Dribbling with the ball is the most important skill to teach young players.
We all love watching the best players in the world dribble with the ball and take on players, it's something that can get fans off their seats.
But when is the best time to focus on dribbling in a player's development?
Naturally, in a team sport, watching sides like Barcelona with their Tiki-Taka passing approach, it's a style many coaches will want to emulate. It's certainly a worthy long-term objective, but focusing on passing and team play, over individual skill and technique, at the wrong time in a player's development might see them miss out on vital learning opportunities.
Encouraging young players to dribble with the ball not only helps them develop key individual skills but also plays an important role in maintaining possession for the team.
So, when is the best time to develop dribbling?
There isn't a 'bad time' and should be something all players work on regularly. Indeed, in today's game, every player is at times required to dribble with the ball, even some goalkeepers!
But having dribbling as a key focus in the early foundation years is simply a must.
The more time on the ball you can give children between the ages of four and seven, the better. This phase of a child's development is known as the 'Preoperational Stage' when they demonstrate their natural egocentric, 'self-only' tendencies.
It's therefore the perfect time for dribbling, turning, and running with the ball and ball protection, as opposed to passing the ball to someone else.
Let players become comfortable with the ball at this age, and help them to work out how to keep possession of the ball themselves, take on players, make mistakes, and correct themselves.
If we encourage them at this stage to give the ball to someone else, when we want them to keep it at a later stage in their footballing life, it might not be so easy to get them to do it when we need them to.
As part of our CPD course 'The New Coach: Managing Your Very First Team', we have created a six-week session plan for coaches at the U7-U8s level, focused on dribbling.
It's free to download from our 'Coaching Practices' section. You'll need to log in to your MiMentor account, if you haven't got one you can sign up for free here.
If you are a coach new to running your own team and would like to learn more about developing young players, creating a philosophy, match day management and dealing with parents, check out our course 'The New Coach: Managing Your Very First Team'...