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Dribble Up Soccer App Review

The new Dribble Up soccer app released yesterday has a lot of upgrades that make it easier for players to train with the smart ball. To celebrate the launch of the new app we’re running a special, 11% off the ball for the next 11 soccer families who buy one. Your discount will be applied in the cart, click the size ball you need to add to cart - Size 4 | Size 5

Better Ball Tracking

One of the biggest differences for players is that you don’t have to hold the ball up to the app to scan it any longer. Now once you start a playlist you leave the ball on the ground and simply roll it into the middle of the tracking circle. Not only is this a lot more convenient it just “feels” a lot better as a soccer coach.

I don’t know how many times I told my 5 year old daughter’s team “no hands” when they went to touch the ball yet my 11 year old was picking up the ball every time he wanted to start a Dribble Up playlist. We were willing to use our hands because the smart ball was so great in many other ways but now that we don’t have to pick it up to scan the ball it makes the whole experience even better.

The overall ball tracking is definitely improved. When you do your first playlist with the new app you’ll notice that the tracking seems smoother, not jumpy like it used to feel at times. The ball tracker seems a lot more fluid and moves much more quickly across the screen along with the ball.

No Smart Ball Required

Another new feature in the Dribble Up app is that you can do the drills without actually owning a smart ball. When you choose a playlist or drill and click Start you come to the screen where you scan the smart ball. On that screen there’s a button that says “Continue With Any Ball” that lets you do the drills without a smart ball.

If you click through and press “Start Workout” the video preview of the drills shows and it times you while you run through the drills with your own soccer ball. The virtual cones stay red and it doesn’t do any tracking of your performance but it does let you go through the drills without a smart ball.

 

Player Customization

Trainer Feedback
My daughter is not a fan of the verbal feedback the app gives her as she’s working on her playlist. Her least favorite is when she’s working on her weak foot and struggling along and the virtual trainer tells her “needs to be better”. Sometimes she snaps back “I’m doing the best I can”. Well now she’ll be much happier because a player can turn off the audio feedback if they don’t want to hear it.

Background Music
We like the music in the background when we’re out on a soccer field but when we’re using the Dribble Up ball at home sometimes we crank up the Alexa Show with a Spotify playlist and don’t want the background music so now it’s nice that you can toggle that on and off as well.

Preview videos
In one of our Dribble Up smart ball lessons learned posts we suggest reviewing the preview videos before you do a drill so you know how the move works before you track yourself in it’s performance. We still recommend that for players new to Dribble Up or for players doing a new move for the first time. However, for players that know the drills well they might not want to watch the previews each time. The new version of the Dribble Up app lets you turn off the preview videos. We’ve seen that requested by several coaches on Facebook so that’s a welcome feature for some.

Player Profiles
If you have multiple players that share the same device like we do there’s another new feature that comes in really handy. It used to be that if you wanted to share a smart ball and a device that the players had to sign out/sign in when switching back and forth.

Now on the Settings screen there’s an option to switch player profile right inside the app and you can easily go back and forth between multiple profiles once you setup the password for each one.

Training Options

The latest version of the app has multiple different programs that you can choose between. These programs are cool because it sets the player up with a playlist for each day. You can choose your training program in the app settings screen. Here are the ones they offer:

  • 30 Day Program
  • 14 Day Youth
  • 14 Day Intermediate
  • 14 Day Expert
  • 14 Day Pro
  • Daily Touches for Beginners

I still think they should offer a weak foot program that gets kids regularly working on their weak foot.

New Drills & Playlists

One of the moves that we requested be added was the Scissors so we’re glad to see that in the new version. Some of the other moves that the app has added are:

-Triple Sole Role
-Elastico
-V’s (Left, Right, V-Tap)
-Three Step (we call this Brazilian toe taps)
-In & Out Rolls (Left and Right)

In addition to adding new playlists Dribble Up also released new videos for playlists. Now the video starts zoomed out on the whole trainer’s body doing the move and then zooms in on their feet to give you a better idea of how the move is made. If you’ve been using the app for a while one thing to note is that a few of the drills were renamed:

Squirts -> Push Outs
Side Taps -> Foundations
Ball Steps -> Toe Taps

That’s why it’s good to watch the preview video first, to see what the drill actually looks like.  We had turned off the preview to test out the new settings option and were running through one of the new programs. One of the drills was the Triple Sole Role which we hadn’t done before and without the video preview we just guessed at what to do and our score definitely suffered.

One comment we have is about the Outside Scissors skill. We always emphasis to our players that they should explode into the push with the outside of the foot after the scissors move. The move gets the defender to lean one way and then you create space by exploding into that push the opposite direction. The video shows the push as just a tap but we’d like our kids to train with it as a big push so that’s one adjustment that could be made to the drill video.

Improvements
The team leaderboards are working much better than they used to. In the past there was a maximum number of players you could show at once on a leaderboard but now it shows however many players are part of a team. The leaderboard sorting also appears more accurate based on the players performance than it was in the past.

 

Training Calendar

Dribble Up added a training calendar along with their various programs so you can see your progress over time.

The app already showed you your drill history so you could look at how you were progressing in terms of technical ability but it didn’t really have a time component. Now it has a calendar so you can see how you’re doing in terms of training consistently over time. There’s a calendar view for both Homework and also for Practice Drills.

One of the things I liked about Techne Futbol was that it showed you how many days of a training streak you had going. Psychologists have shown us that once you get a streak going you’re more likely to do the work necessary to keep it alive. You get a taste of that with the new calendar view in this app update.

 

Summary

As you can see from this screenshot the main Dribble Up app screen has also been updated. I like how it organizes the Practice Drills, Homework, and your Teams. I already follow Dribble Up on Instagram so I don’t really need that tile but I can see how it’d be convenient for folks that don’t.

Overall the new app version seems to make it easier for a  player to train with Dribble Up. The better ball tracking, player customization,  training programs, new drills & videos, and the training calendar really show a focus on the making the overall experience better for players. I have to say I’ve been impressed with how the team has incorporated player and coach feedback into the new app version and think it’s a big improvement.

One thing I would like to be able to do that I don’t see anymore is a list of all the drills you’ve done over time and your scores for them. It seems now you have to go into the calendar view to get access to your drill history.

 

Shot Tracking

I know a lot of people were hoping to see the shot tracking functionality as part of this release. We were as well so I texted the Dribble Up team to check on it’s progress. They sent me back a sneak peek video of them in their “soccer lab” working on the shooting functionality the day after they released this update so they’re definitely working on it.

Sounds like the shooting tracker is coming pretty soon so stay tuned for more exciting app updates in the coming weeks. I think we’re going to be able to do a beta test of it next week, we’ll share our experience. Enter your email below for more info on Dribble Up updates and shot tracking.

DribbleUp Smart Soccer Ball

 

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Do Dribble Up Soccer Drills Help in a Game?

Last week we held our first Soccer Tech Expo where players and teams got the chance to try out various soccer technologies like the Dribble Up smart ball. One fun thing about the event was that we got to answer a lot of questions from parents and players about how we use soccer tech for skill development.

One family stopped by on the way to a tournament match and the dad was asking how the drills in the Dribble Up app would help his son in a game. I asked him what position his son played and he said mostly mid-field. We went through some of the drills and showed him how his kid could use certain moves in a game.

When you’re in the middle of the field you often have to turn with the ball quite a bit so we looked at some of the turns. It can get pretty congested in the middle of the field so you need to have a good first touch to keep the ball close – it also helps to be comfortable using the sole of your foot to navigate in tight spaces.

To help illustrate how players can use what they practice with the Dribble Up ball in a soccer game I pulled in some game footage from recent matches just to give an idea of how the drills can be helpful.

In the video, watch player #12, also playing in the middle of the field.

Left foot Half Spin

In the first clip in the video you can see him use the left foot to spin the ball away from the defender, keeping his body between the ball and his opponent.

The drill in the app gets you ready for this by practicing bouncing on the ball of your right foot and pulling the ball to the side with the sole of your left foot.

Right Foot Roll Tap

After he spins way from his opponent then you see him use the outside of his right foot to create some separation from the defender. He actually makes this touch a little too heavy, looks like he needs to work on this drill more! It gets you a lot of reps pushing that ball with the outside of your foot.

About 10 seconds later #12 gets the ball back and again uses the outside of the right foot to setup a shot on goal. The shot itself isn’t hard enough because his body position isn’t right when he strikes the ball.

The shooting feature of the Dribble Up app will be released in the coming months, looks like #12 could use that once it’s released.

