Expert section: Mate Kontra – I’ve played soccer all my life at a very high level consistently. Throughout my time playing, the biggest lesson I learned is that having great technique is irreplaceable in Soccer. I have been coached countless ways to improve & maintain good technique by very high-level, ex-pro, and D1 college coaches, and I would like to share my experience. Currently, I play at the MLS-Next level in California.
So you’re looking to improve your skills in soccer by mastering the fundamentals of the technical aspect of the game.
You probably already know that being technically sound in soccer is one of the most critical skills to possess.
But you have no idea where to start.
Well, lucky for you, because you have come to the right place to find out the best ways you can practice and become great on the ball.
The 5 most effective ways to improve technical skills in soccer
The following exercises are the best ways that you can improve your overall soccer technique on the ball.
Be sure to check out the linked articles for a more in-depth analysis of the topic or structured training sessions around a specific skill.
Juggling the ball is arguably the easiest way to improve your ball technique in soccer.
It is the easiest way to learn the ball by taking hundreds of touches in a matter of minutes.
And the best part is that you can do it anytime, anywhere.
Here are 2 advanced juggling exercises that will challenge your abilities and even further enhance your touch on the ball.
Freestyle moves are much more effective than just juggling because it requires you to have variety in your touches.
In short, you kick the ball in a lot of different ways, as opposed to normal juggling where you just kick the ball up the same way repetitively.
So freestyling encourages creativity and helps you bring variety to the types of touches you take, helping your development translate onto the field better.
As a bonus, freestyling moves are more fun to learn and there are an endless amount of tricks you can try, so you will never get bored.
Using a smaller ball is way more difficult to practice with than a normal size ball.
The reason is that you have to be a lot more accurate when kicking the ball because the area where you have to kick it is a lot smaller.
The benefit is highly improved coordination with your legs and feet.
Having better coordination will not only have an immediate effect on the way you play, but it will also accelerate your learning curve when learning more advanced skill sets, such as taking a perfect aerial touch.
2: Wall Ball
The benefits of “wall ball” have a lot in common with the benefits of juggling.
The difference is that the touches you take when playing wall ball are almost identical to the types of touches you would take in real scenarios.
That means that the skills you learn and improve from playing wall ball translate much better to in-game skills and in-game techniques.
2 types of techniques that are commonly used in games and can be learned with wall ball are ball receptions out of the air and passing.
Wall juggling is one of, if not the single best way to practice ball reception out of the air.
As I said before, this exercise is nearly identical to in-game scenarios so it is much more beneficial than regular juggling.
Additionally, there are several variations that you can do to practice specific skill sets that you may be lacking.
Normal wall distance (6ft) can be used to practice overall touch and coordination on the ball since this is the most common type of touch you will have to take in games.
Short distance (3ft) puts a heavy emphasis on practicing quickness and reflexes on the ball and leaves no room for error. This will highly improve your ability to maintain focus while playing.
A farther distance (25ft) is used to practice cushioning strong aerial passes. This is one of the best ways to learn how to delicately bring down strong passes.
This variation of wall juggling replicates goal kicks very well and is also a great way to practice chest receptions, side volleys, and volley power.
Further variations that I recommend implementing in your sessions are using a different-sized ball, touch limitations, side-volley only, or only using your weak foot.
Passing with a wall is the best way to practice your passing when you are alone.
Firstly, the ball comes back with almost the same power that you kicked it with (especially when practicing on a hard top) which simulates another player’s pass well.
When practicing short passes with a wall, first you want to focus on hitting the ball right at the center to have a completely flat pass against the wall.
You will know if you hit the ball too high because it will get stuck under your foot and bounce off the ground.
On the other hand, you will know if you hit it too low because the ball will lift off the ground.
Once you mastered hitting the ball at the center, try to practice putting backspin on it so that it skims on the ground until it hits the target.
This will make it easier for your teammate to receive and pass the ball in game scenarios.
If the wall is big enough, you can even practice driven passes, however, driven passes are covered later in this article under the “Using a Goal” section.
Rebounders are an excellent alternative to a wall.
They have more or less the same function, the benefit is that rebounders can be placed anywhere you need them to be.
Rebounders alone are a great way to practice your passes, and you can even angle the rebounder to pop up the ball to practice your ball receptions.
Although I would recommend combining rebounders into other exercises as well to diversify the skills you practice.
Rebounders are one of the best ways to practice passing for soccer because you do not have to find a wall or have a friend to pass with.
With that said, small rebounders that are lightweight and cheap can move quite a bit when the ball hits them, so there is definitely an investment that you have to make if you want a high-quality rebounder.
When it comes to passing, rebounders have some limitations such as their size which can make skills such as driven passes difficult to practice.
