Once upon a time this skill was one of the most important components of soccer. However, in today’s modern game with its intricate patterns and elaborate coaching schemes, there are few opportunities for long sprints with the ball without being chopped in half. Still, in certain circumstances, fast runs with the ball can give a team invaluable advantages.
Let’s admire Christiano Ronaldo for a while.
The Manchester striker has supersonic speed and the safest ball control going around. He scores goals with the greatest of ease. But it’s his ability to run with the ball that is his priceless asset.
Let us emphasize again that in the modern game we should aim at minimizing long runs with the ball which slow the game down unless they open up passages for the quick counter attack. When you run with the ball, usually you prod it in front of you with one of three parts of the foot; inside of the foot, full instep and outside of the instep. A player looking for a career in soccer must be able to use all three variations even if the full instep technique is rarely needed.
Inside of the Foot
We push the ball with the same inside part of the foot that we use for passing. The ankle is loose and relaxed and the foot is turned slightly outwards. The ideal sequence is to use the same foot for every prod or touch of the ball with every second step. When a great player runs with the ball, he gives the illusion of the ball being tied to his foot, with the ball being under his body which gives his opponent no chance of intercepting the ball. The likes of Zidane and Figo were the best at this technique and it seemed like they never lost the ball.
This is the most difficult of the three techniques. We keep pushing and prodding the ball with the full instep about where the bootlaces are. The foot is turned down towards the ground and it hits the ball near the top. The real advantage of this method is that the running style is more continuous.
Outside of the Instep
The foot is turned inwards and we keep pushing the ball with the outside of the foot which all but embraces the ball. When the opponent is running alongside or parallel with us, we keep the ball on the foot away from him on his blind side, preferably with the inside of the foot or outside of the instep.
When the opponent is approaching directly ahead, we lead the ball with the inside, giving us a better chance to dribble past him. With beginners or kids begin coaching with the inside of the foot variety. First let them walk with the ball, taking care of their balance, the distance between the foot and the ball and the direction. Later, when the kids get the hang of it we can speed this up, first through jogging and then running with the ball.
Let’s teach youngsters to be able to use both feet. The ultimate is the player who can run with the ball, pushing it ahead of him with both feet, changing direction whenever necessary, slowing down and speeding up to get rid of an opponent. South Americans are the master of this technique, shielding the ball perfectly and changing directions with the slightest movement of the hips. The English on the other hand prefer the direct, energetic sprints which may appear more spectacular but where the ball may be lost from the foot.
When training youngsters always remember to encourage, be patient and train them with the biggest smile you can produce.