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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.

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.