How Should Midfielders Practice For Soccer? Beginner’s Guide

Expert section: Mate Kontra – I’ve played soccer at a very high level all my life. I’ve been coached by ex-pro, D1, and Academy level coaches, currently playing at the MLS-Next level as a wingback in California. Today, I will share which skills you need to practice as a beginner playing a midfield position. 

Soccer Photo

The sport of soccer is a highly intricate sport due to the wide variety of skills players must master before becoming great players. 

Each position requires unique abilities, as each player on the pitch specializes in a different aspect of the game.

So it’s normal for beginners to feel overwhelmed when determining which skills they need to practice to be a more effective player. 

But don’t worry, because we’ve all been there!

Midfielders have some of the most complex tasks during a soccer match. 

They must be excellent at almost all aspects of the game, especially technical skills, such as passing or ball control. 

But for beginners to be effective, they must first learn the core skills of the position. 

So in today’s article, we will discuss the six essential skills for becoming an effective midfielder as a beginner. 


Related article: What Are the Essential Soccer Skills for Defenders? Beginner’s Guide

Professional Soccer Player Performing a Sliding Tackle
‘Professional Soccer Player Performing a Sliding Tackle’ (#1 Pexels – Leonardo Hidalgo)

The Six Core Skills to Improve as a Soccer Midfielder

As we said previously, there are many skills that midfielders need to master before becoming great at their position. 

However, the difference between great and mediocre players is that great players have mastered the fundamentals. 

Therefore, beginning midfielders who want to be effective on the pitch should focus on the fundamentals of their position first. 

With that in mind, here are the six skills that beginning midfielders should practice to become effective on the pitch. 

#1: Juggling

Juggling is a soccer exercise requiring players to keep the ball in the air by repeatedly kicking it vertically.  

Players can use their feet, knees, thighs, chest, shoulders, and head to juggle the ball.

The primary skill that juggling improves is ball control, otherwise known as “touch.” 

Midfielders use their touch constantly throughout the game, most commonly to receive ground and aerial passes. 

How is it beneficial?

Midfielders are the heart of the team, coordinating the speed of play. 

They receive the ball every time a team has possession of it. 

So, they constantly have to use their skills to control the ball. 

The main benefit of mastering ball control is that it allows midfielders to perform movements faster, adapt to situations quickly, and, most importantly, make fewer mistakes. 

Midfielders who make the least amount of mistakes during a game are the most reliable for a team that wants to keep the ball, which is almost every team in the world. 

Additionally, it allows midfielders more time to make a decision instead of focusing on controlling the ball.

By having more time to make decisions, midfielders will find better passing options, increasing the chances of scoring. 

How to practice juggling? 

For beginners to learn how to juggle, I recommend first learning how to kick the ball vertically in the air.

The first step is to take the ball and drop it over your foot from shoulder height, and kick it back up as it reaches your foot. 

As you kick the ball, be sure to lock your ankle and strike the ball in the center with the laces of your foot. 

Catch the ball after each kick, and make sure to alternate feet to avoid developing a weak foot. 

Once you have mastered kicking the ball vertically back to your hands, try to kick the ball up twice without catching the ball.

And remember to alternate feet between each kick. 

Once you master this progression, it’s best to progress to normal juggling, still alternating feet between kicks.  

To quickly learn how to juggle the ball indefinitely, always keep focus, trying to beat your previous count with each attempt. 

With consistent practice, it should only take a few weeks to be decent at juggling and having a good touch. 

Juggling At Head Height
‘Soccer Player Juggling At Head Height’ (#2 Unsplash – Jeffrey F Lin)

#2: Short Passes

Short passing is the most common passing technique used in soccer.

They are performed with the inside of the foot, kicking the center of the ball to skim it flat on the ground straight to a teammate. 

Midfielders frequently use this technique to create passing combinations with their teammates or circulate the ball around the field.

How is it Beneficial? 

Mastering short passes is highly beneficial for midfielders because they can use it to solve many situations throughout a match. 

For example, high-pressure situations may require midfielders to perform quick passing combinations to get away from the opponents. 

Here, mastering short passing is crucial because even the slightest mistakes can allow opponents to take the ball and score from a counterattack. 

Additionally, midfielders can benefit from mastering short passes in low-pressure situations. 

When opponents don’t apply pressure to win the ball but instead sit back and wait for a mistake, passing lanes between players become very tight. 

Midfielders must demonstrate high precision to pass the ball through narrow lanes consistently. 

So by mastering short passes, midfielders can also beat opponents that use a low-pressure strategy. 

How to practice short passes? 

My favorite method to practice short passes is by using a wall. 

For this exercise, only a ball and a wall are necessary. 

