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5 individual practice tips for young players

By Sam Wilkinson |


One positive to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the amount of individual practice players have been doing. While there is no substitute for training or playing in realistic practices, your game can benefit greatly from extra individual practice.


Here are 5 tips to help make sure you are making the most of your individual practice time.



1. Repetition without repetition

It goes without saying that the more often you effectively practice a skill the better you will become. However, football is an incredibly random game and one where specific moments and situations never repeat themselves in exactly the same way. Aim to achieve repetition of practice without repetition of the same exact practice. This will create a greater cross over of the skills you practice into the actual game. Practice skills in sets of 2-3 before changing an element of the practice - this will help to create repetition without repetition.

Tips:

  • Change or adjust the angle or distance of the service point and the target when working on passing or finishing. Avoid fixed service points and targets.

  • Move to different areas of the field when working on dribbling or staying with the ball practices. Use your imagination and visualisation to create different scenarios in different areas of the field.


2. Do everything with both feet

It's really that simple! Every skill you practice, practice it with both feet. The ability to receive and play off both feet is vital in taking your game to a high level. When you are restricted to only playing off your strongest foot you make your game predictable and easy to read.

Tips:

  • Once a fortnight, have a "weaker foot" practice day where you only work on your weaker side.

  • When first practising a skill with your weaker foot, "water down" the skill. Perform it slower, shorten the distance and don't worry too much about power. You can increase these things as you become more comfortable with it.



3. A wall is your best friend

It's great if you have a parent or friend that can act as a training partner but quite often that isn't the case. A wall can provide an outstanding and easily accessible training companion. A wall provides service and a target from a range of heights, distances and angles. A wall never gets tired and never goes away. Find a wall close to your home and make it your best friend - the bigger the wall the better.

Tips:

  • As well as providing opportunities to develop a range of passing variations, a wall is also fantastic for developing your quick feet adjustments before receive the ball.

  • Use the wall to add an "end product" to your dribbling or staying with the ball work. After every dribble, trick, twist or turn play a pass off the wall - this adds more realism to your practice.


4. Don't bother with ladders

I've never been a fan of ladder type fast feet work. I believe this type of practice creates movements that have very little crossover to football. They look fantastic on YouTube videos but I'm yet to see a player performing "pitter-patter" movements in the middle of a game. Even when you are working individually try to recreate skills and practices that are as as close to the actual game as possible.

Tips:

  • If you want to create faster feet - do it with the ball. This will create the realistic fast feet movements required to adjust effectively before receiving and to be dynamic on the ball.

  • To develop faster feet for defending, rope a team mate in with you and play 1 v 1 as often as possible. Focus on the defending as much as the attacking and remember, turning your hips quickly when defending is just as important as moving your feet quickly.



5. Don't just watch highlight videos

We all love to watch highlight videos of our favourite players and marvel at their greatest goals and skills, but be aware that these highlights often lack context. They combine highlight-reel moments from a number of games but cut out many other key skills that make the top players so effective. As well as watching these videos, watch and study videos of players in full length games. If you don't always have 90 minutes to spare, there are also many shorter videos available to watch that show all of a players involvements from a single game rather than just their highlight moments.

Tips:

  • Try and watch how the top players move off the ball as well as on it. Look for the movements they use to create and exploit space, which areas of the pitch they look to work in and if possible what their body shape and awareness looks like off the ball.

  • Study the top player's decision making. When do they look to dribble or stay with the ball? When do they pass or combine? When do they mark tight and when do they protect space? etc. Also think about what impacts the decisions these players make?


Hopefully these tips can give you some new ideas and thoughts for your individual practice. Any practice is better than no practice, but the smarter you work the more improvement you will see in your game.

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