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Can You Teach Dribbling?

Coach: Many of my fellow coaches sneer at the idea of “teaching” dribbling. “You can’t teach dribbling, it’s an art.” “You’ll create robot like players, with little creativity. That’s the standard problem with American players.” This criticism often comes from coaches who grew up overseas. Do other strong football nations teach dribbling in a manner similar to your first book?

Karl: I agree, to an extent, with your fellow coaches who sneer. That is why the change in emphasis from ‘FUN’ games to ‘soccer games’ – especially the 1 vs. 1 game. I have come to the conclusion that we need to teach our players (in practice) ‘how to’ play soccer by themselves at school, in backyards, etc. The players need to be taught ‘what to do’ away from our practice session – so that they can become creative players.

Other nations have soccer as their national past time. The players observe games day in and day out. The players have role models they imitate just like our players want to be like Mike. However, with street soccer disappearing from those countries they indeed are looking for ways to improve the skill. They too have focused on the small sided games concept, beginning with the 1 vs. 1 game as the solution.

Coach: It seems to me that in lieu of this practice, you’ve now introduced the concept of the serve. Is that an accurate statement?

 Karl: That is absolutely correct!

Coach: I like the idea in general because the child can now do the practice in a less tedious manner than before. On the other hand, I must say that I am a bit skeptical. It’s hard enough for me to get an 8 year to do the game I want him to do, let alone do the serve before the game even starts. I’m willing to give it a try but I am a bit apprehensive on how it would work. It’s too bad your video didn’t demonstrate this in action. I really need to see how this works.

Karl: You sound like anyone who is faced with introducing something ‘new’ to children. Just think of the ‘patience’ involved in teaching an eight year old ‘how to’: Multiply – divide – subtract – read – etc. The key is ‘patience’! Once the children are familiar to your ‘routine’ and it should be a ‘routine’, you will find quick advancement toward what you want them to do. However, it will be difficult if you come up with a ‘new’ surprise each practice. Let’s go back to school for an instance: the child in kindergarten is taught that – when the bell rings all play should stop and you need to line up. In second grade this is repeated so that by fifth grade – they respond like Pavlov’s dogs – bell rings – they automatically line up. Of course there are problem children and those are the ones who were not ‘strictly’ told how to line up during their younger years.

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