Right Foot Inside Outside

The next clip shows the ball passed backwards from the striker and the #12 uses the inside of the foot to control the pass and then the outside of the foot to setup his next pass.

The next player to receive the ball does a similar thing, only difference is he has to receive the ball across his body. He handles the ball with the inside of his foot, uses the outside of his foot to setup his pass and keeps his head up which allows him to see the next pass.

These fast touches allow the team to quickly move the ball across the width of the field and play it into space into a dangerous scoring position.

One & Two Touch Passes

The next 2 clips don’t point out a specific drill but they do highlight something that’s important to note. If you watch the next 45 seconds of the video you’ll notice that every player only touches the ball once or twice before moving it onto the next person on their team.

Even though it’s called Dribble Up the smart ball can help with other parts of your game. The ball moves a lot faster when it’s being passed rather than dribbled and speed of play is really important to playing at a high level.

Rondos are great for first touch but you won’t practice any of them with Dribble Up. However touches you put in with DribbleUp make you more comfortable on the ball and will eventually make it easier to play those 1 and 2 touch passes.

V Taps

The last clip has a few more foot skills shown by #13. Starting out with a little V pull when he first gets the ball. The V taps drill gets you lots of reps for that move. The player doesn’t use it as a fake as much as to create space between himself and the defender so he can face him up.

Then he uses the outside of his foot to get the defenders moving and then the inside of his foot to explode away from them – again the outside/inside playlist is a good one for this move.

 

Soccer Drills vs Live Game

Of course working on your technique in a calm and controlled environment is different than when you’re in a game with your adrenaline pumping, wind or rain blowing, and defenders running at you. There’s no training substitute for actually playing the game. However, what training tools like the smart ball or other programs can help you with is getting in reps on those moves so you build up muscle memory. So when that defender is sprinting at you full speed you don’t have to think heavily about the technique of doing an evasive move. Instead your brain tells your feet and off you go and leave the defender in the dust.

Hopefully that helps explain a little bit how the drills in the smart ball app can help a player improve on the field. If this was helpful we can do more drill/game demos in the future.

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Dribble Up Goal Getter

Soccer is the best sport in the world for many reasons. One of the great things things about youth sports in general are all the lessons kids can learn from being part of a team, dealing with failure and success, & setting and chasing goals.

The end game of playing soccer is scoring a goal but there’s a lot for coaches, parents, & players that goes into making that goal happen. If you ask many championship teams about the start of the season it begins with the players and coaches setting team goals to set them up for success. Setting and chasing individual and team goals is a huge part of scoring goals on the field.

That’s why we were so pleased to hear the story behind the Dribble Up ball that we shipped to McKenna’s family not long ago. Turns out that McKenna saw videos of people using the smart ball and decided that she wanted one for herself. She’s 8 years old but plays with girls 2 and 3 years older than her so she really needs good foot skills to compete with the older players.

Well she started saving up and at the start of the Spring season she ordered her very own Dribble Up ball. When we heard about her great goal setting and determination we asked if she’d be willing to share some of her story with us. Here are the questions we sent and the answers they sent back.

 

What made McKenna decide she wanted the Dribble Up ball and that it was worth saving up for?

She saw a video of how you can practice with an app and get graded on your progress-she was psyched from the start!

Did she have an idea when she started how long it would take to save her money?

No she didn’t, but she was determined to save up for it. She told anyone who would listen that she was saving her money for a “smart” soccer ball!

How did McKenna earn money to save up for the ball?

She saved her gift money and did various chores around the house (ie. Cleaning the yard, taking out the trash/recycles, even making her brother’s bed!)

Did she ever consider calling it off, that it was too big a challenge to save up? Did she have any setbacks?

She never had any setbacks, and never considered giving up. She did get frustrated at times with how long it took, but never gave up!

What kept her motivated to keep saving?

She would watch another video of people using it, or come back from soccer practice and she was motivated again.

Does McKenna set goals in soccer as well? 

Yes, she sets goals such as number of goals per game, assists, etc. one game she wanted to score 3 goals and she scored 5! She wants to improve her juggling. She hasn’t gotten the hang of it yet and it frustrates her:-(

What would she say to friends or teammates that might say some goals are too big for 8 year olds to achieve?

That it’s ridiculous! Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t do what others can.

Who in her life has inspired her to set goals?

My parents and coaches. Julie Ertz and Mallory Pugh from the USA Women’s Soccer Team.

What is she most excited about using the Dribble Up ball for?

To learn juggling and improve her footwork.

Do her coach and teammates know she’s been saving? Are they excited to try it out as well?

Yes and yes!

Does she think her ability to set and stick with goals will help her and her team on the soccer field?

Yes, by practicing her footwork!

 

I think it’s great that McKenna saved up for the ball for a lot of reasons.  How many times does a kid run out of practice and forget their ball or leave their soccer ball at a game. What are the odds are that McKenna’s going to leave her Dribble Up ball behind? Pretty slim I’d say.

Not only that but when you invest your time and energy into something you’re more likely to make use of it.

It’s also cool for anyone to be so passionate about something that they sacrifice in order to achieve it. Even cooler when you see that level of determination and drive in an 8 year old.

Good luck to McKenna in the rest of her season!

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Dribble Up 1000 Touches Soccer Drills

1000 Touches, again!!?? Sound familiar? How can you get your youth soccer team excited to get their 1000 touches at the start of each practice? Even better, how can you help your youth soccer players want to work on their foot skills when they’re not at practice?

Let’s be honest, most kids aren’t jumping up and down to work on their technique. They just want to get on the field and play- not work on toe touches, step overs, pull backs, scissors, sole roles, chops, inside/outside, roll overs or whatever other technical training you’re asking them to do.

After you’ve been around coaching for a while you realize how important that technical development is at a young age. Back when I started coaching kids there was one youth team who always ran circles around us on the field. After a game we started chatting about how good their players were and the other coach mentioned their heavy emphasis on foot skills training.

After starting to incorporate more foot work at training I sent this email to some college coaches I was friends with:

Hey guys, need your coaching expertise.

My son is on a U8 soccer team and we do 2 practices a week. We’re looking for some good foot skills drills. We’ve been doing the same few each week and the boys are starting to get bored of them so we’re looking to add more into the mix.

Can you recommend some good foot skills drills? And maybe a book/website/video/etc that’s a good resource for drills?

These are guys who I played soccer with in college who went on to become college coaches and assistant coaches themselves.  So they were coaching older players but had a lot of coaching experience and had been students of the game their whole lives. Can you guess what they answered? Here’s what one of them said:

Are they doing the 1000 touches drill to start practice?

It’s also crucial that they find games where they start applying those skills in small sided games. Settings where competition is presented and lots of positive feedback as the skill is new to them.

The best way to teach all those things is to play lots of 3v3 or 4v4. At younger ages skills are super important and as they grow older they can learn about other aspects of the game.

After that email we started doing some version of the 1000 touches drill at the beginning of every practice. Starting out with 1000 touches not only got them more comfortable with the ball, it also got them warmed up for the training session.

 

1000 Touches Benefits

As the season went on we started to see the kid’s ball control improve. It wasn’t like they started busting out Maradonas and dribbling through entire defenses (although one or two kids liked to try). Here is what we noticed:

1) Better First Touch

Their first touch got a little better so they were able to get control the of the ball sooner and have more time to make decisions.

2) Better Ball Control

When they got into tight spaces they got a little better at keeping possession of the ball. Since they could keep the ball closer to them they were able to either weave through defenders to beat a line or change direction and escape pressure.

3) Improved Confidence

Their confidence in their ability to hold the ball under pressure went up so they were less likely to panic and just kick the ball away.

4) More Versatility

They had more luck with 50/50 balls. After either going in for a tackle, or getting tackled, who knows where the ball would end up. Since they were better able to use all parts of their feet, it was easier for them to recover the ball after the tackle no matter where it ended up. Being comfortable with the sole of the foot, the inside, laces, or outside of the foot gave them more options to coral the ball after the tackle.

5) Better Weak Foot Control

The ability to use both feet improved. It wasn’t like they were taking shots with their weak foot all of a sudden but the 1000 touches drill puts an emphasis on using both feet so players starting getting more comfortable handling the ball no matter what foot it ended up on.

Foot Skill Motivation

With all these benefits why wouldn’t you do the 1000 touches drill as a coach? Well you probably won’t be surprised to hear that starting out every practice with 1000 touches of ball work wasn’t very exciting to 8 year olds. Although we saw all the benefits of the technical ball work the kids weren’t very excited about it. We persisted through the season and even though there was grumbling from the players the player development gains that came with it were worth it.

