Now, let’s look at the image below. Here, Jadon Sancho is surrounded by three members of the opposing team – Ukraine. If one of your players was in a similar position, would they know what to do?
Sancho did. And this is down to his football experience.
In response to this situation – and surrounded by defenders – not only could Sancho move the ball, he also worked his body to disguise his intentions. Sancho is extremely confident in using multiple parts of his foot to shift the ball.
Ultimately, Sancho succeeded in this situation thanks to many years of practice. To help your team gain this experience, give them as many opportunities as possible to test their skills. Remember that moving with the ball, and staying on it, go hand in hand. We need to support players to develop in both these areas.
At times, moving with the ball can feel a bit risky. This means you may see it more in attacking areas – where there’s less at stake if you lose possession.
As a coach, your role is to help players feel comfortable moving with the ball in any area of the pitch. To do this, your team must have the opportunity to test their skills in both opposed and unopposed game-based experiences. This will help them gain ‘football memory’ and become creative, confident players.
When coaching your team to move with the ball, here are some key considerations.
- Before you get players moving with the ball, help them to master their body.
- Make staying on the ball your main focus.
- Create sessions that give players realistic opportunities to practise.
Remember that every time a player moves with the ball, they face a slightly different situation. To get used to this, your team need to explore the weight of their touches, what part of the foot to use, changing direction and how to beat defenders – all while staying on the ball. This is especially true if you work with younger players.
As coaches, we’re probably all guilty of yelling the odd “pass!” from the sidelines (especially on matchdays). But that’s rarely helpful for team development. Instead, let’s try to encourage more moving on the ball – and provide players with the support they need to do it.