Football DiscussionThe Purpose and Intent of Dribbling

June 14, 2018


I am sure you have all heard coaches yell out these comments towards kids before. ‘Too many touches’, ‘Move the ball’, ‘Pass it’ and ‘Play the easy ball’.

Many coaches want to see great team football, it’s a great reflection on them after all. Let’s be clear from the start, this is not a debate on dribbling versus passing, rather it is about the most important thing, which is the REASON for doing either.

Over the past couple of months, I have had this conversation with many parents and coaches. I have heard of kids that are encouraged to dribble at all costs, with no explanation of why, and no coaching within that instruction. And I have heard about and witnessed another team that is instructed to play a passing game, chastising players for dribbling at all. Both skills are pointless if we are not educated in the WHY for either. If you think about it, you dribble to then pass, unless you are around the eighteen-yard box, in which case you dribble to either score, or pass.

I will admit that with my sons U6 team I do not really encourage anything but dribbling, however I do not discourage passing. I will say though, none of the players can really execute a pass, and barely strike the ball properly. What I do not want the kids doing, is kicking the ball aimlessly, which is what they do when instructed to pass. And I do not elaborate on why they should dribble, a five-year-old does not need too much information, it kills the fun. I also feel that players that are at a very basic level of playing don’t really need the detailed information, and I would lean more towards dribbling than passing with them. I would not discourage anything, but generally encourage dribbling and keeping the ball, over kicking it.


Two articles appeared in my Facebook feed recently, which inspired this blog. Please read the article and definitely watch the video.

Killing the Dribblers –

Iniesta Dribbling Video –


Intent and Purpose

Anything done without purpose is pointless, if you can’t explain your intentions, then you have not learnt anything. Would you not agree that learning bad habits is as easy as learning good ones? I once heard a phrase from Paul Heffer at West Ham Academy, which I later discovered was quoted by Sir Bobby Robson, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent”. 

Dribbling alone will improve your ability with the ball at your feet, but it won’t make you a better player. As with anything in life, there are many outcomes in every scenario, are the odds in your favour every time? What are the risks and consequences? Football is a game, and all games are strategic, decision-making is the most important tool you have.


Kids Playing Football



Benefits of Dribbling

  • Defenders will get caught watching the ball, allowing support players space to move off the ball.
  • Carrying or keeping possession in medium and high-pressure situations is important, it helps with retaining possession, pulling defenders out of position and delaying defenders into making a challenge.
  • Comfort in your ball carrying is crucial, as you can carry defenders to create overloads for your team.




Iniesta Video Analysis

  • Close control when he has a little time and space, to lure defenders in.
  • Uses explosive speed off the mark with slightly bigger touches to get away from defenders. This forces defenders to refrain from making contact with him.
  • He cleverly uses stop-start dribbling by slowing down to slow the defender down, and then accelerates to take advantage of his momentum.
  • Runs directly at defenders with speed to pull them out of shape and open up space behind the defender for teammates to exploit.
  • Gets on the outside of defenders, attracting other defenders and drawing them in, before releasing his own teammate at the right time, with the right pass and into attacking areas.


To conclude, a player needs to know why they should dribble or pass in any instance. Restricting touches, demanding fast playing of the ball and conditions in general removes all the other possibilities that a player experiences.


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