Players will take the ball and, with proper technique, kick it against the wall so that it bounces back to the same foot. 

Take a controlling touch between each bounce to set up the next pass. 

Perform repetitions with both feet until you can consistently perform the pass without any bounces.

The next appropriate progression is removing the controlling touch between passes so that every contact on the ball is a pass.

This progression is more challenging and game-realistic, and it also allows players to perform more repetitions in the same amount of time. 

#3: Long-Range Passes (Ping)

The vast majority of long-range passes that midfielders perform is a type of aerial pass known as the “ping.”

This passing technique uses the laces of the shoe to strike the ball just below the center to deliver it to a teammate with a straight trajectory. 

Midfielders use the ping to quickly switch the ball from one side of the field to the other, speeding up the ball circulation between the team. 

Additionally, players can use it to perform an overhead through-pass to an attacker, generally during a counterattack. 

How is it beneficial? 

The ping is one of the most used passing techniques by midfielders because it can benefit the team in several ways. 

Here are the two most significant:

The first benefit is that the ping technique speeds up the speed of play by replacing several short passes with one long pass to the target player. 

By speeding up the play, the attack becomes more unpredictable to the opponents, which increases the chances of scoring. 

Speeding up the play can also help the team’s focus during a match because the faster the speed of play is, the more concentration the game requires. 

The second benefit of learning this passing technique is that it allows teams to take advantage of pacey attackers, which can help players save energy throughout the game. 

Essentially, midfielders play overhead through-passes to quick attackers who beat the defenders to the ball and score. 

These fast counterattacks are a quick way to score goals without much effort, allowing players to conserve their energy throughout the game. 

This strategy ensures that players have enough energy to stay focused late in the game and keep their lead for a win.

Female Player Shoots Ball With Laces
‘Female Player Performing The Ping Long Pass’ (#3 Unsplash – Jeffrey F Lin)

#4: Explosiveness

Explosiveness in soccer refers to the ability to rapidly accelerate from a slow to a faster speed, usually sprinting. 

This acceleration can be from a standstill, slow jogging, or even running, but the goal is to be rapid.  

Explosiveness is used, especially by midfielders, to get up to speed quickly, and travel from one side of the field to the other as fast as possible. 

How is it beneficial?

But how is being explosive beneficial for midfielders? 

Midfielders are constantly running around the pitch, and a large part of their job is to be involved in every situation to help their teammates perform their job. 

So they must be able to travel from place to place very fast. 

For example, if opponents are able to force a mistake in a dangerous area, such as anywhere in the defensive third, midfielders will be the first ones that need to recover to defend. 

If they can quickly get up to speed to recover to a defensive position, they have a much better chance at preventing a goal than otherwise. 

Additionally, it will give them an edge in offensive scenarios as well. 

If teammates can create a turnover in the attacking third, the opposing midfielders must also recover to defend.

However, if the friendly midfielders are more explosive, they can cover more ground quickly and get there first. 

They will have a goal-scoring opportunity before the opposing midfielders even have a chance to defend. 

How to train explosiveness?

Since explosiveness prioritizes acceleration over top speed, the best way to train explosiveness is with plyometrics or by short bursts of sprint. 

Plyometrics is an exercise that trains power movements, such as jumping. 

It’s useful for soccer because it increases players’ power output, which means players can propel themselves forward with more force, accelerating them quicker. 

I personally perform accelerations from varying speeds, starting from a standstill and progressing to a jogging or running start. 

Only a few repetitions are required at each speed since the goal is not conditioning but building explosiveness. 

For reference, I usually perform three repetitions at each speed; three from a standing start, three from a jogging start, and three from a running start. 

Each of these are 10-15 yard accelerations, not necessarily up to sprint speed. 

#5: Agility

Agility is the skill where a player can react to a stimulus appropriately while keeping their balance. 

So essentially, changing directions according to the movement of an opponent or teammate. 

Midfielders constantly use agility in their favor throughout the match, whether it is to get away from an opponent to receive the ball or track down an opponent to tackle them. 

Since midfielders use it frequently throughout the match, it’s a vital component to be effective in the position. 

How is it beneficial? 

The most significant benefit of having great agility is that midfielders will have an easier time tracking or getting away from opponents. 

Tracking down opponents on the defense is a significant factor in preventing them from scoring a goal because it forces them to slow down the attack to keep the ball. 

A slower attack is more predictable, and defenders will have an easier time preventing a goal. 

But agile midfielders provide significant benefits during the attack as well. 

Midfielders who are agile enough to separate themselves from their opponents during the attack can receive the ball reliably and progress the attack faster. 

The space they create with their movement allows them to ask for the ball while also giving them enough time to find the next passing option and progress the attack. 

How to train agility? 

For beginners midfielders, the first progression should be practicing footwork. 

