By Street Side Soccer author and founder…Joe
Ok so you (or your kid) want to learn how to get better at soccer and kick that ooold pig skin like a pro.
Or something along those blurred lines…
But first, did you know that soccer players average about 7.5 miles per game?And can go up to as high as 9.5 miles per game?
Ok ok, that doesn’t have a ton to do with improvement except this: get really good at being able to run a lot during a game and you’ll have a big advantage over most players who just can’t run that much and get way too tired.
I know this sounds like basic crap, but it’s true. Get good at being able to run at high intervals consistently for 90 minutes and you’re a champ.
Not much a skilled player can do against you if their tired and you’re not.
And that’s why basketball is so different from soccer. In basketball you put Lebron (bron bron!) James against 5 amateurs and it’s game over. Put a pro soccer player against 5 amateurs (but good athletes) in soccer and it’s not so game over. The point is that in basketball the pro will always dominate while in soccer you can’t do as much on your own. Plus, if you’re not in shape it’s extremely tough.
Yeah, huge difference but at least being able to run a lot in soccer keeps you semi competitive. Ok geez, enough with the rant.
Let’s get into some actionable ways to improve at soccer.
The #1 fundamental in all of soccer for a reason. Without it you aint much compadre. Ball control is everything. I mean, how do you play well without having good ball control?
And there’s one super duper simple secret to having better ball control than the next “Joe schmoe.”
Ready for it?
Have more life time touches on the ball…
Simple right? It’s actually simple to apply as well, most people just suck at actually doing it.
Do this: every day get touches on the ball. It’s like the famous Comedian Jerry Seinfeldsaid when asked about his #1 secret to success:
Write a joke every single day. Get a calendar, and mark an X for every day you write a joke. And never break the chain of X’s on the calendar…
Do the same for touches. Get touches every day with every single body part (except hands unless you’re a goalie) and do not break that chain.
Start small as well. 1-5 minutes a day and progress from there.
Play Lots of Street Soccer
If you want to learn how to improve at soccer by yourself than you gotta do what the world has been doing for years.
And that is, play lots of street soccer.
What does that mean? It means to play anywhere, anytime, whenever you can. Put a couple of sweaters down as posts and giver. Don’t wait to get on some nice big field with nets, you can play anywhere. And guess what? Playing anywhere is a blast.
The benefits of this are insane (not to mention adding to your lifetime touches above).
All the world’s best players grew up in a culture where this happened all the time.
If you’re not in one? Develop it. Go out and find people and do it. People that complain about not living in a culture of street soccer are people that make excuses. I’ve been able to develop a culture of street soccer (and other things) just by flipping doing it. Find people and convince them to join you and be passionate about it. People will come if you put your mind to it. Don’t be shy. Go up to people kicking the ball in the park and ask them to set up a game with you. Invite others, find others. Like our good friend Nike said: Just Do It…
If you love soccer you should love street soccer.
Watch the Best
It always blows my mind when I see so many players that do not watch tv…
I mean, we have so many resources these days to instantly watch the world’s best at their craft yet we don’t take advantage of it…
People used to save up their money for years to be able to watch their idols just once… And now we have instant access and people don’t take advantage of it.
Watch TV. Analyize how they play, how they move, how they move their body. How quickly they play. Are they playing 1 touch? 2 Touch? When do they dribble? Do they try moves? Are they always moving? (the good ones do). Do they dive in on defense or wait for right moment? Do they let attackers turn? Do they call for the ball? Do they slide tackle? And if so when? Do they turn forwards when receiving the ball? Do they just sit in their “given position” the whole time or move out when necessary? Do they kick different types of passes and shots with different parts of the foot? How do they create space?
And there you go, use the cheat-sheet paragraph above when watching pro players on TV.
Visualize what they look like and try to emulate yourself.
And oh yeah I almost forgot, we have instant access to stuff like youtube where people also provide free lessons (never-mind being able to find instant access to highlights). Find channels like this 🙂
Here’s the closest thing in soccer (in my humblest of opinions) to a “magic pill.”
Basically it means this; get good at this ONE thing over all others things in soccer in order to stand out and be better than the next dude/dudette.
Be better at 1v1’s than other people and you’re probably a better player period.
