Everyone that plays soccer is looking for different ways to improve their soccer skills and the answers always lead to: footwork, drills, speed, agility, fitness, and more. However, there is much more beyond that!
When you play soccer, which is a team sport, you must be aware of what’s around you. Soccer skills do not only refer to your individual performance but it also includes how helpful you are to your team. However, there is another way to improve soccer skills and soccer performance! The four tips that I’m about to give you will help you a lot. There is no doubt that younger players need to realize that soccer is more than passing the ball and running; it’s about leadership, game plan, and communication.
Talk more – Be a leader!
As a team sport, communication must be there at all times. A team that communicates tends to look better on the field. Even though, teammates talk during practice about how they are going to make their runs, talking during a game is crucial.
It also has secondary effects on the opponent. I remember that it used to intimidate me when I heard the other team talking a lot. I made me feel like they were really in control of the game and when I had the ball I felt like it was 1 vs 11 because they used to say: “Force him to the right… I got the middle… Win that… Get to the ball“. ALL GAME LONG!
Whether is a simple direction to the person receiving the ball or full directions on how to make a run to counterattack, communication says a lot about a team and individual players. As a coach, I can see the leaders during practice and games. They are the ones giving directions and always getting everyone together and planning the next play.
Everything is just more complicated with no communication! Trust me. I always say to my players: “use the fact that you know each other to ask for the ball calling names; if you want the ball from Mike, just say: “Mike, right here”. It may sound obvious but there are many young players that barely talk on the field. Build up your confidence and be a leader!!!
Use Non-Verbal Methods to Communicate – IT WORKS!
What happens when verbal communication is not there? Well, you have two hands/arms to make signals that will lead to some type of communication. You can never go wrong with non-verbal language because you can’t say: “I thought you said Get it Out, instead of Let it Go“. It’s a simple signal with a clear message (players must agree to what certain signals mean).
I recommend to talk to your teammates and practice the following 2 signals:
#1: HERE, HERE! that’s when you want the ball to be played to your feet. You may use one or two hands to indicate if you want the ball to you left foot or right foot.
#2: THERE! that’s when you want the ball to be played into the space. You point to where you want the ball.
Sometimes these signals unconsciously will make you talk and that’s awesome! Remember, communication is key in soccer.
Once you get used to these two signals, you start feeling comfortable and it becomes part of your playing style. Before you notice, you will use your hand to tell someone to make a run, to turn and go, or to let him/her know that he/she has time. A very good habit! (I would choose a player with this characteristic over a quiet one with similar footwork skills).
Be aware of what’s around you – Scan the Field!
Another tip that I would suggest is to get into the habit of looking around at all times. The more you are aware of what’s around you, the better decision you will make with and without the ball.
When you scan the field, you have a better vision of where your teammates are and where the opponent players are. You will make decisions of whether play short or switch the field. This gives you a plus! (Trust me, I’m a coach!)
Soccer skills like this one simply take you to the next level. If you know (ahead of time) what your next move will be, you look like a very smart and fast player. Two characteristics of typical attacking midfielder but in today’s soccer can apply to all players on the field.
One last thing… This also applies to you, even when you do not get the ball. By making a run because a teammate is projecting by the sideline, you create an opportunity to attack. Remember, really good players shine with and without the ball.
How is this a soccer skill? Just look at Luis Suarez’s moves when the wingers or left back cross the ball to find Messi. This actually takes me to the next tip.
Don’t just watch soccer, Analyze Games!
There is not a better way to learn about soccer and improve soccer skills than analyzing games. Watch the top players display real skills, strategies, and playing style. You may not have their skills but YOU CAN definitely understand why top players play in top leagues and try to follow them (not on Twitter!).
As a striker, I always love to watch the players behind the scenes. Benzema and Suarez are two excellent examples of how to move without the ball. They know where to go and when to make those runs to the first post to let forwards and midfielders get to the ball with no opponent close to them.
If we try to mimic what Messi and Ronaldo do on the field, watching them in action will definitely help. Obviously, this must be followed up with a lot of practice. However, most young players do not take advantage of the access to recorded soccer games, goals, and analysis of games on the internet. Trust me, as a coach, I recommend all my players to watch videos of soccer players that play in their most enjoyable position and watch what they do, with and without the ball.
You will be amazed of how much you can learn from just analyzing a 5-minute soccer game. Your soccer skills will naturally improve because soccer players are visual learners. A coach shows a move or drill, and players are able to retain that information and perform. That’s how watching games works, you see what your favorite soccer play does and you apply that during your next game. And don’t forget… PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
Talent + Discipline = Success
All soccer players (including myself) dream with making it to the professional level and we work hard to have a fair chance. Someone may say it’s simply luck (having the right connection) and perhaps having what it takes but, there is no doubt that soccer skills that make you stand out (skills with and without the ball) in front of coaches occasionally lead to success.
It’s easy to identify talent with the ball. Just watch the best teams in the world and you can see what they can do. Neymar, Mbappé, and Hazard are some of the most talented players in the recent 2018 Russia World Cup. However, that’s pure talent + discipline. You can’t succeed if you have no discipline.
Take your talent to the next level by practice. Take your soccer skills to the next level by being more disciplined.
Add these 4 simple tips to your regular soccer life and you will see a huge improvement. If you want to become a professional soccer player, stay focused and apply yourself. Are you ready to become a better – smarter soccer player?