Agility ladders, cones, or even hurdles are appropriate for setting up footwork exercises. 

Footwork will help develop good foot coordination and prepare midfielders for more extreme direction changes. 

Start with basic exercises slowly, and focus on technique first. 

Only increase the speed and performance after mastering technique and proper form. 

The next progression is introducing a stimulus. 

Remember, agility is based on an external stimulus, such as an opponent changing directions, so players must also train their reflexes. 

From my experience, agility is the most fun to train with several players by playing tag in a small area. 

Soccer Defender Chasing Down Attacker
‘Agile Soccer Player Tracked by the Defender’ (#4 Pexels – Stanley Morales)

#6: Mid-Range Passes (Low-Driven Pass)

Mid-range passes refer to the low-driven passing technique. 

This technique requires players to strike the ball in the center using their laces to create a powerful pass that skims across the playing surface. 

Midfielders commonly use low-driven passes as “through-passes,” or passes that lead their teammates forward. 

So if an attacker is faster than opposing defenders, then midfielders will often play the ball in front of them because they will sprint to the ball faster than the defenders. 

Additionally, players can use this passing technique to circulate the ball around the field at a faster pace. 

How is it beneficial?

Delivering the ball to farther distances with an open passing lane is most efficient with a low-driven pass. 

It is because low passes are easier to control than aerial passes. 

Teammates receiving the ball will be able to control the ball quicker, which also allows the attack to progress at a faster pace. 

A fast-paced attack is more unpredictable than a slow one, it’s more effective for scoring goals. 

So midfielders who learn the low-driven pass will benefit their team by speeding up the attack, increasing their scoring chances. 

How to practice low-driven passes? 

The best way to practice low-driven passes is by using a wall if there is enough space or with a partner. 

If there is enough space, I prefer a wall because it allows me to perform repetitions faster and only focus on my technique. 

There isn’t anything to distract me, which enables me to focus and lock in. 

To also practice accuracy, I generally use cones to act as a target, but it’s also possible to pick a seam or crack on the wall to be the target. 

I find cones to be more effective because I can clearly identify them through my peripheral vision. 

Soccer Players Celebrating After Training
‘Soccer Players Celebrating After Training’ (#5 Pexels – Anastasia Shuraeva)


Juggling is the first skill that is crucial for beginners to become more effective midfielders because it improves ball control skills. 

Since midfielders receive the ball most out of any position during a game, ball control skills are vital to minimize losing possession. 

Players with better ball control can control the ball quicker than others, which allows them more time to make better decisions for their team. 

Short passes are also constantly used by midfielders throughout a match, which is why it’s an integral component of the effectiveness of midfielders. 

This passing technique is used for applications ranging from circulating the ball around the field to creating passing combinations to get out of a tight situation. 

Considering how frequently players use this technique, it’s vital to master it to minimize mistakes and a loss of possession. 

Long passes, or the ping, are also popular to move the ball between teammates. 

However, this technique lifts the ball into the air and delivers it to teammates at a long distance, such as across the width of the pitch or past the half-field. 

The ping speeds up the speed of play, making the attack unpredictable, which increases the scoring chances. 

Explosiveness is another crucial trait that midfielders must have to be effective. 

Midfielders who are explosive can quickly accelerate to fast speeds and beat their opponents in short foot races. 

So recovering to defend in unexpected situations or racing to the ball on a breakaway should be winning scenarios for explosive midfielders. 

Agility refers to changing directions according to an external stimulus, such as opponents’ movement, while maintaining balance. 

Midfielders constantly use agility to track or get away from opponents during defensive and offensive situations. 

It’s crucial to be agile enough to track opponents to slow them down during defensive situations, and it’s critical for creating space between the opponents to progress the attack. 

Mid-range, or the low-driven pass, is an advanced technique most applicable in longer-range scenarios that present an available passing lane. 

The low-driven pass skims the ball across the ground with power so that it travels long distances while being controllable by teammates. 

Through-passes in front of the goal, or even just circulating the ball, are great applications of the technique that make it easy to increase the speed of play while attacking. 

Image Attribution & Licensing

Featured Image: ‘Soccer Player Preparing to Train’ by RDNE Stock Project (Licensed via Pexels)

#1: ‘Professional Soccer Player Performing a Sliding Tackle’ by Leonardo Hidalgo (Licensed via Pexels)

#2: ‘Soccer Player Juggling At Head Height’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)

#3: ‘Female Player Performing The Ping Long Pass’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)

#4: ‘Agile Soccer Player Tracked by the Defender’ by Stanley Morales (Licensed via Pexels)

#5: ‘Soccer Players Celebrating After Training’ by Anastasia Shuraeva (Licensed via Pexels)