Master the Ball, Master the Game
What is Ball Mastery? – In short, Ball Mastery Training places an emphasis on the player’s technical ability. In soccer, technical ability covers a player’s first-touch, passing, finishing and dribbling – especially in tight areas with pressing defenders. Players who are comfortable, confident and creative with the ball are the players who possess complete mastery of the ball.
At Triangle Soccer, we focus almost exclusively on ball mastery. There are several reasons we decided to do this. Firstly, ball mastery is, by far, the most important component of soccer development. Secondly, the younger a player starts ball mastery training – the easier it is for them to acquire these skills. Additionally, team training, alone, does not provide nearly enough time on the ball for players to achieve ball mastery. Also, ball mastery drills improve general fitness – the reverse is rarely true. Finally,
Technical players have more fun.
To my surprise, this final point is so seldom mentioned – that we want to take a moment to spell it out.
- 1) We know that soccer uses only one ball divided amongst 22 (or less depending on the age) players.
- 2) We also know that every youth player wants the ball. Don’t believe me? Roll a ball in front of a group of kids and see what happens.
- 3) Therefore, logic has it, that the more a youth player has the ball during a game or practice, the more fun they will have. Conversely, the less a player touches the ball during a game or practice the less fun they have.
- 4) You don’t have to be Pep Guardiola, the esteemed Manchester City manager, to know that youth players with superior technical ability tend to dominate the ball.
- 5) This means that kids with superior technical ability tend to enjoy soccer more than players with less technical ability. This has a lasting impact on how long they continue to play the game.
- 6) This cycle becomes self-fulfilling; The more technical (and confident) the player becomes –> the more time they have the ball during games and practice –> which increases their technical ability and enjoyment –> which in turn increases confidence and time on the ball –> which in turn…you get the point.
As a parent, where do I start? – Start by free playing with your child and attending games and watching them on TV. Then introduce simple training exercises that you practice with them regularly. For example, for U7’s we have them kick the ball in the air and they must catch it on the first bounce. Check out the Player Homework section for training resources.
Shouldn’t you wait to see if they love the game first? – There are no one-size-fits-all correct suggestions, but would you wait to see if your child loved books before teaching them to read? As mentioned above, there is only one ball per game. Spending a few minutes a day a few times a week practicing the basics will give your child the confidence to enjoy the experience even more. Will this turn them into the next Messi? No, but a little preparation will certainly help them enjoy their soccer (and school for that matter) experience more.