body control and enables the defender to initiate an immediate counterattack once the ball has been won. In addition, if the player fails to win the ball, he is still in position to recover and chase after the opponent.
The practice games in this section emphasize the development of dribbling, shielding, and tackling skills, often within the same game. Most of the exercises also involve a degree of fitness training because players are moving continuously.