We offer Dribble Up soccer ball discounts to a variety of organizations around the country. If you’d like to try out the smart soccer ball and you belong to one of these groups you can click on the Dribble Up coupon link at the end of each section.
Armed Forces Discount
Growing up an Army brat and getting to live in Germany and be a part of the Fußball culture was an experience like no other. Living in Augsburg we could hop a train to Olympiastadion and watch Bayern Munich play – that was way before Allianz Arena.
Stationed in Bavaria we were able to play with the youth teams for both TSV-Kriegshaber and later ASV Rimpar. Even without a shared language, soccer brought together players from different countries and backgrounds.
We traveled around Europe with our Department of Defense high school soccer team to play teams from Bonn, Bremerhaven, Berlin, Bamberg, Brussels, and many other cities in Western Europe. Visiting other countries and cultures helped us realize that we’re more alike than we are different.
Thanks to Uncle Sam for the opportunity be an ambassador for the U.S. and to the women and men whose families make sacrifices that many will never understand but we all benefit from. Any member of the Armed Forces can use this discount. Size 4 Ball – Size 5 Ball
United Soccer Coaches Discount
We’re fortunate that United Soccer Coaches is headquartered in the Midwest and that we’ve been able to meet and work with the fantastic home office staff. The training and support they offer soccer coaches and the U.S. soccer community has really helped grow the game in our country. One of the biggest hurdles for youth soccer in the U.S. is a lack of properly trained coaches and United Soccer Coaches has been helping to close that gap for decades.
Locally, the Coaches & Coffee events have helped educate and connect coaches around the metro. All United Soccer Coaches members are eligible for this discount. Size 4 Ball – Size 5 Ball
The women’s program at University of Missouri Kansas City truly is a “soccer family” for the ladies that play there. Several players from UMKC have come up through ECNL, it helped prepare them to play at a really high level.
As a parents of young soccer players we love that leagues like ECNL give our daughters not only the chance to someday develop at a high level but also a whole group of strong, determined, hard-working, and passionate role models for them to look up to. Any soccer family who plays in the ECNL can take advantage of this discount. Size 4 Ball – Size 5 Ball
Development Academy Discount
We’ve seen first hand the training and preparation that programs in the Development Academy offer to young talented soccer players. We’ve been a part of the soccer journey for several players that now play in the Development Academy through the Sporting Kansas City Academy program.
The development and support they provide and their emphasis on developing the whole player is really fantastic. Any family whose team is a part of the Development Academy can use this discount when they buy a Dribble Up soccer ball. Size 4 Ball – Size 5 Ball
The Olympic Development Program for soccer varies from state to state but our experience with ODP has been a good one. Not only does it give players a chance to play with a different mix of kids and learn from different coaches it also gives them another soccer goal to work towards.
When a kid is part of a team and club they establish a certain “soccer identity” about who they are, where they fit, and what they’re capable of. ODP gives them a chance to “rediscover” themselves as a player with a group of kids and coaches who don’t have preconceived ideas about who they are on the pitch.
The program we’ve been involved with does a good job of keeping kids working on developing themselves outside of team practices and gives them another set of soccer goals to achieve. If your family is part of an ODP program in any state in the U.S. you can use this discount. Size 4 Ball – Size 5 Ball
Heartland Soccer Discount
The Heartland Soccer league does a good job of offering players in the Midwest a place to develop based on their level of play. With both rec and competitive leagues and quality facilities that can handle a high volume of games they give a wide range of youth soccer players a good opportunity to match up against kids who are at a similar place in their development.
In addition to league play they also put on a lot of tournaments so teams around the Midwest who can’t make regular trips to Kansas City can travel once or twice a season to compete against similar level teams from around the area. The relatively recent addition of a winter futsal league has given our players a chance to stay involved in soccer for a good part of the year. Any team that plays in the Heartland Soccer league is eligible for this discount. Size 4 Ball – Size 5 Ball
Sporting Club Network Discount
Sporting Kansas City established the Sporting Club Network (SCN) to help the professional soccer program connect with youth soccer programs locally and around the Midwest. Our kids have loved participating in the on field clinics and chalk talks where they get to meet players, train with players, ask players questions, and come watch the Rangers and SKC train.
As coaches, we’ve taken advantage of the coaching education sessions they hold and have learned a lot from the Sporting Kansas City staff. The commitment of Sporting Kansas City as an organization to being involved in youth soccer and helping grow players from the early ages has been very impressive. Any club that’s a member of the Sporting Club Network can use this discount – Size 4 Ball – Size 5 Ball
Soccer Parenting Association Discount
Founded by soccer coach and parent, Skye Eddy Bruce, the Soccer Parenting Association offers several different resources to parents whose kids play soccer. They feature articles and interviews from a variety of experts from across youth soccer on their website.
In addition they put together a great team of experts for the Soccer Parenting Summit which covers pretty much any question a soccer parent could have, whether they’re brand new or the parent of a graduating senior. In their Soccer Parent Resource Center you can also ask specific questions of youth soccer experts about your situation.