Of course just going through the motions of the 1000 touches doesn’t really have the same impact as working hard through the soccer drills. As a coach its our job to get every player putting in their best effort at training. As players get older and more interested in improving they naturally tend to work harder in the foot skill drills but the younger ages can be a challenge.

When you have a group of 8 year olds going through the drill you’ll see that some of them have faster toe taps, harder sole roles, quicker pull backs, and bigger chops than others. The way we did the 1000 touches drill was by time. We’d tell them and show them the next move to work on and then start a timer. Depending on how hard the kid worked, some of them would get in 50 touches for that specific skill move during the time and some wouldn’t.

So how can you get each player working their hardest and getting in as many touches as possible? Here are a few things that have worked:

Touch Contest

Have players count in their head how many touches they get for that drill. Then run it again and see if they can beat their previous number. At younger ages its good to give them less time the first round and more time the second round so most kids will have success in “improving” and be motivated to continue.

If you have a team where the players are all around the same skill level you can also have them compete against each other. See who can get the most touches out of the team. That doesn’t work well for teams with a big disparity in skills because the more developed kids always win and the less developed kids get discouraged.

Drill Leaders

One thing that’s worked really well with the younger ages is to have players lead each foot skill. For example, with a group of 6 year old girls I coach we pick a different girl to lead each foot skill. To be chosen as a leader you have to be working hard. All the girls want to be a leader so they work hard in a drill hoping to be chosen to lead the next drill.

 

Dribble Up 1000 Touches

After going through the 1000 touches with several different ages of kids and now being introduced to the Dribble Up smart soccer ball we finally landed on the perfect way to implement the drills for youth soccer players that not only gets them the touches but also gets them excited to do it.

Practice MVP

After each training session we choose the player who worked the hardest and award them “Practice MVP”. With that honor, they get to take home one of the team Dribble Up balls and through the coaches dashboard we assign them 2 new foot skills to learn. This is great for motivation because it gives kids a reason to work hard at training.

You can also do something similar with games and give away the game ball to the player who worked the hardest or who used things in the game that you’ve been working on at practice.

Skills Leader

As you probably know as a parent, young players are really motivated by technology so they’re excited to be the one to use the smart ball for the week. The honor doesn’t end with taking the smart soccer ball home though. We assign two new foot skills and that player uses the Dribble Up app that week to learn and practice the moves.

At the next training session that player brings back the Dribble Up ball and leads the team during the 1000 touches drill and demonstrates the new moves. We like this because it gets that player working on foot skills at home outside of practice and it gives them ownership of the moves, having to demonstrate them to the team at training.

That player then uses the Dribble Up ball all training session so it’s a reminder to the rest of the kids that whoever trains the hardest gets to take the ball home next. I’m sure if you’re a coach you’ve done similar things with the captains armband or awarding player pins, player patches, MVP stickers, etc. Whatever motivates your players the most is great but we like this for a few reasons:

  • Motivates players to work their hardest during technical training rather than going through the motions.
  • Give players a visual reminder during training. The Dribble Up ball is brightly colored and patterned. A constant reminder that who works the hardest gets rewarded.
  • Reward ties directly into further development. The players that are rewarded for working hard get additional touches at home with the smart ball.
  • Adds new moves each week into teams technical training.
  • Gives coaches a progressive way to work on playlists.

Dribble Up Playlist

Rather than have the kids try to learn all the moves in the 1000 Touches drill at once we’ve created a playlist that introduces the skills to them several at a time each week.

One thing we discovered when trying to run youth soccer players through the 1000 Touches drill is that it can be discouraging the first time they’re introduced to the drill if they try and learn every move all at once.

Imagine you’re a kid and your brain is telling your feet to try a new foot skill but your feet just won’t do what you’re asking them. As you keep trying the skill you start to improve but are still pretty frustrated. Then your coach says to move onto another skill you don’t know and you go through the same experience. Then again, your coach has you move on…. you can see how the level of frustration and discouragement could grow as a coach continues to introduce new skills that a player struggles with.

As an alternative, if we introduce just two new skills each training session the player can spend more time on them and improve their ability and confidence.

1000 Touches Playlist

The Dribble Up app and coaches dashboard is setup perfectly for building something like the 1000 touches drill. Here are a few things we’ve learned from creating the training sessions:

1) Pay Attention to Duration

Make sure your drill duration is long enough for your target age group. U-8 players players are going to be able to get in a lot fewer touches in 30 seconds than U-12 players. If you’re in doubt it’s better to make it longer than shorter so the players have time to settle into each foot skill and get in enough touches. Test out the duration separately for each age group.

2) Start Simple

It works best if you begin the playlist with the simplest skills. This lets the players get into a rhythm and have success before introducing new skills. This means the first few sessions you’ll spend the bulk of the time just on a few skills.

3) Add Skills Incrementally

Only introduce a few news skills each session. As you progress from practice to practice the durations of the skills you’ve already learned shrinks and you’ll cover a lot more skills each time. The largest amount of time will be on the new skills you introduce.

4) Lead with Strong Foot

Since we want them to be able to use the left and right foot we use both “Left Foot…” and “Right Foot…” drills. It’s better to lead with the strong foot first in the playlist so they learn the move with the foot they’re most comfortable with.

5) Plan for Skill Ranges

Of course most teams have a range of skill levels across players so it’s good to have an extra skill or two handy each week in case you have some kids are ready to move on before others.

6) Remember that Kids Forget

Chances are a kid will eventually forget to bring the Dribble Up ball back to practice so it’s good to have at 2-3 balls so you have at least one as backup for the “Practice MVP” for when next player when the previous kid forgets to bring it back.

Dribble Up 1000 Touch Package

After spending a lot of time crafting the playlist we decided it would make sense to offer it as an option to other coaches who are looking for ways to incorporate more technical training into their practice and also to motivate their players to spend more time on the ball.

If you’re interested in trying it out shoot us an email to touches@soccerstripes.com . Here are some pics of the 1000 Touches playlist in action.

 

DribbleUp Smart Soccer Ball

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Dribble Up Soccer Extras for Your Smart Ball

All you need to use the Dribble Up ball is the app on your phone or tablet and the smart ball but after using it for six months we’ve come up with a list of a few accessories that might be nice to have depending on how you’re using the smart ball.

As a player, coach, or parent it’s interesting to see the role that technology is playing in sports during games, at practices, and also off the field in planning, training, and analysis. The founders of Dribble Up felt like there were a lot of technology options being created for coaches but not many for players. We think they’ve created something exciting for youth players but like any “main course” it can always be made better with the right “side dishes”. Here are 8 things that we’ve used along with the smart ball, some as a player and some as a coach, that we can recommend.

1) iPad Stand

Each DribbleUp ball ships with a stand for your phone that has a detachable base. You can take off the phone stand and screw in a tablet stand for your iPad or Android tablet.

If you’re connecting your smart ball app to your television you don’t really need an iPad stand. But if you’re going to be using Dribble Up away from home and you have a tablet it would be nice to have a stand. Players that have used Dribble Up before are fine using it on a smaller screen on a phone but the first time you use the app it’s nice to see it on a bigger screen.

So, if you’re a coach and introducing the app and drills to players for the first time it’s nice to have a tablet stand to let them use it on a bigger screen when they’re getting used to it. One thing to keep in mind is that the better the camera and the faster the processor on your tablet the better the app will work. So, if you have an older tablet and a newer phone you’d probably have a better experience using it on your phone. You can always connect your phone to your TV when you first start using the app while you get used to it.

The first generation of stands that came with the smart ball from Kickstarter weren’t as sturdy and we broke a few testing out the ball. Since then Dribble Up has switched to phone stands with metal joints and we haven’t had a problem but if you’re looking for a good replacement phone stand we’d had good luck with this telescoping iPhone tripod. You can also find the iPad attachments on Amazon as well.

2) Portable Power Bank
If you’re a soccer family that spends days or weekends out at the soccer complex then chances are you might already have a power bank for extra juice.

If you don’t then it’s not a bad idea to pick up a power bank or two to keep in the soccer bag or the car. As I mentioned earlier the app is processor intensive so it will eat into your phone power if you use it a lot in one day. That being said we were out at Scheels Soccer Complex last weekend having a juggle battle with the smart ball and we got in quite a few rounds with our iPhone battery on its last legs.

If you’re running team training with an iPad then we’d definitely recommend bringing along a backup or two power banks. We have several free portable power banks we picked up from various United Soccer Coaches events but you can get one on Amazon for between $10-15 like this portable power supply.

