Advantages of Ball Control Drills
There are more advantages to gain doing ball control drills than just boosting the ball coordination skills.
These are the primary advantages, but the list goes on.
- Improvement of ball mastery skills
- Learning new moves which are the base of more complex moves
- Developing automatisms
- Improving the 'bad foot' or less preferred foot
- Boosting self-confidence
- Building up resistance against injuries
- Contribution to the build-up of basic fitness
- Warm-up before a game or training
Improvement of ball mastery skills
This is obvious but nevertheless very important.
The better ball coordination skills a player develops, the more he/she is able to learn and master new more complex moves. The more ball control skills a player obtains, the more he can focus on the game.
Every ball touch counts and delivers a contribution to the development of these required skills. No other exercise offers so many ball touches on a short time as ball control drills do.
Learning new moves
Every movement we make requires a complex cooperation of the central nervous system and the muscles which it controls. Where should the foot be planted? And when? How must the ball be touched?
When a new move is learned, the required procedure is processed step by step repeatedly to store it in short-term memory and eventually, in long-term memory.
New complex moves we see performed on the grass by the present generation of soccer stars are in essence moves composed of more simple moves joined together. A player which masters the basic ball control skills can in no time learn these tricky moves.
Some moves are solely focussed on training skills that improves ball coordination. Other moves are part of more complex moves which are directly usable during a game. As an example, a player must be proficient to flawlessly roll a ball with the inside of the foot before he can master a move like the Slap Stepover.
By practising ball control drills we can learn a move and with focus run through the matching procedure correctly. That doesn't automatically mean it became an automatism. We can only speak of an automatism when the player is able to correctly execute the move unconsciously and intuitively. The player doesn't have to focus solely on the ball, but is completely aware of the game, the opponents and teammates. He/she is able to instantly judge the situation and immediately take the best decision. It all happens natural and unconsciously.
The larger the collection of mastered automatisms, the more solutions a player can come up with to beat any thinkable situation he/she faces during the game.
For example, an attacker who is cornered by a defender demands a complete different solution compared to an attacker forcing an break-through at full speed and being chased by a defender. Recognising and correctly judging any given situation during the game is crucial. This comes with experience.
Improving the 'bad foot' or less preferred foot
Having a less preferred foot is completely normal, but no player should have a 'bad foot' whatever the level he/she plays at.
Sometimes the ball happens to lie perfectly in front of the less preferred foot for a clear shot. If the player has to take the time to get the ball in a good position to shoot with the preferred foot, valuable time is lost and the small window of opportunity is closed before the shot is taken. A player who instinctively takes the shot as soon as the opportunity arises irrespective before which foot the ball lies, has clearly a better chance scoring a goal or giving that perfect pass.
This way, the definition of the 'good foot' gets the correct meaning. Therefore, It shouldn't refer to the preferred foot, but to the foot best suitable to take the shot or to handle the given situation.
Still there are too many players who aren't able to do the most basic movements with their less preferred foot. Of course it is more fun for them to beat three defenders and shooting the ball in the upper corner with the preferred foot than to embarrass themselves by using their less preferred foot which they use solely as a supporting foot. "I can't so I won't". It plays in the head of many players.
Ball control drills can boost the less preferred foot to a higher level in relative short time. These drills are procedures with strict boundaries and are exactly the same for both feet.
The highest progression can be observed when a new skill is being learned, but it takes more and more effort to get to a higher level of proficiency, let alone to reach perfection.
Therefore, while a player struggles to master a new skill, more progression can be enjoyed practising this drill with the less preferred foot and by doing so making the gap between both feet smaller. Just like the preferred foot had to be trained when a player joined the game, the less preferred foot can be brought to a acceptable level in very short time as in a few months.
A player mastering the ball shows a high level of confidence which is a direct result of the first.
When a player isn't consistently able to execute a certain soccer move on training, he/she won't use the move during a game. In comparison, a player who masters it, will not hesitate to use it when the situation demands it. This player enjoys a confidence boost and grows during the game which will show during further ball handlings.
There are games where everything seems to work out well for a certain player just because he surfs on a high wave of self-confidence.
Acquiring a high level of ball mastering doesn't happen out of the blue, but only by training with the required self-discipline.
Building up resistance against injuries
Ball control drills are highly repetitive and includes uncommon movements.
Muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints are put to work and developed in a different way. Because of this fact they are higher resistant against injuries when a wrong or unexpected movement is made during normal training or game.
Untrained muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints on the other hand are weaker and more susceptible to injuries.
The same is true for a long distance runner who has a higher risk for injuries when he would run on a technical trail without the required training compared to a trail runner who does it all the time. A trail runner is used to place his feet on uneven terrain at different angles. By experience he is able to perfectly feel the ground and unconsciously anticipate the trail. Gym workouts to reinforce the ankles are of course part of his training.
Contribution to the build-up of basic fitness
A player must possess the required physical endurance to optimally perform during his time on the field. Long distance or ultra-distance runners fall back completely on their well build-up basic fitness. They spend up to 80% of their training on the build-up of their basic fitness by running long distances at a very easy pace and heart rate below 70% of their MHRR (Max Heart Rate Reserve).
For a soccer player this is comparable to the much dreaded loops around the soccer field. Dreaded because a soccer player wants to play with the ball. Why not combine the two?
Ball control exercises raise the heart rate considerably, but stays below 70% MHRR most of the time if we neglect the very few exceptions. This means he/she stays well within the heart rate zone that contributes the most to the build-up of basic fitness.
Warm-up before a game or training
The warm-up before a soccer game is more than just stretching and getting the muscles up to speed to avoid injuries during the following game. A goalkeeper not only has to put to work his muscles during the warm-up but he has to catch some balls to get focused on the game and to start with confidence. A field player also has to kick a few balls on goal and give a few accurate passes to start the game with confidence.
Ball control drills deliver extra ball touches and opportunities to practice some moves before the game which has a dual purpose. It contributes to gain the required focus and confidence while the muscles, tendons and joints are getting on temperature.