On the other hand, some benefits are that you can integrate passing combinations into pretty much any exercise you can think of.
Unlike a wall, you can move your rebounder around any way you like.
Aerial Ball Receptions
The other exercise that might make the rebounder worth it, especially if there isn’t a usable wall near you, is ball receptions.
Most rebounders on the market are designed to have a function where they pop the ball in the air for you.
This function bounces the ball directly at you in the air, which is pretty game realistic, so it will improve your in-game reflexes and touch.
This is my favorite way of practicing my touch besides wall juggling because of its versatility and combination potential.
I recommend combining this exercise with other exercises as well because it can get repetitive by itself.
4: Using a goal
Using a goal in individual sessions is one of the most underrated ways to practice.
It’s a great way to practice for any player because there is something to practice for every position.
The potential for scoring crazy goals just adds to the fun of it.
From my experience, the most effective and fun way to practice driven passes is with the use of a goal.
To practice accuracy, put 2 cones in the middle of the goal to create a target and try to skim the ball across the ground between the two cones.
This way, even if you miss the target, the balls are caught in the net and you will not have to waste time by gathering them since they’re all in one place.
It is possible to practice driven passes with a wall, but there are too many distractions you have to focus on outside of your passing technique, which will likely make the session less productive.
I recommend using a goal because it’s more fun, and it gives you the ability to isolate practicing your passing technique, making your session more productive.
Practicing shooting with a goal is pretty self-explanatory.
It is the best way to recreate life-like scenarios that you can practice to make sure that it translates well to match scenarios.
Practicing shooting is important to consistently be able to get good contact on the ball so that your shots are accurate and powerful.
I recommend combining shooting exercises with dribbling and passing combinations, with the use of a rebounder for example.
Alternative to a Rebounder
Certain goals can even be used as an alternative to a rebounder, as long as they have a connecting bar along the bottom of the side of the goal.
Lowering the wheels of the goal allow you to raise the bar a few inches, giving you a perfect bounce back to your feet.
It is a really good alternative to a rebounder or a wall if you want to practice your short passes, but it is really difficult to combine this with other exercises because you would have to move the entire goal.
You might also be able to use the bar to pop the ball up to practice ball receptions by leaving the bar on the ground.
I do want to add though, most bars make the ball bounce straight above the goal, which makes it difficult to practice any type of aerial reception.
But I would try anyways for the sake of not having to buy a rebounder because they can be expensive.
Cones are a great way to practice dribbling technique and even skill moves because they allow you to repeat moves over and over until it becomes muscle memory.
Since there are endless combinations to dribble around cones with a ball, this exercise makes it easy to master dribbling with all parts of your foot.
From my experience, it is a must-have in your sessions, because there are only so many touches you can take in games and practices to master dribbling.
But remember, cone exercises do not practice your dribbling reflexes and instincts, so it is still crucial to play with and against other players often.
I highly recommend checking out our article on the most important skill moves to master in soccer, or our article on the fundamentals of beating a defender, to further improving your dribbling skillset.
In this article, we discussed the 5 best ways to improve your technical ability in soccer.
The easiest way by far is juggling, because it can be done anywhere, anytime, and lets you take hundreds of touches in minutes which helps you learn the ball at a rapid pace.
Similarly, wallball lets you take hundreds of touches in a very short amount of time, however, the ball simulates a person passing you the ball which makes practicing this way translate to real-life scenarios much better.
Using rebounders can be even better in some cases because they are mobile and can be combined with most types of practice exercises.
Goals are a great way to practice driven passes and shooting because even if you miss your intended target, the net will collect the balls and save you the time you would spend gathering the balls.
Last but not least, cones are a great way to practice your dribbling technique until it becomes muscle memory because of the versatility of the cones, but beware, playing against other players as often as possible is still important to develop your dribbling reflexes.
But besides telling you ways to practice, the best advice I can give you to improve your technical ability for soccer in less than a minute is to play fearless.
Not being afraid of mistakes is probably more important than anything, because being fearful will prevent your mind from being brave enough to even practice anything.
So leave your fear of messing up behind, and just have fun playing the beautiful game.
Image Attribution & Licensing
Featured Image: ‘Soccer Player Juggling Skills’ by oneinchpunchphotos (Licensed via EnvatoElements)
#1: ‘Technical Soccer Warm Up’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)
#2: ‘Juggling at Head Height’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)
#3: ‘Practicing Touch With a Partner’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)
#4: ‘Soccer Player Passing The Ball’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)
#5: ‘Shooting Practice With Goal’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)
#6: ‘Cone Setup for Dribbling’ by ttrex (Licensed via EnvatoElements)