What is the best way to improve as a young soccer player? There are so many resources and gadgets out there now, it can be hard to decide what works best. How many sets and reps should you do? What should my recovery time be? What if my technique is a little off? Does it matter if the cones are yellow or red? Do I need to buy an expensive rebound board?
Let me tell you what you need: A BALL AND A WALL!
Don't even worry about sets and reps. Just get out there and start kicking the ball against the wall. Practice different types of kicks such as inside of your foot, driven, on the ground, left foot and right foot. Then practice controlling the ball as it comes back. Use all parts of your body to practice controlling, and then once you've mastered keeping the ball close to you, how about working on your directional touch.
But most of all, just have fun with it!
Whether you do it for 10 minutes or an hour, just get out there. When I was a young child growing up in Ireland, I would spend all of my time at the back of my house, passing against any walls I could find. I would practice hitting the same spot over and over again. I'd work exclusively on my weak foot. Sometimes, I'd simply kick the ball as hard as I could against the wall and as it came back at speed, I would work on my control.
I didn't think about sets, reps, or time spent out there. Too many people overthink everything, but sometimes you just need to get out there and do it.
To sum it up, here are 5 benefits to using a ball and a wall:
1. Improves passing technique - use the inside and outside of your feet. Practice using your laces for low driven passes or high lofted ones.
2. Develops first touch and control - When the ball comes back off the wall, use all parts of your body to control it. Not just different parts of your foot, but use your thigh, chest, even shoulder. After you are comfortable trapping it, work on your directional touch to take the ball into space or away from the opposition.
3. Teaches you to judge the flight of the ball - This is a huge one. As it comes back off the wall at pace, you need to make a quick judgement about which part of your body to use to control. it. This is one of the big issues I see when coaching younger players. For example, instead of simply using their thigh to control the ball, they try to lift their foot and it ends up just bouncing away.
4. Opportunity to work on your weak foot - Just get in front of a wall, and start using your weak foot. There is no better way. Pass, shoot, control. Just put in the time and I promise you will improve.
5. Get used to playing the ball fast and receiving it fast - Play your passes to the wall with pace. This means it will come back at speed and challenge your first touch.
There are no excuses when it comes to this type of training, and it is by far the fastest way to develop. Of course, if you want to go ahead and create specific training drills and plans for ball and wall work, feel free. But I feel planning means that people just don't get out there and do the work. For this type of training, just get out there and have fun with it!
If you think of the top players in the world, did they have access to the best facilities or equipment? Absolutely not! The best players in the world grew up playing with their friends, using backpacks, bottles, or even a marked wall as goalposts. Were they worrying about sets, reps, or time spent playing? Nope. They just played.
This is what I urge you to do too. Find a wall, get your ball, and just get out there and get creative. Your game will change dramatically for the better.
If you need any help, feel free to contact me anytime.