3) HDMI Mirroring Cable

We actually ordered our HDMI mirroring cable the same day we ordered our first Dribble Up ball because we were excited to use it on the big screen. Unfortunately, the first cable that came in didn’t work for us so we had to order a different one.

On newer smart TVs you don’t even need a cord but our TV is older so we needed a cable to show the app on the television. This is a definite must have Dribble Up accessory because putting it on the big screen makes it a more interactive experience. When we do Dribble Up in our living room all the kids get involved and sometimes tag team the playlists. It’s perfect for a rainy or snowy day when training is cancelled and you can easily spend an hour with the family going through playlists.

Here’s a photo of the This is the HDMI Mirroring Cable that works for us

You can see in the photo we also bought this Lightning to HDMI adapter which did the trick as well. But that adapter cost about three times as much and doesn’t come with an HDMI cable so the HDMI mirroring cable is a better buy for your money in our experience.

4) Google Chromecast

We’re into gadgets so we bought the very first Chromecast that came out 5 years ago. It’s pretty old and doesn’t work as well as the newer generation ones but we’ve gotten some good use out it. A new Chromecast isn’t super expensive, about $35, so we’re due for a new one.

We haven’t tried it but if you have an Android device you can cast the app onto your TV with Chromecast. Some of the newer TVs actually have Chromecast built in but if yours is older like ours then you can display the Dribble Up app with a Chromecast dongle .

5) Movement Tracker

Dribble Up is good at tracking your foot skills but it’s also interesting to see how much physical activity you get out of the drills. You’ll definitely be out of breath after going through a playlist but wearing a tracker will tell you how much movement you get when going through the drills.

If you don’t already have one of these I wouldn’t go out and buy one just for using with Dribble Up. But if you already have a Fitbit or a Zepp Soccer tracker it’s interesting to wear it while you’re going through a skills playlist to see how much activity you get from it. Comparing one session to the next after it’s over would give you an idea of how much work you put it based on past workouts.

6) Padded Bag

This is a non-tech accessory but meant to protect your tech. We’re all used to carrying a soccer bag with all our gear but once you add technology into a bag full of soccer stuff you worry about potential damage.

If you’re a coach and carrying around an iPad or two and iPad stands it’s not a bad idea to have a separate protective case or sleeve to store them. There’s a pretty wide range of iPad bags based on your preference of cost/features but it’s not a bad idea to pick up one of them.

If you already have a laptop bag they work pretty well for sliding in power bank, iPads, stands and all the other accessories but of course then you have to carry that bag and your coaching gear as well.

7) iPhone Projector

Projecting the app onto a screen or a wall is a neat thing to do if you have a big group at an event. Using an iPad is fun for an individual player but if you want a group to be able to see the drill as they’re going through it that doesn’t work as well.

Obviously, the downside of a projector compared to putting it on a TV screen is that you have to worry about the lighting in the room and being able to see the projection.

The projector that we use is a Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector that was originally $200 but we found on sale for $100 since they were ending that line. This mini projector is portable and works really well but it’s also pretty pricey – Miror Mini Projector.

This is an alternative portable projector that doesn’t give the same quality in terms of the picture or sound but it is much cheaper –COOQI Mini Portable Pocket Projector

8) Cloud Storage
This isn’t a physical accessory but it is nice to have a place to store the videos you make while doing Dribble Up drills. The Dribble Up app keeps a history of your drills so you can keep track of how you’ve scored over time.

It’s also neat to store videos of your dribble up sessions that you can go back and look at. For example, you could capture the video of a playlist at the start of a season and also at the end of the season and see the difference.

We have a variety of ways that we store the videos from Dribble Up. You can store videos for free in Google Drive, we also use Google Drive to store game videos so we’ve uploaded some of our juggle off videos from the smart ball app into Google Drive as well. We use enough storage space with our game videos that we have to pay for the service but it’s been the cheapest option we’ve found. Dropbox is another option since it makes it easy to move the videos from your phone into the cloud for storage.

If you’re interested in sharing your videos the free way to do it is to upload them to YouTube. If you want a little more control over who can see them you can also use Vimeo, it gives you more control but it’s not a free service.

Hopefully some of these suggestions will work out for you. If we had to suggest one we’d say go for the tech that lets you hook the smart ball app up to your television, whether that’s an HDMI Mirroring Cable or a Chromecast. We’ve had a lot of fun putting Dribble Up on the TV and getting everyone involved.

Happy Dribbling!

DribbleUp Smart Soccer Ball

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Dribble Up Soccer Ball Coaches Guide

What’s the best way to use the Dribble Up smart soccer ball as a coach? It depends on factors such as the age of your players, what you hope the smart ball can help them achieve in terms of development, and how many Dribble Up balls you think you’ll have as a team.

At a high level some of the main benefits of the smart soccer ball to a coach are:

  • Motivation to Train
  • Confidence Booster
  • Technical Training Supplement
  • Accountability Tool

We’ll go into more detail for how each of these benefits can help your players and team but here’s a quick Dribble Up review of how we’ve seen the ball influence youth players.

Motivation to Train
The gamification of training through the Dribble Up app can really give more players that drive to train more on their own. They can unlock levels and compete against their friends and teammates via the leaderboards. This has really seemed to make a difference with the younger ages who tend to have shorter attention spans and less intrinsic motivation to work on foot skills or juggling.

Confidence Booster
One of the great things about the smart ball is that it lets players measure their success based on their own improvement rather than comparing themselves to the current development level of their teammates. For players who want to get better the ability to spend time with “directed training” in their own environment gives them a chance to get more comfortable on the ball without judging themselves against more developed teammates as they tend to do at team training.

Technical Supplemental
Using the smart ball to get additional touches during the week in addition to team training and also the chance to get in footwork when practice is canceled due to bad weather.

Accountability
You can assign homework through the coaches dashboard to give your players specific areas to work on and then see who’s been putting in the work.

Members of your team can benefit from the first three of those even if just a few players on the team buy a smart ball or if you as a coach can set the team up with one or two. The Accountability aspect is trickier to accomplish across the whole team if you don’t have a larger set of the Dribble Up balls to work with.

Let’s look at a few different approaches you can explore as a coach.

Shared Team Dribble Up Ball

There are several ways you can use one or two smart soccer balls for your team. One way to approach is to use the Dribble Up ball as a reward for players that work hard in training or games. My kid’s baseball team used to give out a game ball for each game but obviously soccer coaches can’t afford the cost of handing out game balls after each match.

You could however pick a kid who played hard or who used the skills you’ve been teaching in a practice or a game and let them take home the smart ball as recognition. Depending on their age either them or their parents would have to download the app on their Android or Apple device. They can use this Dribble Up user guide for setting up the smart ball app.

If you only have 1 ball something like this might be your best option. If you don’t want to use it as a reward you could simply rotate the ball through the players and have a contest between them. Competing based on score gives an edge to the more developed players so one good way to do it is have the winner be based on most improved. Prior to a tool like Dribble Up this would have been a lot more work to keep track of but it’s certainly easier with the app.

Another option is to bring one or two Dribble Up balls to team training and setup a station where players can measure their scores on footwork or juggling by going through some of the playlists. To vary it you could change the station up, one time do footwork, the next time do juggling, and when it’s ready add in shooting.

This is the way that most coaches are starting off incorporating the smart ball into the team. It gives both the coach and players some exposure to how the ball works, lets you see if it’s something that fits into your coaching plans, and is a good test for how your players will react to incorporating some technology into training.

You don’t even need access to the coaches dashboard for this approach – just a ball and the Dribble Up app. If you’re sending the ball home with players then having them install the smart ball app on their phones is fine but if you’re going to have a station at practice it is nice to have the app on a tablet for a bigger viewing area.

We all know players can sometimes forget their own soccer ball so chances are one will eventually forget to bring the Dribble Up ball back from home. For cases like those it might be nice to have at least one backup ball so you can keep the rotation going until they return it.

Needed
1-2 Smart Balls
1-2 Devices & Stands
App on Each Player’s Phone if sending home

Benefits
From the four main benefits I mentioned earlier this method helps increase the motivation to do extra training. The player response to using the ball has been really positive – the younger generation loves using technology and the features such as beating your score, the leaderboard, and unlocking levels keep them wanting to use it.

Dribble Up Team Set

As I mentioned earlier, using the smart soccer ball and the app as an accountability tool is a really enticing option as a coach. It would be really nice to be able to assign players homework and then see who was actually doing it and being able to see them improve over time.

You don’t need a smart ball to be able to tell who the players are that put in the work outside of practice. It’s obvious at training and in games who’s making gains and progressing in their technical ability. But it would be nice to have a team set of smart balls to help motivate and direct the players on your team who aren’t as motivated or determined to get better on their own.

