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How to Teach Young Children to Dribble a Soccer Ball

Foremost expert on early learning sports development. Founder at Chicago-based Coach Pickle's Jelly Bean Sports.

Children await coach's instruction

Children await coach's instruction

How to Teach Young Children to Dribble A Soccer Ball - Teaching Video

Dribbling a Soccer Ball Introduction

Dribbling a soccer ball is a fundamental skill young children need to learn to play soccer. Easy for young children to understand, the general premise of kicking the soccer ball makes soccer a popular introductory sport for many young children.

Coaching the "Use of Hands" in Soccer

One challenge young children can have and a common behavior many have is using their hands instead of their feet when playing soccer. As coaches, it is our job to gently coach them on when and where the use of hands in soccer occurs. This is not a primary lesson but something you fold into your coaching (e.g. during clean up - soccer ball overhead and thrown into the bag) It is important to keep in mind that saying "no hands" in soccer is not always the case. Hands can be used at select times in the game of soccer and always by the goalie.

How to Teach Young Children to Dribble a Soccer Ball General Teaching Objectives

  1. respect children, start by giving them credit for their innate intelligence
  2. conform soccer to fit children, do not conform children to fit soccer.
  3. introduce modified dribbling techniques, some that don't require a soccer ball
  4. keep soccer simple and make learning fun

Dribbling a Soccer Ball Assessment

Dribbling a soccer ball assessment. Ask young children one simple question:

"What is dribbling?"

It is very likely some or all the children will confuse the dribbling of a basketball with dribbling a soccer ball. Knowing this, I will sometimes have fun with young children. I pick up the soccer ball and start bouncing it with my hand. I let them tell me it is wrong and then to demonstrate soccer dribbling. Use of our Jelly Bean Way instructional graphic below is also helpful.

Sports terminology can be confusing

Sports terminology can be confusing

Three Most Important Fundamental Skills to Dribbling a Soccer Ball

The three most important fundamentals of dribbling a soccer ball:

  1. ball security
  2. body positioning, and
  3. dribbling

8 Different Ways to Teach Young Children Soccer Using Just a Cone

How to Teach Young Children in the Ways They Learn Best

Ask, Listen & Repeat

The assessment question, "what is dribbling?" is part of the Jelly Bean Way. We use questions to help build young children's positive attitudes, love of the game and coachability.

Young children are thinking reasoning persons. Recognizing this starts by giving them credit for their innate intelligence, The use of such a probing question begins the process of what I call, "ask, listen and repeat."

  1. ask a question
  2. listen to young children's answers
  3. repeat their answers back to them
Scroll to Continue

Listening to young children's answers and repeating their answers back to them without inserting my own opinion is catalytic for building confidence and making kids coachable. It helps even the youngest athlete practice:

  1. better listening
  2. critically thinking, and
  3. communication

Three essential life skills but also important attributes sports science has found to exist in the "coachable" athlete.

Coaching "Ball Control" in Soccer

When coaching young children on how to dribble a soccer ball, control is very important. It starts with them trapping the ball. Making trapping fun requires a little updating to sports language to help young children better relate to the concept. Watch our animated instructional video How to Teach Young Children to Trap a Soccer Ball for more on how we do this.

"Mousetrap"

"Mousetrap"

How to Teach Young Children to Trap a Soccer Ball (Fun Video)

A mind once stretched to a new idea never returns to its original size.

— Oliver Wendell Holmes

Soccer Dribbling Keys to Success

The skill of dribbling a soccer ball is more than just the act of dribbling itself. Keys to success also involve developing children's mindfulness around two other key areas, ball security and body positioning.

Children playing soccer

Children playing soccer

Soccer Dribbling: Ball Security Exercise

This important "cat and mouse" drill introduces the value of ball security in a fun way.

Instructions

  1. Begin with each young child possessing a ball
  2. Instruct them to dribble
  3. Ask each young child, "Is that my ball or your ball?"
  4. Most will instinctually tell you, "It is my ball."
  5. After have fun saying, "That's my ball!"
  6. Then challenge children trying to steal their soccer ball.
  7. If you do steal the ball, then make them poke it away.
  8. Have fun repeating the exercise with all children.

Be mindful of the level of comfort young children demonstrate based on your challenge and stealing their ball. Adapt your intensity accordingly.

Soccer Dribbling: Cone Dash Exercise

A fun class introductory soccer exercise young children love and that is great for teaching dribbling, passing and shooting is called the Cone Dash. This high-energy exercise very simply instills in young children how to spot, react and attack the soccer ball. It seeds within them the opportunity to possess the ball but it is done without a soccer and and instead with cones.

Instructions

  1. Distribute cones around the field or floor
  2. Remove soccer balls
  3. Place young children by a cone with their parents.
  4. Ideally, the cones are colored and numbers. Have children will tell you or their parents the color and number.
  5. Next, tell parents children will next kick down all the cones down. Ask for their assistance in helping you keep the cones tipped up to keep the fun going

Throughout the fun drill, I am also assessing children's collision avoidance skills, speed and footwork heading into the striking of a cone. Children ages 2 and younger that are less steady on their feet, as you will notice, will "bulldoze" the cone. This involves shuffling through a cone with both feet. Older and more experiences young children will address the cone, plant and kick.