Just remember that the old gaffe himself, Alex Ferguson said the team who wins most 1v1 battles usually wins.
Think about it for a second though: 1v1 battles (as in, you either have the ball and a defender is close or attacker has ball and you’re close) happen all the time. And if you lose on average more than half of your 1v1 duels (that happen all the time) you’re in trouble. Let me repeat: 1v1 duels happen all the time in soccer. Literally, every single time you touch the ball you’re in some kind of 1v1 duel, whether the defender is in front, to your side or behind you, it’s still a 1v1 duel. Can you win it? Can you keep the ball? Can you on average, most of the time make something good happen from that duel instead of negative? Can you win your 1v1 duels defensively when you don’t have the ball?
Be good at 1v1 duels both with and without ball and you’re a beast.
How to get better at this skill?
First off, learn a couple of Go-To moves for each scenario where you normally find yourself in trouble when dealing with a defender. Think about that for a second.
Brainstorm where you most often run into trouble when you have the ball. Where are you on the field? Where is the defender coming from? Then learn a couple of go-to moves to help you in those scenarios. Would a fake shot help ? Would a quick pull back? Would a scissor? What move could you learn to get really good at that would help you in that scenario?
Do not learn more than a couple moves though.
Learn to dominate those couple of moves and you’ll use them for the rest of your life.
Problem is most rookies learn 10 moves and are only mediocre at them. Instead, get amazing at a couple.
Next, be hell-bent on practicing 1v1’s more than the next person. Practice them every day.
Both with the ball and without. It’s simple too. Just set up two small nets and play 1v1 battles with someone.
And don’t practice just when you have the ball. Don’t be a lazy defender. Get good at defending. Defending is nothing more than a series of steps. For now, learn to avoid the big mistake people make mentioned below.
And that biggest mistake people make when defending 1v1’s?
They jump in when they don’t know if they can win the ball. Fix that issue and you’ll be 3 times better.
Only jump in when you know you can get the ball.
Otherwise jockey and wait your moment.
Learn to Take Risks in Soccer
I always come back to this cause it’s so dern important. Learn to be a risk-taker. In order to improve at soccer you have to take risks and take them more than the next person.
And don’t get down on yourself over mistakes. Mistakes are GREAT.
Cause without them you don’t learn.
The secret is learning to value and appreciate mistakes. That way you won’t lose confidence when you make them.
Just think of this: the world’s best players… guys like Messi and Ronaldo made a gazzilion mistakes when growing up in soccer.
Heck, they still do to this day. They lose the ball lots actually. Nobody remembers it cause that one time they don’t make a mistake, the magic happens.
Problem is most people don’t have the gonads to take enough risks and just end up being a “get by” kind of player.
They are content just “getting by” and playing it safe. They are content not getting noticed.
“I just need to get through this game safely and I’m happy.”
Don’t be that player!
You Must Develop a Go-For-It Attitude
Here’s a quick story for you. When I was 8 years old my family moved to Chile South America.
I didn’t know a lick of Spanish (they speak that language there in case you were one of those people that thought they speak “Chilean”) and I sure as heck didn’t know how to play soccer.
Yet, the very first day we arrived I saw kids playing across the street.
So I asked our friends; “how do you say; “can I play” in Spanish?”
They told me, I crossed the street, bumbled my way through the words, and started playing…And sucked.
But that’s not the point. The point is I learnt the game cause I had the gonads (at least at the time I did) to cross the street and play with kids I didn’t know in a language I didn’t know. Not to mention I wasn’t good at the time.
But who cares?
The first reason we start playing is cause of love for the game. And that should never stop. And the good part about that? It’s good for development to have fun…
But jumping back to the main application for you.
It’s this. Have the gonads to “go for it.” To get uncomfortable and just play. See people playing? Go ask and join in.
The same goes for learning. That same attitude is what is going to give you confidence. A “go for it” kind of attitude.
“Yeah I may not be the greatest right now, but that won’t stop me from taking risks and calling for the ball and trying to make an awesome impact while having fun.”
If people have a problem with that?
Who cares… That’s their issue.
You’re here to have fun and improve. And if you sit back and care too much what others think, or if you always play it safe you won’t progress like you should.
Go for it, take risks, learn, ask if you can play, and have fun.
You’ll only get better…