The obvious issue is the cost of equipping your whole team with the smart ball. Many coaches know that parents already spend money on uniforms, coaching fees, field rental, league fees, tournament costs, pairs of cleats, etc and don’t want to add another cost on top of all that. Particularly if they don’t know how the ball will turn out, they hate to ask parents to pony up more money for something they’re not even sure will help.

That’s why starting out with getting just one or two balls and giving it a test is a great way to see if the tool is a good fit for the team. If it does make sense, the Dribble Up coaches dashboard is a great way to assign homework to help get in those additional touches each week.

Needed
1 Smart Ball/Stand Per Player
App Installed on Each Player’s Phone
Coaches Dashboard Access

Benefits
The biggest benefit to having a team set is the ability to assign homework to everyone on your squad through the coaches dashboard. Not only is it a benefit from an accountability perspective so you can ask them to get in touches on the ball during the week but it’s also nice to give them something to do when no training is scheduled. For example, if practice is canceled due to bad weather or if you’re on a training break you can still push them drills to work on.

Suggestions
We’ll go over how to use the coaches dashboard below but I have two suggestions to make the Dribble Up app better. The first is the ability to mark some drills as required and other drills as optional when assigning homework to account for players who want an additional challenge. The other suggestion is to be able to indicate the player’s strong and weak foot in their player profile so the app can automatically adjust the drill you assign based on the player.

 

Dribble Up Trainer

Funny story, one of the families that we worked with used a trainer for their son to get some extra touches on the ball. Turns out that his trainer is also the virtual trainer that you see in the smart ball app. Some of his son’s friends had the ball but no one believed him that his coach was the one they heard every day saying “Needs to be better” and “Not good enough”. They tried a Dribble Up soccer amazon search but came up empty so ended up calling us and we got his son a ball. So now he has a picture of him holding the ball standing next to the trainer to show all his doubting friends.

I bring this up because many coaches have parents coming to them and asking what their player could do to get better. In fact, Tom Mura of Soccer Coaching Weekly shared on his podcast that he’s had hundreds of players over his coaching career ask him how they could improve and get more playing time. He can count on one hand the number of players that actually implemented his suggestions. How cool would it be as a player or parent to be able to come back at the end of the summer and show a coach in the app the progress they made on their weak foot after hearing they needed to improve? How cool would it be as a coach to give that feedback and then have a player do the work and then show you the results?

Needed
Simply suggest the player’s family look into buying a ball and point them to the Dribble Up Users Manual for how to use it. Obviously another option is to refer them to individual or group training but this is a cheaper option that doesn’t require the travel and scheduling.

Benefits
For players that need to work on their technical skills the smart ball is one way coaches can suggest to improve them. Since the app scores the player on performance and keeps track of their progress over time it’s pretty easy to see if the kid is actually putting in the time and that will eventually show up on the field. Being challenged to work outside of practice and get more comfortable on the ball can be a confidence booster that gives them more time on the ball to make better decisions.

 

How to Use the Coaches Dashboard

The Dribble Up team has been very quick to fix issues we’ve found in the dashboard and fast to respond to feedback we’ve given in terms of improvements so the coaches site has already changed quite a bit since it first launched.  Since they’re so responsive some of the images you see here could be a little out of date as they continue to make improvements to the site.

The coaches dashboard is broken down into a few main areas and we’ll go over each of them:

  • Teams
  • Players
  • Playlists
  • Homework

You don’t actually need to have any players added in order to create your playlists and assign homework so you could jump into these right off the bat. The reason we cover the Teams and Players first is that it can take a while to get everyone to join so it makes sense to setup the team and invite players to start.  Then while you’re waiting to get everyone on board you can work on the Playlists and Homework

Dribble Up Teams

Everything you do in the dashboard is in the context of a certain team. When you first start you won’t have any teams and you’ll need to create one. Creating a team is really simple you just click the “Create New Team” button and give your team a name.

If you’re going to have more than one team make sure the name you give it it is descriptive enough. There are no real rules around what constitutes a team. If you wanted to setup something for just a few players you could create a team and only invite 4 players and they’d have their own leaderboard.

For example, we have the “Dribble Off” team that we use for contests and it has a few users like DribbleOff_RealMadrid and DribbleOff_Barcelona that we use for team events. But then we also have another team where we’ve added all the players from our boys team that have a smart ball.

So you can have different teams for different purposes depending on how you’re using the ball. One thing to keep in mind is that teams don’t share playlists so when you create a playlist for a team, it won’t be available for other teams. At least not now, that may be something that could change in the future.

Update: Looks like now you can also create a team from within the Dribble Up soccer app itself and invite other users to your team.

Dribble Up Players

Adding players to your team is pretty simple. On the “My Players” page your enter their Dribble Up handle and click the “Add Player to a Team” button. If the player is added successfully they show up on the Weekly Leaderboard for the team, if the Player id that you enter isn’t found it’ll give you an error message. One thing to note is that you can add a player to multiple teams. So they could be part of their primary soccer team but also be on a “team” with their friends from their school or their neighborhood that also had a smart ball.

Update: Dribble Up has added an Invitation link on the Players page which makes it easier to add kids to a team. Instead of having to add them each individually you can share that link in your team management app like TeamSnap, SportsEngine, SIPlay, Blue Sombrero, or whatever you use. You may still have to add a few manually but this way most can join on their own.

Once a player is added, if you click on their User Name in the leaderboard it takes you to a screen that shows 2 things:

1) Assignment Completion for the Week
This shows you which drills they have and haven’t completed over the current week.

2) Drill History
This shows you all the drills they’ve done over the last 2 weeks and their score for each. It’s not just a list of the drills, it currently organizes them into 6 different categories of types of drills:

  • Left Foot
  • Right Foot
  • Alternating
  • Juggling
  • Consistency
  • Endurance

Suggestions

One thing that would be helpful for Dribble Up to add would be a Homework report. Now to see who’s working on their footskills a coach has to click into each player’s history. A summary of all the players on one page would be nice. Even better would be a weekly email summary that highlighted which players were using it most and which ones were using it not at all or very little.

Dribble Up Playlists

These next two sections, Playlists and Homework, are where the coach gets to “work their magic”.

On the Coaches dashboard the link in the left navigation calls these “Custom Workouts” but what it allows you to do is to create your own Playlists. This is probably the most requested feature that I’ve heard from coaches and parents.

It is a great feature for coaches because it allows you to build workouts based on what you’d like your team to work on. Although if you want to get started with your team right away you can actually assign homework without creating any custom playlists, we’ll cover that more in the Homework section.

When you first come to the Custom Workout page you won’t see any listed and you’ll see a button that says “Create Workout”. After you click that button you’ll be asked to name your workout and then taken to a page where you can start to build your custom playlist from the library of drills that Dribble Up has provided.

Dribble Up Drills

The screenshot below shows you what it looks like after you click “Add Drill” and select one from the Drill Name dropdown menu

You can configure the duration of the drill and then click “Add Drill” again to continue selecting additional drills. Of course a common question here is, “what drills are available”? I know it was the first thing I asked before we bought our first smart ball. As of this writing there are 44 drills in the library. As I mentioned earlier, the team at Dribble Up has been very responsive to feedback so if you have a drill that’s not in the library that you’d like to add you can let them know. Those 44 drills can be combined together in any combination so that gives a good list of options for building a custom playlist.

We won’t list all the drills here because I’m sure over time they’ll change and have new ones added but if you’d like to know the current list of full drills just enter your email address below and I can send it to you.

Playlist Tips

One of the first things we did when we got the first smart ball was to go through the drills library and try out the drills. That’s what I’d recommend for any coach because as we know the same move can be referred to by multiple names. For example, what you might call Toe Taps is named “Ball Steps” in the Dribble Up library.

We went through the drills in the app itself but the Custom Playlist page makes this much easier because as you change drills it shows the video description and preview of each one.

The main things you set when creating a playlist are which drills to include, what order to put them in, and what duration to have each drill last for. The drills now autosave as you add them to the playlist which is an improvement over the initial design where you had to save each drill after adding it. You can also now easily change the order of the drills which used to be a chore. We put together a list of Dribble Up drill playlist tips that share some of the things we learned when putting together our first playlists.

Suggestions

One thing we’d love to see and have already shared with Dribble Up is the ability to copy an existing playlist and save it under a different name. That would make it a lot easier to create different variations on a playlist, to create a progression of simple to more difficult playlists.