Soccer Dribbling - Bubble Exercise

A kid favorite. Bubbles are a tremendous tool when teaching young children soccer. Young children are magnetically drawn to this bubble exercise that offers dribbling, passing and shooting benefits.

Similar to the cones exercise, bubbles set children up for success teaching them how to spot, to and to attack the soccer ball. In this case the soccer ball is replaced by bubbles directed upwards to give them various different angles to work with:

Instructions

  1. use a bubble gun
  2. ask children, "Where are your feet?"
  3. then ask, "How many feet do you have?"
  4. finally I tell them to kick the bubbles and to step on any bubbles on the floor.
  5. keep them moving

The use of activities like the Cone Dash and Bubbles without soccer balls is how you keep sports simple and make learning fun. It also helps to seed in young children's minds the importance of using their feet.

3 Bears and Flo Jelly Bean Dribbling a Soccer Ball

3 Bears and Flo Jelly Bean Dribbling a Soccer Ball

How to Teach Young Children to Dribble a Soccer Ball: Three Bears Lesson

A creative way to teach young children to dribble a soccer ball is by integrating an age-old children's story. The Three Bears.

Set-up

  1. seat young children on their soccer ball
  2. feel free to use ours or find a picture of the three bears.
  3. show it to the children.
  4. identify each bear with them. I like to have fun mixing up the bear's names (e.g. Call Momma Bear, Pappa Bear etc.). The kids love correcting me.

Next, I introduce the kids to The 3 Bears Dribbling. It begins with Papa Bear.

Instruction

  1. Papa Bear Dribbles
  2. Momma Bear Dribbles
  3. Baby Bear Dribbles

Papa Bear Dribbles

  • It starts by having fun with the kids. Together put on their imaginary Papa Bear heads. I bend over to the ground, they follow and we pick up the giant imaginary head like it were a beachball and then put it on down to our shoulders.
  • Next, I tell them everyone, "You are Papa Bear." Then I ask, "Do you know how Papa Bear dribbles the soccer ball?" "Fast!" "Very fast!" And for the parents sake, I will say, "And a little out of control at times." Do you think you can dribble the soccer ball fast like Papa Bear?" Let the young children answer you.
  • "Go!" "Show me how Papa Bear dribbles the soccer ball!"
  • We will go for 30-60 seconds. Upon completion, I will ask them, who dribbles the soccer ball fast? They reply back to me "Papa Bear."

We then move on to Momma Bear dribbles.

Momma Bear Dribbles

  • The introduction of Mama Bear has the kids Mousetrap the ball this time as you explain it.
  • I have kids put on their imaginary Mama Bear heads. Again bending over to the ground, picking it up like I would a giant beachball and putting it on down to my shoulders.
  • I tell them good, now everyone is Mama Bear. Next I ask them, "If Papa Bear likes to dribble fast, how do you think Mama Bear likes to dribble?"
  • She kicks the ball slow and for the parents sake I will say "and in control." Do you think you can dribble the soccer ball slow or with little kicks (demonstrate)?" Let the children answer you.
  • "Go!" "Show me how Mama Bear dribbles the soccer ball!"
  • We will go for 30-60 seconds. Upon completion, I will ask them who dribbles the soccer ball slow? They will say back to me "Mama Bear."

Baby Bear Dribbles

  • The introduction of Baby Bear again has the kids again Mousetrap the ball as you explain it.
  • I have kids take off their Mama Bear heads and put on their imaginary Baby Bear heads (again bending over to the ground, picking it up like I would a giant beachball and putting it onto my shoulders.)
  • I tell them good, now everyone is Baby Bear. Next tell them, "Baby Bear likes to dribble or kick the ball not too fast and not too slow but..Just...? (let the kids answer). Do you think you can dribble the soccer ball fast?" Let the children answer you.
  • "Go!" "Show me how Baby Bear dribbles the soccer ball!" As they dribble, I will reinforce saying to them, "Not too fast and not too slow...Just...???
  • We will go for 30-60 seconds. Upon completion, I will ask them who dribbles the soccer ball just right? They will say back to me "Baby Bear."

Conclusion

Soccer can be a lot of fun to teach young children. Teaching them the fundamentals of dribbling can be a blast. Have fun with it. Remember young children are smart. They respond very well to novel instruction they can relate too like the 3 Bears lesson. Likewise, they have highly possessive instincts. So we can teach them things like ball security. Simply asking them, "Is that my ball?" is an easy way to assess their comfort levels with you challenging them. Without much effort you can bring out their possessive instincts.

The couple of general soccer exercises (e.g. bubbles and cone exercises) I've also shared here should help you to navigate the special and often unmet needs of working with young children. In the end, coaching success is all about keeping soccer simple and make learning fun.

Best of luck to you and please do share your feedback about how the Jelly Bean Way worked for you. I would be happy to interact and continue to share knowledge that can make a difference in building the quality of introductory sports.

All the best,

Dr. Brad Kayden "Coach Pickles"

© 2011 Dr Brad Kayden

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