Imagine this: you’re on a fast break downfield when an onrushing opponent strips the ball from you. What just happened? Could it be that you were looking down while dribbling—instead of up?
According to Satoshi Ochi, strength and conditioning coach for the Creighton University men’s soccer team, which has made 16 NCAA tournament appearances, many soccer players don’t have the necessary foot-eye coordination to improve their dribbling speed.
“Dribbling the ball is one of the main components of soccer performance,” Ochi says. “And any time you have a feel for that, you probably create a better chance of making the next movement, which will be shooting or passing the ball. You can’t watch the ball the whole time and not pay attention to defenders.”
For improved foot-eye coordination, Ochi has the Bluejays perform the following Ladder Drill—2 to 3 times a week in the preseason and 3 to 4 times a week during the off-season. Perform the drill for 10 to 15 minutes, resting when your teammates perform it.
• Using a 10-yard ladder, run through it, putting one foot in each rung
• Pump hands from shoulders to hips as you run through
Adaptation: As you get comfortable with your steps, have your coach or partner stand at the end of the ladder, asking you how many fingers he has up. You can also run a lateral ladder, crossover ladder and backpedal.
Benefit: Improved foot-eye coordination. Says Ochi, “I try to incorporate more visuals so they will move their feet while they have to focus on something else. It’s kind of the same thing happening when dribbling the ball.”
Coaching Points: Push off the balls of your feet // Keep toe and knee aligned // Keep feet in dorsiflexed position // Make sure your elbows are at a 90-degree angle