Something else that would be helpful for coaches would be the ability to filter the drills based on certain criteria. For example, show me only the drills that work on Turns or only drills that use the Sole of the Foot.

Sample Playlists

Here’s an idea of some of the playlists that we’ve created so far.

Futsal King

After moderating a panel on Futsal during the Youth National Championships some of the discussion made me realize we could use a playlist that focused only on using the sole of the foot.  So I created a playlist called “Futsal King”, the video below shows you a preview of all the different drills in the playlist as shown in the Dribble Up app.

Turns

After reading an interesting analysis on the importance of teaching turns in soccer a while back I had my son’s trainer working with him on turning under pressure. Over time the results in training and games were pretty significant so I also created a Turns playlist in Dribble Up. Obviously that’s not teaching a player to turn under pressure but it helps players on the mechanics of the turns.

Dribble Up Homework

Once you’ve created a custom playlist you can make it available to your players by assigning it to them as Homework. In the coaches dashboard this page is actually called Assignments in the left navigation.

As you can see in the image below the homework page let you assign playlists to certain days of the week. Over the winter I assigned the “Left Foot Advanced” for every day of the week because the off season is a perfect time for a player to work on their weak foot. We actually started with the “Left Foot” playlist, moved to “Left Foot Advanced”, and then ended the winter with the “Left Foot Expert”.

These seems a perfect way to use a tool like this smart ball, as supplemental training on something that almost every player needs to work on.

Assigning Homework

For each day there’s an “Add Workout” button you can use to assign as many workouts to that day as you need. When you click the button you get a “Select a Workout” dialog (shown here) that lists existing playlists that are available to assign.  Scroll down to the bottom of the dialog to find any custom playlists that you created, in the picture you can see the Turns and “Lucky Left Foot” playlists that we built for that team.

Any homework you add to a day is assigned to every player on the team and will show up in the players Dribble Up app in the Homework tile. Right now there’s no way to assign certain playlists to certain players, they all get the same assignment.

The homework in not based on Calendar days but rather on a recurring week so once you assign a playlist on Monday – that workout will show up every Monday in their homework until it’s removed from the coaches dashboard.

Suggestions

Even if you could assign homework per player in the dashboard it would definitely be time consuming for a coach to assign specific homework per player, not sure how many would. However, it might be nice to be able to assign homework based on player attributes. For example assign certain playlist to offensive vs defensive players or something of that nature.

How to Get Started With Dribble Up

Hopefully this has been a good introduction into one way your team can use technology to help develop players. Last year we hosted a coaching education session and the Director of Youth Soccer for our local MLS team came and presented to the coaches. His topic “Best Practices for Player Development” covered 4 areas – Player Development, Coaching Education, Player ID & Team Formation, and Parent Engagement. In two of those areas he touched on keeping up with technology that can help coaches and players on their development path.

It just so happened that it was around the holidays and we had brought him a Dribble Up ball as a gift to say thanks for taking time to share his expertise so it fit nicely into the technology topic. Player development is why we use the smart ball and why we write about it here for other coaches to learn from.

It might not be the right fit or timing for your team or club but at least now you know more about the ball and how it helps some players. If you’re interested in trying it out you have a few options:

1) Run your team through a Dribble Off Challenge. We bring the smart balls, iPads, and other equipment to you and run a session so you can see how they work in person and how your team reacts.

2) Test out a single ball – Dribble Up Smart Ball

3) Inquire about a team set. Send us an email to clubs@soccerstripes.com with what your team needs are. Team orders also include copies of the book “Soccer IQ: Things That Smart Players Do” by Dan Blank.

 

 

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Dribble Up Soccer Ball Playlist Tips

How can you use the Dribble Up soccer ball for your team? There are a few ways a team can use the smart ball for training that don’t require every player to buy a smart ball. One of the ways is to have a Dribble Up station at team training that players can use to work on their foot skills.

How many times have you told players who are sitting out of a scrimmage to juggle on the sideline to get more touches? How many of them actually juggle and for how long? With Dribble Up you can get those kids wanting to work on their foot skills or their juggling and even keep track of it if you’d like.

Last week we had a 3v3 tournament for our team and ran Dribble Up soccer stations for the kids who weren’t on the field. Here are some lessons we learned when putting together the DribbleUp playlists that will make your session more effective.

1) Create Multiple Progressive Sets of Drills
We got a little carried away with the first playlist we created. It had 10 drills we thought were pretty fun but we figured out pretty quick on our first test that was a mistake.

When you’re introducing players to a new training tool it’s a good idea to ease them into it. The principles of coaching youth still apply – set them up for success and then build on that success as the session goes on.

So we changed our approach and created multiple playlists:

  • Mini Messi
  • Messi
  • Super Messi

The Mini Messi only had 3 simple drills that pretty much all players have done and introduced them to using the ball. The Messi added another 2 drills which were a little more complicated and the Super Messi added an additional 3 drills that also increased complexity.

One thing we’re used to about coaching is that you can adjust your drills as you go depending on how the kids react. When you’re using technology like Dribble Up it’s harder to make those changes in the middle of the session so it’s best to prepare more options ahead of time.Along those lines we created another set of drills

  • Mini Ronaldo
  • Ronaldo
  • Super Ronaldo

We followed the same progressive approach where each playlist built on the previous one increasing the length and complexity but used different skills than the Messi playlists.

Turned out it was a good thing that we had a few variations because some of the players were struggling with the last drill in the Messi playlist so we switched over to the Ronaldo instead and they both scored better and enjoyed the playlist more.

 

2) Lead With the Strong Foot
In the Dribble Up drill library you have some drills that use both the left and right foot in the same drill and others that have 2 variations. For example the “Left Foot Roll Tap” and the “Right Foot Roll Tap”.

Since most of our players have their right foot as their strongest foot we always led with the “Right Foot….” drill first. That way they got comfortable with the skill using the foot they’re most comfortable with and made it easier when they moved onto the “Left Foot…” drill.

Obviously not every player is right footed so how do you handle that? Right now DribbleUp has no way to indicate which foot is a player’s strong foot. I think it would be helpful if a player could indicate their strong foot in their player profile. That way in the playlist you could lead with “Strong Foot…” and follow it with “Weak Foot…” and the app would adjust based on the player.

3) Save After Adding Drills
As you’re building the playlist in the coaches dashboard be sure to save each drill after you add it. There were times when I went in and added a few drills and forgot to save them. If you go back and try to save after adding several drills you can run into issues in the dashboard.

Suggestions – Add the ability to easily re-order the drills in the playlist.

4) Do a Trial Run
When you introduce a new drill at practice you don’t always know how it’s going to work out. You can diagram it and plan how you’ll introduce/demonstrate it to the team but until you actually get out on the practice pitch you’re not sure how it’ll go over.

The nice thing about the Dribble Up playlist is that it’s not as complex as team training so you don’t need the whole team there to test it out. You can run one player through the drills to see how they handle them.

As I mentioned earlier we initially created just one longer playlist but after running my son through it I realized several mistakes I had made setting them up. Definitely do a trial run of your playlist when it’s easy to tweak it. Don’t wait until you’re at training to discover you need to change it.

Even if you’re not running the playlist at team training and you’re just assigning it for homework it’s good to do a trial run before pushing it out the team.

5) Don’t Rely on Wi-Fi
The DribbleUp app doesn’t need to be connected to the internet to use it but there are a few features that require connectivity to work.

For example, if you create a custom playlist and assign it to the team for homework the device needs to be connected to be able to access the homework.

A good test is to set your device to Airplane mode before you do your Trial run and make sure everything works as expected. If it doesn’t then you can

6) Disable Updates
After you do your trial run and get everything worked out it’s not a bad idea to turn off your updates until after you use Dribble Up at practice. For an iPhone you do this in Settings:

  • Swipe up to iTunes & App Store
  • Find Automatic Downloads
  • Toggle Updates off

Our team session went great but then 2 days later I brought the Dribble Up stations to a coaches event to demo how we use them. In between there was a Dribble Up app update and the interface and a few other things changed. It was definitely an improvement but I wasn’t used to the new version of the app so it was trickier to show other folks how to use it.

7) Create Dribbling Zones
When players are working hard on these skills and doing changes of direction the ball eventually will get away from them and roll away. We had multiple stations setup so the players could compete and if you do this you’ll want to create zones so the ball isn’t rolling into the other players area and messing up their score.

One way to do it is to space them out or if you don’t have enough space you can separate them with bumpers. At first the players will ask what they’re for and why they need them but then once they get into the playlist and eventually lose control of the ball they see why it’s nice for their score to have their ball not rolling away and not have other balls rolling into their area.

