Over the coming weeks I want to take an in depth look at several different topics and hopefully provide new ideas, examples and focuses on simple skills.
The first skill I want to look at is dribbling. From an overall development standpoint, this is the foundational skill for all technical skills, it is the most important overall skill for players to master and it is foundational for pretty much any system or style of play in existence. I will likely have many readers tune out or argue this point as passing the ball is so much of the sport. If we think of any soccer skill (passing, ball striking, tackling, etc.) all of these involve having a quality touch on the ball. If you touch the ball with the correct force and in the correct direction you create a quality pass, if you can touch the ball strong enough and precise enough you can win the ball off your opponents foot. The building blocks for developing that touch all are taught in dribbling.
Go find someone who has never touched a soccer ball before (a 4-6 year old is likely going to demonstrate this the best, but it can be equally entertaining to find an adult with zero soccer experience) and hand them a soccer ball. When they first have the ball I want you to ask them to pass the ball back to you with their foot. What part of their foot do they use? What does their body shape look like? Next I want you to ask them to receive a pass back from you (put it on the ground and firm but not a rocket). What part of their body do they use to receive the ball? Did they try to absorb the ball or did it bounce off of them? Next, ask them to dribble the ball toward you. When they do this how many steps do they use between touches on the ball? What part of their foot do they use? Does the ball go in a straight line or is it a zig zag. Finally, ask them to stop the ball at your feet. What part of their foot did they use? How did they get the ball to you? What other things did you notice?
When going through this exercise, it should be very clear how quality touches on a ball are incredibly important for all soccer skills. If we can teach a player how to touch the ball, control the ball and understand how it is going to move when we do these things we can teach any ball skill!