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Coaches Blog

Sam's Blog is a bi-weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Coaching Director for US Youth Soccer.

 

Ball Progression

Sam Snow

In teaching ball skills, there's a certain progression to follow. I don't mean in this instance dribbling before tackling or catching before diving, but instead the progression of interacting with the ball. When you read about the progression further on here you'll think wow that's really simple, but it's interesting how few coaches know or follow this straightforward plan for teaching players how to become comfortable with the ball.
 
The general rule is to start at the feet and work your way up the body in collecting or propelling the ball; ending not at the head but above the head. Collecting could be the different receiving techniques for field players or catching techniques for goalkeepers. Propelling could be dribbling for field players or the different passing or shooting techniques. Propelling is also the various distribution techniques for goalkeepers. So start off down low and as players gain confidence and timing in dealing with the ball then work your way up the body.
 
The progression from the feet to the head and then above the body should first focus on a vertical plane with the body – straight up and down and in line with the body. But you can fairly early on add lateral movement along the horizontal plane. So now a player is moving from side to side to collect or propel the ball.
 
There too is a progression for the ball itself; first play with a rolling ball, then a bouncing ball and finally an aerial or flighted ball. This is in concert with the progression of feet to head and then above the head. But it goes further in that the rolling ball easiest to deal with is the one rolling away from you as a young player will run to match the pace of the ball and then play with it. Next is the ball rolling towards the player and finally the ball moving across the body. The same progression holds for true for a bouncing ball and then the ball in the air.
 
So let's take receiving for a U-10 player as an example. The progression should be receiving with the feet and then work our way up the body to the head. The secondary progression is how to control a rolling ball (away from the body, toward the body and then across the body), next is a bouncing ball (below knee height, below waist height, below chest height and then head height) and finally is dealing with the ball in the air; again moving up body segments/heights as the player gains confidence. This progression takes into account the gradually developing visual acuity of children.
 
For more details on the skills of soccer, please read the Skills School Technical Manual from US Youth Soccer.