8) Dribble Up is not Rest
When you take your US soccer coaching courses and plan out practices you allow for enough rest periods in between activities. Don’t treat a DribbleUp station as rest. After a player finishes a DribbleUp playlist they’re out of breath. Don’t make the playlist too long, 3 minutes maybe.

We’ve found that 20 seconds per drill has worked out pretty well. Allows them enough time to settle in and get a rhythm going but doesn’t wear them out.

By the end of our 3v3 tournament the kids who were sitting out opted out of the Dribble Up stations because they were worn out from the 3v3 and needed the break.

9) Have Enough Stations
The right number of stations will vary depending on how many kids you have at training and how you’re using it. We had 2 and it went pretty well, I’d say 2 – 4 would be a good number.

Having 3 stations would haven’t worked out with the way were running the competition but 4 would have worked since we could have let twice as many kids go at once. If you weren’t doing a contest and just having players go through the playlist then 3 would be great, or if you had 3 teams that wanted to go at once that would work as well.

10) Teach Players How to Use the App

There’s not a whole lot to using the app. Simply tap the playlist you want and scan the ball to start so it doesn’t take a long time to show them how.

If they’re waiting on you to scan the ball and start the playlist it slows down the flow so definitely make them self-sufficient on getting started once the player before them finished.

Next time we’ll do a write-up on the coaches dashboard and how you can create custom playlists and assign them to your players as homework. If you’re interested in having us come run a dribble up skills session we’d be happy to chat with you about a Dribble Off Challenge or a Dribble Off Soccer Party.

Happy Dribbling!

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Dribble Up Smart Soccer Ball Lessons Learned

One great thing about Dribble Up is that training with the smart ball just a 10 minutes a day can help your foot skills. To maximize your time on the ball here are 10 things to avoid that we’ve noticed as we’ve used the soccer ball for training at home during the off season. We were actually listening to the Coaching Soccer Weekly podcast episode titled “How to Improve Technically at Home” as we wrote up this list. The end of the episode has a great story about a player who worked hard in the off season and her effort paid off when she made the 1st team in the Spring. Hopefully these tips will make it easier for you to practice at home with the Dribble Up ball and put in the time to start off next season with more control and confidence.

1) Settle Into the Drill
Don’t wait for the timer to start before you do the drill. At the start of each drill the trainer will demo the skill before the app starts timing you. Rather than waiting for the timer to begin – start trying the skill as he demos it. This will get you into a rhythm so when the app starts tracking your movements you’ll have settled into the drill. Use that demo period as a warm up for the drill. But what if you don’t know how to do the drill? That leads to the next tip…

2) Preview the Playlist
Don’t start a playlist without first reviewing the videos and trying out the skills. Imagine you’re at practice and your coach is trying to teach the team a new footskill. Is it easier or harder to learn a new move when you feel like the whole team is watching you try?

That’s one of the great benefits of Dribble Up and other tools that help you practice at home. You can learn the moves at your own pace, without the pressure of trying to learn it quickly under the watchful eye of your coach and teammates.

I’m sure we’ve all seen or experienced players struggling with learning a new foot skill at practice and getting embarrassed and giving up on it. Since you’re not at practice, take your time and watch the drill preview as many times as you need to and try it out. I wish there was a way to put the preview video on a loop so it would keep playing while you practiced it.

It’s great that Dribble Up does challenge you by putting you under pressure with a timer and grades you – eventually we’ll all be under pressure in a game situation. But your coach probably wouldn’t want you to go out and try a brand new move in a game. She’d rather you practiced that new move at home or in training and then use it in a game once you’re more comfortable.

Same with Dribble Up. Don’t put yourself under pressure to execute the very first time you learn a new skill, practice it first before grading yourself.

3) Choosing the Right Drill
Don’t worry about whether you’re doing the “right” drills. I’ve had parents ask about which drills their players should be doing and how they know if they’re doing the right ones. One nice thing about Dribble Up is that it gives you different skills to choose from but sometimes when we’re faced with lots of options it makes it harder for us to decide.

For example, if you go into the Drills library you could spend a lot of time looking at all the skills and deciding which to work on. The key is to just pick one and get started. There is no “right drill” but a sign of a “wrong drill” is that it’s too easy for you. That’s probably a sign you need to select the Medium or Hard scoring level or maybe move on to another drill. Which brings us to our next tip…

4) Challenge Your Feet & Brain
Don’t get discouraged when you’re doing a new drill and it feels like your feet can’t keep up with your brain. If you try a new drill and it’s tricky it can be tempting to go back to one that you know well. Don’t avoid a drill just because it seems difficult. Your brain and feet might not line up right away but keep at it – the more you do a playlist the better you’ll get at it. You can look back in time at the Progress tile and see your skill improving.

5) Don’t Worry About Your Score
Don’t worry about getting a low score when you’re doing a new drill. Think about it in terms of grades at school. First you learn something, then later you’re tested to see how well you understand it. In Dribble Up, the first time you do a drill you’re learning it and the 2nd, 3rd, etc. Although you’re given a score each time you shouldn’t expect it to be good right off the bat. It’s kind of like a pre-test in school. Your instructor doesn’t expect you to ace it, rather it’s to set a baseline to see what you know. What’s important is that you focus on understanding the move and doing it well and over time your score will improve.

6) Don’t Speed Through
Don’t try and go full speed through each drill. Pay attention to the details of the moves and things like the body position of the trainer and speed will come over time.

Take the Left Foot L Turns drill for example. After you pull the ball behind your body with your left foot the job of the right foot is simply to roll it with the sole back to the left to setup the move again.

The whole focus of the drill is executing a crisp L Turn so do that part quickly. Think about how you’d use the move in a game situation. You want the turn to be as quick as possible so focus on speed there but your right foot roll is really just to set the move back up.

7) Don’t Count Only on Dribble Up
Of course the ball has helped our kids and many others improve their foot skills but it’s only intended as a supplemental tool. There’s a lot about the game you won’t learn from Dribble Up that’s critical to be a well rounded footballer. Using a smart ball to train is what’s referred to as “unopposed” training. There’s a debate in the soccer coaching world about which is better opposed vs unopposed practice our opinion is that both are good when used in conjunction.

A common scenario for many players is that team training is more tactical so they don’t get a ton of touches on the ball. If a player is part of an Academy they might have an extra night of technical training but if not then they’re possibly not getting enough touches on the ball each week. That’s where tools like Dribble Up and Techne come in, getting players more time on the ball each week. Some players work with personal trainers to get in more ball work and this makes a big difference but the two downsides of that approach are cost and scheduling.

The nice thing about Dribble Up is that is has the trainer built into the app and you can work on it whenever you want. One possible approach is to start off with Dribble Up to get more comfortable on the ball and to supplement team training. Then once they’re farther along technically they could progress to small group or personal training – at that point the coach would be able to do a lot more with the player since they’d be more technically proficient.

8) Consistency Counts
Don’t focus on being perfect, rather focus on being consistent. No player is perfect, even professional players make mistakes. You can’t expect yourself to be perfect but you can challenge yourself to be consistent. This means training regularly and also focusing on technique. As we touched on earlier don’t worry about your score and don’t speed through the drills. Instead focus on getting into a rhythm and executing the move properly each time. This builds muscle memory so when you have the ball at your feet in a game you won’t have to think about controlling the ball and your brain can think about all the other aspects of the game.

9) Don’t Use Your Email Address
When you sign up for your Dribble Up account don’t user your email address as your user id. If you do everyone will see it in the leader board. I suppose if you want people to be able to email you then maybe use your address but often times the players using the smart ball app are younger kids and don’t want to share their address out to the world.

10) Don’t Train in Socks
Dribbling in socks is bad news. On hard wood you’ll slip and even on carpet the ball can slip right under your foot when you go to change direction. This isn’t as big a deal if you’re using bumpers but it messes up your rhythm. We’d say wear shoes but sometimes you’re kicking around the house and want to do Dribble Up and you’d have to run and put on your shoes. Don’t create reasons not to train, you want to remove obstacles from getting in footwork. In that case it might be best to just lose your socks and do it barefoot.

One good time to get your footwork in is anytime you spend just waiting around. For example, if you’re riding the bus to school and waiting for it to show up you could get in a playlist or two- you already have your shoes on an ready to go!

Dribble Up Success

Hopefully some of these tips were helpful for your training. Remember, the Dribble Up ball isn’t meant to be the only thing you train with but using it can help improve your game.

