Football is a marvellous sport and has the potential of changing lives for the better. So it is no wonder parents want their children to play the beautiful game. That being said, a considerable amount of competition exists in football with thousands of players wanting to follow their dreams every day. So if anyone wants to make it big in football or has a child that has the potential of becoming a professional, there are a few necessary football skills that need to be mastered.
These skills give young footballers a framework to build their game around and a basic know-how that benefits them on and off the pitch. So let us explore what are some of the most important football skills to teach young players in football
The fundamental skill every young player needs to learn is ball control. Football is played by collecting the ball using any body part except the hands and then moving the ball towards the goal. This is exactly what a young footballer must learn. The first step would be to gain familiarity with the ball. Professional footballers used to spend hours every day in their early days, making the ball their best friend.
In the beginning, keeping eyes on the ball as it approaches you is exceptionally crucial, even if it is a bit of a cliché. While receiving the ball, having a light touch is also vital as it ensures optimal control and gives youngsters a better chance to express themselves. A touch too heavy would easily lead to a loss of possession.
As youngsters learn these basic football skills, using other body parts like the chest to control the ball gets easier.
Once a young footballer brings the ball under control, knowing what to do with it is important. When to keep it and when to pass it to a teammate. It is no doubt a good practice to encourage young players to pass to their teammates instead of keeping the ball for too long. This encourages team spirit and gives every player a sense of involvement that keeps them interested in the proceedings.
The basic technique of passing is by using the inside part of the foot, aiming for the middle of the ball, and opening up hips to ensure precision. It is also worth mentioning that once players learn to pass, they have to learn to pass and move. That is the name of the game at the top level.
If you want to receive the ball, you need to be in a good position. So passing and moving to a good position is a basic skill that helps any footballer in any stage of development. It is one of the best ways to bypass defence and wreak havoc as no defender likes to face up against players that can pass and change their position to receive the ball again. There is no need to dribble if you can do that!
Pace & Athleticism
While it may not be the central skill that any footballer needs, it is growing in importance day by day. In the present day, the best footballers are mostly the best athletes too. They are quick on the turn, have better stamina and acceleration than their competitors.
Being quick on the turn early in their career makes youngsters prolific dribblers later in their careers too. They gain an extra second on the defenders and with their extra pace can make that count.
Those lacking in athleticism and pace often have to do a whole lot more with the ball and even then few coaches do not like having them on their side. On the other hand, quicker and flexible players can fit in various moulds and are much more tactically adaptable than their slower counterparts.
Gone are the days of unfit footballers only playing for the occasional piece of magic they create. These days every player defends and every player attacks too. So athleticism and pace should be emphasized from a young age because these become hugely beneficial as time goes on.
Once young players learn how to pass the ball and how positions and defence works, they must move ahead and try to learn about vision. There is always an easy pass available on the pitch but that seldom leads to a goal on its own.
To beat a good defence, you have to often ignore that pass and instead look for a tough progressive pass that can lead to better goal scoring opportunities. As a young player evolves and learns the basics, learning the skill of vision is of great value. But for this, having basic ball control and passing skill is imperative.
As a player receives a pass, he must look down to control it. As time passes, players become comfortable with the ball at their feet. At this juncture, they can raise their heads, look around, and exercise their vision.
This skill is especially important for youngsters who want to become midfielders as the value a midfielder brings in the team lies often in the vision they can offer.
Most footballers start playing in a rugby like manner where every single one is chasing the ball making an indistinguishable mob. But as young footballers start progressing, they begin to learn about positions and roles in a team. And eventually, some become defenders, and others become attackers.
Of course, defending is not the priority of most players. But with time, the realization comes and defenders make the position their own. At this juncture, it is necessary to teach them the basics of defence. Things like spatial awareness and a sense of position are the basics of defending.
Most defending is done by reading the game well and anticipating opposition moves. There is, of course, the famous Paolo Maldini quote where he says that if he had to make a tackle, it means he had already made a mistake. At this point, kids also learn about discipline as they find out that if they leave their position in an adventurous run to go for glory, they can get punished on the counter attack.
This discipline is seen in some of the most distinguished defenders worldwide and remains a basic skill every defender needs to master. As time goes on, things like physical attributes come too but those are reserved for a much later stage in development.
Last but not least, we have to mention sportsmanship. One of the most important functions of sport is to teach players sportsmanship. These are values that include responsibility, decision making, leadership, dealing with defeat, and patience. So any young player going through the struggles of football learns about these values as he deals with all kinds of situations.
Dealing with defeat gives children humility, which teaches them to celebrate with respect. On the field, leaders emerge as the best performers and every single pass is a decision that needs to be quick yet precise.
These skills are vital not only on the pitch but outside too. So any sportsman that stays true to these values becomes an honourable citizen and a credit to the society.
The football skills above were the basic skills to teach any young player. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list as different roles may have different requirements.
A skill not mentioned above is the skill of shooting. It is the favourite skill of any young player and something they love doing all day. But having the skill of shooting alone would not be enough in a team sport like football. You only shoot when you are close to the goal. So first, you need to be able to come close to the goal from the halfway line. And for that skills like ball control, passing, vision, and pace are of utmost importance.
These basic skills also help players become good dribblers. Pace and exceptional ball control are the cornerstone of any good dribbler on the professional stage. So whatever skills you see on the pitch on the professional level are extensions of the basic skills that a young footballer masters in their initial days.
A young footballer needs to master a few basic skills starting out to make it big on the professional stage. Some of these basic skills include ball control, passing to a teammate, and moving to receive it back, pace and athleticism, vision to see the perfect pass, defensive awareness, and sportsmanship.
Once a young footballer masters these fundamental yet pivotal skills, going on to other advanced football skills like dribbling and shooting becomes a whole lot easier.
Every skill in football becomes an extension of these basic skills, and learning them becomes a whole lot simpler if the base of the footballing knowledge is strong. These skills also help instil a sense of responsibility and team spirit in young kids that does not just help them on the pitch but also remains relevant off it.