The Art of Dribbling

March 6, 2024

“My first question is always: Can this guy dribble? I only want players that can dribble. Because you can learn control and good passing. Dribbling is the key.”

Pep Guardiola

When I started out my coaching journey, I was obsessed by passing and moving and wanting teams to play Tiki-Taka like that great Barcelona side. What I overlooked was that every player in that incredible team could dribble with the ball and was comfortable 1v1 when required. Messi and Iniesta had it all but it all started with dribbling.

The more experience I gained as a coach, the more I realised that we need to give kids the freedom to express themselves and to make mistakes. From the foundation age groups, the most important aspects are how the players move and how comfortable they are with the ball. As a scout, these are 2 of the first things I look for, combined with attitude, desire and a love of the game.

The challenges we face is that these kids often get overlooked for more physical players and players with far less ability. I see it year on year. Technical players overlooked in favour of a player that gets about a big pitch better. A player that brings success in the short term but has nowhere near the same potential in the long term.

Another challenge we face is coaches telling the kids to PASS, PASS, PASS, and I'm not going to criticise because I've been that coach.

If we constantly tell the kids to pass, will they ever be 1v1 dominant or be able to break out of trouble and retain possession of the ball? The answer is no, and that leads players just kicking the ball out or up the pitch. That then leads to around 20 minutes of the ball in play at an SPL match!!

When you think about it, over the last 30 years, there's not many Scottish players playing at the top level that can dribble or be creative. I'm not sure we've actually created any since coaching took over street football.

So how do we create a Messi, Iniesta, Mbappe or Foden?

We allow the kids to play with freedom and to express themselves. Let the kids make mistakes, lose goals and lose games...let them love the game.

Develop the player before you think about developing a team.