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Master Your Ball Control & Dribbling Skill In Football

master your ball control & dribbling skills in football

Distinct characteristic world-class football players possess is their dribbling and ball control ability. They are capable of handling the ball with flair which in turn helps them be unpredictable, beat their opponents, maintain possession, and get out of high-pressure scenarios with relative ease. No matter your position, you can always benefit from good dribbling and ball control skills.

In this article, we will analyze every aspect of dribbling and ball control to help you #levelUP your game.

What Is The Difference Between Technique & Skill In Football?

Technique in football, and sports in general, is an intentional and effective sequence of movements (i.e. dribbling the ball with the outside of your foot from cone A to cone B).

Skill in football, and sports in general, is an intentional and effective sequence of movements used to solve (a) specific problem(s) in the constantly changing/chaotic environment football has to offer (i.e. recognition of open space, sudden change of direction with the ball to mark yourself off of a defender, and dynamic dribbling towards space).

As you may notice, technique emphasizes movement quality whereas skill requires a variety of qualities that make the execution of a certain technical aspect more or less effective.

While both you and Messi might be able to dribble inside and outside of 5 cones positioned in a line, Messi possesses a greater level of technical skill which enables him to use dribbling as a skill to solve more complex game-specific tasks. Think of him dribbling past those Athletic Bilbao defenders back in 2014. That’s technical skill at its best.

Technique can be quantified in the world of kinematics and biomechanics (in terms of joint and approach angles) whereas technical skill is both a quantitative (technical aspect) and qualitative aspect of performance that goes much deeper into each action in comparison to plain technique.

What Are The Differentiating Factors Of Skill VS Technique?

Skill is your ability to use a technical aspect of your game with efficiency and control to solve a sport-specific problem. This problem you meet in-game and its solution are dependent upon multiple factors that can either increase or decrease that scenarios’ difficulty and complexity.

The more complex a game scenario the harder it is to find a solution and use it with the right timing and technical efficiency. There are certain factors that are present in your ability to execute a technical aspect of the game with skill.

Here are 5 of those according to Hirtz:

  1. Kinaesthetic differentiation – your ability to perceive and control the strength/power, timing, and spatial parameters of the ROM of a certain movement
  2. Space-Time orientation – your ability to perceive and process information from your surroundings to coordinate your movements in space
  3. Balance – your ability to stay balanced or regain your balance in a constantly changing game environment or solving complex problems in unstable game scenarios
  4. Complex reactionary ability – your ability to execute a certain movement in a given moment and with a specific timeframe in reaction to the different stimuli you receive during a game
  5. Rhythm – your ability to time movements in an efficient manner

Having said all of that, we now understand that skill is much more than technique and more applicable to the constantly changing scenarios we meet inside a football match.


Dribbling & Ball Control – What Are They & When Are They Used?

Both ball control and dribbling are technical aspects of football. Ball control is the dynamic effort made to maintain possession of the ball, whereas dribbling is the ability to control the ball whilst running, in order to transfer it from point A to point B on the field.

Ball Control = maintenance of the ball

Dribbling = maintenance and transfer of the ball from point A to point B

There are many different ways to control and dribble the ball, most of which are performed with different parts of the foot.


Ball Control & Dribbling – A Technical Breakdown

The first and most important step towards mastering ball control and dribbling as skills is to nail down the basic technical aspects of each. Technique is the foundational component of any game skill and is the primary determinant of the success or failure of your actions.

Here are some basic coaching points and technical cues that you should be aware of in order to master ball control and dribbling in football:


  1. Use a low COM (Center of Mass) for sudden changes of direction
  2. Be aware of the field and your surroundings before & after receiving the ball
  3. Use your peripheral vision to grasp details
  4. Resist/outpower your opponents with your body
  5. Use your outstep to dribble with speed


  1. Excessively low COM
  2. An upright posture can cause a “stiff” result (not fluid)
  3. Limited self-awareness can lead to possession loss
  4. Incorrect use of body increases the risk of getting beat by the defender
  5. Using your instep/other parts of the foot can slow you down

Developing The Skill Aspect Of Ball Control & Dribbling

Once you master the basic technical elements of dribbling and ball control (which usually happens at an early age) you should slowly transition from basic to more complex training stimuli.

This is done in an attempt to develop the skills of dribbling and ball control in the context of a constantly changing aka chaotic game environment. However, this doesn’t mean that all of your drills should be complex.

In fact, a vast majority of the training time needs to be invested in sharpening the technical base no matter the age, playing level, and experience of the individual.

Training Tips To Improve Ball Control & Dribbling Skill In Football


1. Slow down your ball control and dribbling drills and strive to achieve kinaesthetic differentiation and technical mastery

The slow pace of a drill will allow you to focus on the quality of each repetition and really take control of all the kinaesthetic elements of the action (part of the foot used, feel for the ball, rhythm, space-time orientation, etc.).

2. Use visual and verbal stimuli to add reactive components to your dribbling and ball control drills

We mentioned that a football game is chaotic and unpredictable in nature. By including certain reactive components in training, we can get the player closer to game-realistic situations. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the perception-action coupling principle. Perceive information around you, process it, and act upon it with proper timing and quality of action. Space-time orientation is key!


3. Use SSGs (Small-Sided Games) and 1v1 attacking drills to get exposed to game-specific problems and tasks

This increase in pressure, reduction of available space, and the presence of defenders ready to “kill” for the ball will force you to dribble and control the ball with more quality. Although this isn’t skill-specific training, it really offers a complex training stimulus you can’t find in individual-based drills. A bad dribble or missed touch and your team lost the ball. You’ll be forced to act with success. It’s a matter of adaptation.

4. Focus on 2 to 3 basic skill moves for dribbling and ball control and become a master of them

There is literally an endless amount of dribbling and ball control moves. With the rise of the internet, a whole lot of freestyle tricks get proposed as skills that can be used in-game. They can’t. Study the best of the best and stick with 2 to 3 basic skill moves that can be realistically executed during a game. Take those 2 to 3 moves, break them down, and strive to achieve technical mastery along with all those other skill factors (rhythm, space-time orientation, kinaesthetic differentiation, etc.).

5. Use the whole body to dribble – not just the legs!

It is pretty common to see players producing a “stiff” result when they’re on the ball. Dribbling and ball control requires rhythm and kinaesthetic awareness. Using manipulative body language can go hand in hand with your dribbling and ball control skills. Flair doesn’t come from the legs. It all starts in the mind and is executed with the whole body.


  • Cognitive (visual/verbal cues)
  • Technical (coupling one game skill with another, i.e. dribble to shot)
  • Tactical (i.e. using 2v1s to practice dribbling, finishing, and teamwork in game-like scenarios)
  • Space (increase or decrease the space of the drill to increase ball control and dribbling demands like stride, speed, etc.)
  • Time (increase or decrease duration of the drill to emphasize skill quality vs skill consistency)
  • Touches (place touch limitations to force dribbling/ball control with wise energy usage)

Final Thoughts

Ball control and dribbling are fundamental skills of football you simply can’t neglect. The mastery of the technique and the mastery of the skill are two different things. However, the one depends on the other.

Without technical mastery, you can’t acquire a skill, and without skill acquisition, you cannot develop into an elite-level footballer.

Slow down the process and don’t rush things. Master the technical elements and slowly add various training stimuli that increase complexity and challenge you further.

Working hard is great. Working SMART is genius.

Fast forward your progress and achieve a higher quality of results by training SMART.


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