An example we’ve experienced is the “Strong Roll” drill that’s part of the “Left Foot Advanced” playlist. Over the off season we’ve been working on the weak foot so my son’s done that drill quite a bit. The other day at training the coach used him as an example for that move, which is definitely a confidence boost for any player. The coolest thing though was to watch him use it successfully in a game last weekend.

That’s one example of how tools like these can have an impact on your team training and also in your games.  What drill will be the one to make a difference in your next game?

Happy Dribbling!

 

DribbleUp Smart Soccer Ball

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DribbleUp Smart Soccer Ball Tips

Once you start using your smart ball there are a few things you can do to get more out of your practice. These tips came mostly from conversations I’ve had with parents who’s players have started training with the smart ball. Whether you got Dribble Up on Amazon or on this site, these tips can help with some of the questions you might have about training with the soccer ball.

1) Train in Good Lighting
Since it’s winter and many of us are training indoors this can be a useful tip. When you use Dribble Up make sure you setup in a space with good lighting and that doesn’t have a bright light source in the background.

We’ve had issues with both of these, when we first started trying out DribbleUp in our living room we had a lamp right in the middle of the background. Often times when we’d scan our ball the cones would start off red and we’d know right away the tracking was off. We had to re-scan several times to get green cones until we talked to the team at DribbleUp and learned to remove the light source from the background.

We also tried using Dribble Up in our unfinished basement which is dimly lit. It’s kind of chilly in the winter but has great cement walls for doing wall work with the Techne app my daughter uses. When we used Dribble Up in the dim light the ball tracking wasn’t perfect so we moved upstairs and it was much better.

2) Dribble Up Video Preview
If you’re doing a new playlist or one that has drills you haven’t done before it’s a good idea to watch the videos before starting the playlist. The Dribble Up app does show you a clip of the drill as you go through the playlist. If it’s a simple one then it’s easy to pickup but as you start working on the more complex drills its nice to be able to watch them a few times before tackling it in the middle of the playlist.

Each drill has a little blue camera icon next to it, if you tap it you can watch the Dribble Up video of the trainer explaining the drill and then demonstrating it. Once he’s done you can tap the video to play the demonstration again, you can watch it a few times until it makes sense.

3) Choosing the Right Difficulty Level
One of the things we mentioned in our early Dribble up reviews was the need for different level of players to be able to use the app and stay motivated. It was kind of discouraging for less developed players to get low scores so we were really glad when they added the ability to select a difficulty level.

So now that there’s an option the question is which level should a player use to train? The best way to figure it out is to try the same playlist on different difficulty levels. Start off doing the playlist on the easy setting and then do it again on the medium setting. You can go back and look in the Progress tile to see a history of your drills. If you aced the easy playlist then you’re obviously ready for the medium setting. If you struggled on some of the drills on the higher setting, that shows you what things to work on in the lower setting.

4) New Drill Alert
Dribble Up has added a new feature that I like but may confuse players who are already accustomed to the app. As you know each playlist is made up of drills and after one completes the next begins. Now the DribbleUp app starts beeping during the last few seconds of a drill to let you know when you can stop. I think it’s a good new feature but my kids stop as soon as they hear the beeping which messes up their score. So if you’re not used to the warning beep, when you hear it – keep going. I think it’d be nice if they added some audio signal when the drill starts as well, what you do think?

5) Train with Bumpers

As you know good dribblers lose their mark with fakes and changes in direction. You’ll practice a lot of changes of direction when you go through the Dribble Up playlist and as you’ve probably experienced there are times when you might lose control of the ball and have it roll away.  If you’re training out on an open turf field that’s not a big deal. But many folks use DribbleUp in their living rooms, basement, garage, etc. To prevent you chasing the ball all over while the drill runs or having your smart ball get stuck under a chair you can simply put down some bumpers to keep the ball contained if you lose control. The easiest thing we’ve found that works pretty well is throw some couch pillows down if you’re in the living room. In the garage or basement we’ve used storage bins on either side of us, whatever is handy!

6) DribbleUp Coaches Dashboard
Dribble Up has a coaches dashboard where coaches can assign homework and see which players have been putting in extra work. Primarily I’ve been using it just to assign playlists for the weak foot to get players working on their non-dominant foot over the winter.

As the app evolves I think more and more coaches will use the custom playlist functionality to assign work outside of training sessions. If you’ve ever been in a huddle at the end or beginning of practice when the coach asks who’s been working on foot skills outside of practice you can probably relate. You can’t fool the smart ball into thinking you did a workout. It’s a great way for a coach to see which players are putting in the work outside of training.

In addition to being useful for coaches it’s also a good way to maintain healthy competition within a squad. When players are added to a team they get their own Leaderboard – in addition to the DribbleUp FC leaderboard. So they can see what level their teammates are on – for some players that’s the little extra motivation they need to login every day to make sure they’re keeping up with their team.

If you have other players on your team who might be interested in training with Dribble Up and competing against their teammates let me know and we’ll work on getting them a ball.

Happy Dribbling!

 

DribbleUp Smart Soccer Ball

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Farewell to Feilhaber – The Soul of Sporting Kansas City

To some Sporting Kansas City fans Benny Feilhaber felt like the soul of the team. Not only did he connect the offense and defense on the field but he also helped connect the fans with the team off the pitch through his haircuts & mustache personality. His many interviews and the Benny Fielhaber show showed us a side of him and many other players that we didn’t have access to on game day.

I couldn’t bear to tell my son the news when I heard that Feilhaber wouldn’t be wearing Sporting blue next season. I finally told him on the way home from practice the other night and he took it pretty hard – overreacted of course – “I don’t even want to watch next year”. Of course we’ll still watch every game but it won’t be the same without Benny out there in the middle of the pitch.

Mr. Check Your Shoulder

Feilhaber was really fun to watch, it was great seeing him pull off a picture perfect turn in the middle of the field. In our house his nickname could have been Mr “Check Your Shoulder” for the number of times I paused a game to show my kids how he knew where his teammates and opponents were on the field before the ball even got to his foot.

Not only was he great at assisting his brothers in blue he also scored some amazing goals and was like money in the bank from the penalty spot. Benny had a passion for the game, he played with heart and it was great as a fan seeing him get fired up on the pitch when his team really needed it.

His soccer story is a fun one if you get a chance to listen to the tale of how he walked onto UCLA and then ended up spending time in the Bundesliga and English Premier League before coming to the MLS.

Benny Will Be Missed

We had several chances to meet Benny over the years at various events, he was always a pleasant guy and really nice to the kids – who of course wanted pictures and autographs.

We got a chance to attend a SKC practice last summer and watch Benny and the rest of the team in action in training. As you can see from the pic, he’s such a nice guy he “gave us the shirt off his back” 🙂

I guess his leaving offers a few good lessons for youth players & their families:

1) Appreciate the Moment

You never know how long you’ll get to be on a team. If you’re with a coach and group of teammates you enjoy then cherish every game because you won’t get to play with them forever.

2) Don’t Burn Bridges

You never know whose team you might end up on next. You don’t know who you’ll end up playing for and with so always be a good sport.

3) Soccer is a Journey

Just because you’re no longer the best fit in a certain team or club it doesn’t mean you’re a bad player. Do your thing and you’ll find a place where you’re needed.

4) Always Work Your Hardest

If you listen to the story of how Benny ended up in Kansas City you’ll hear how Vermes was his assistant coach on the USMNT U-20 squad.  Years later when Benny wasn’t having a lot of luck on the field and other clubs weren’t excited about his playing form Vermes remembered what Feilhaber was cable of and “took a chance” that he could help bring back his mojo. You never know what impression you might make on a team mate, coach, or someone else in the soccer community that could come back to help you someday.

Farewell Gift for Feilhaber

It makes us sad that we’re now a line item between New England and LAFC in Feilhaber’s soccer career but we wish him the best as he travels back to where he grew up in California.

We’re fortunate that we have a lot of veterans like Besler, Zusi, Opara, Melia, Espinoza, and Medranda to take care of the “soul of soccer” in KC – and we’re excited about the new players that a have chance to make Kansas City “their team” the way that Feilhaber did after he arrived.

Benny will always have a special place in our soccer family and to say “Farewell to Fielhaber” we’re giving away commemorative Benny Fielhaber jumbo soccer cards. Here’s a picture of the card, it’s 5×7.

We’re sending them out for free. You can sign up for one in our store and we’ll mail it to you free of charge in memory of Benny! Limited supply so get yours before they’re gone – Request Card Here.

[ Until Benny’s first LAFC training session we’re also offering a discount on the Dribble Up smart soccer ball– $10 off with coupon code of BENNY at checkout .