Making Use of Ball Mastery to Develop Youth Football Players

Ball Mastery and ball control has become one of the most important aspects of football player development for coaches all around the world. When considering the need to develop technically better football players, ball mastery should be encouraged with young children when they enter the grassroots game, in particular the golden ages of 6-12. There’s definitely no doubt that in a bid to see an overall improvement in the English game, there needs to be a special emphasis on improving the players’ confidence on the ball, utilising individual training that focuses on helping them become more familiar with using all parts of their feet when in possession of the ball.

The Basic Ideology
The basic idea behind this way of thinking is that with a higher number of touches of the ball that a player gets, the better the chances of the player developing better ball control and therefore becoming a more confident and adaptable player. I have been asked many times as to whether this philosophy about ball mastery on an individual basis can translate into the actual football game. This coach believes that the answer is a definite yes.
Developing ball mastery or individual technical training is not just about getting plenty of touches on the ball. It’s about the quality of touches that a player can get on a ball, with coaches supporting, developing and graduating sessions making sure that the young players are being appropriately pushed to stretch and test their abilities in a range of game scenarios. This helps to ensure that young players are able to transfer their skills into actual game craft.
1v1 Is Imperative

One of the most important aspects of mastering ball control is to ensure that young children are confident on the ball especially in 1v1 situations. When facing difficult 1v1 situations, a player is forced to learn how to make use of better movement patterns, learning to become unpredictable against their opponent.
Ball mastery in tandem with 1v1 techniques is going to help young players improve their movement and help them become more confident in their decision making when on the ball. And of course, as players develop more confidence on the ball, they are more likely to make use of both feet for passing and for shooting. There’s no player that’s as dangerous as someone who’s willing to shoot and shoot well using either foot and knows how to retain the ball well.

Ball Mastery - A Deliberate Practice
Quite a lot of coaches leave it to the children to show them what they’ve got. The issue is that if there’s no pressure on a player, there is barely any chance of that player being able to implement ball mastery, skills or feints in the actual game.
There should be deliberate ball mastery sessions that coaches conduct, where the players are facing game scenarios, and have to control and manipulate the ball at the pace of an actual game being played. The more challenging it gets for the young player, the better the chances are of them developing their skills into real craft.
Lastly it is also important to note that if you introduce children to new techniques and then let them explore those techniques, you will be helping them become more creative alongside becoming confident with the ball. Coaching technique whilst allowing children to improvise on the detail at the grassroots level will lead to better players over time, be patient, by installing ball mastery into session plans young players will continue to improve their game and perhaps dominate the professional world as they grow older.

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Gary Harvey