In addition to serving parents directly the Soccer Parenting Association also works with soccer clubs to advocate coaching education, reduce instances of unfit coaches and coach bullying, and help clubs develop programming, parent education/engagement, and overall policies. Although Skye is a former college soccer player and has also coached at all levels of youth sports from from U-5 recreation to the U.S. National Team programs she now focuses mainly on helping parents and clubs learn how to create teams and clubs where young soccer players can thrive. All members of the Soccer Parenting Association are eligble for this discount – Size 4 Ball – Size 5 Ball
Youth Soccer Programs
Although Soccer Stripes is based in the Midwest many of our earliest families were from California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Ohio. To say thanks we’ve created a discount for teams that play as part of the following youth soccer organizations:
We also offer discounts to soccer clubs. You can check to see if your club is one of them or get information on soccer club discounts on our Dribble Up coupon for clubs page. Being part of a team is a big part of the experience of playing soccer. Being part of one of these organizations can really help a team connect with other like-minded coaches, players, and families to improve the game of soccer and the development of young players across the country. If there’s an organization we’ve missed that you’d like to see added here please let us know.
The Dribble Up app has 3 main ways you can improve your soccer skills: ball control, shooting, and juggling. We’ve done a soccer shooting app review so now it’s time for a look at the Dribble Up juggling feature.
You get to the juggle tracker from the main user screen of the app by clicking on the Juggling Tile. At that point it asks you to roll your Dribble Up soccer ball into the tracker to get started juggling. That step is pretty straight forward, use your foot to move the ball into the circle on the screen to get the juggle tracker ready.
After you scan the ball you want to make sure you don’t stand too close to the device for a few reasons. The first is pretty simple, if you’re juggling really close to your phone or tablet and take a bad touch the ball could get away and knock over your device.
Another reason to stay at least a few feet back from the device is that getting the ball too close to the camera can cause it to count extra juggles, in our experience.
You’ll know once you’ve successfully scanned your ball because the juggle count shows up on your screen, starting with zero. At that point you can begin juggling and the counter goes up with your touches and the app will read out a count of how many times you’ve juggled the Dribble Up ball.
Once you lose control and the ball drops the counter goes back to zero but the app does show you the highest number of juggles you have that session and also how many juggles you need to reach the next juggling level. When you’re not juggling if you touch the screen you’ll see the option to “Finish” which will end your juggling session.
Smart Ball Juggling
Our take on the smart ball juggling training is a little different then our thoughts on the smart ball foot skills. If you’re starting to learn basic foot skills then the Dribble Up app is great for teaching your feet the right movements. However, if you’re just learning how to juggle then you probably don’t want to jump right into the app to track your juggles.
The reason for this is that it’s easier to teach your brain and foot to do a Toe Tap or Foundation than it is to keep a moving soccer ball in the air. So if you’re a beginning juggler a really great way to start to train your brain and your feet on how to juggle is the “drop and catch” trick.
You drop the ball onto your strong foot, kick it up into the air, then catch it with your hands. Then you do the same for your weak foot and then alternate back to your strong foot. See how many times you can do this in a row without letting the ball hit the ground.
Once you get to 100, then try and juggle the ball back and forth between your left and right foot without catching it. You still might not be able to keep the ball up for a long time but it’s probably a little better than when you first started.
You can continue the “drop and catch” method and challenge yourself to see how many you can get in a row without dropping. Once you feel pretty confident then you can move on to the “bounce juggle”.
This requires more control than the drop and catch but isn’t as tricky as straight up juggling. With bounce juggling you drop the ball on your strong foot and kick it up in the air. Let it bounce once, then kick it back up into the air with your weak foot. So you’re not having to be as precise as juggling the ball the whole time in the air but now you’re adding in the practice of moving your feet and body in between each juggle to prepare yourself for the next juggle.
Count how many bounce juggles you can get in a row with the ball only bouncing once in between each juggle. Once you’ve gotten in 50 bounce juggles then try regular juggling and you’ll see you’ve gotten a little better at it.
The whole reason to progressively work on your juggling is that starting cold can be frustrating. We don’t want players getting frustrated and giving up because they’re not having success with their juggles. You can use these methods with a Dribble Up ball but don’t have the app running because the drop/catch or bounce juggling will simply confuse it.
Tracking Juggling Improvement
If you’re able to juggle a little bit and want to get better the Dribble Up ball can be a fun way to measure your progress. See how many juggles you can get with the app running and then work on the bounce juggle method described above for a while without the smart ball app. After you’ve trained for a while juggle with the app again and chances are you’ll see your score improved.
Right now it doesn’t track your juggle count over time like it does for footwork but that feature will surely come in future releases. That ability to see your training history is one of the features that a lot of players love about the smart ball and the app will be even better once it tracks your juggle history as well.
Once you’ve improved your juggling to the point that you can consistently keep the ball up over time then the app becomes a fun way to compete against your friends. Once a juggle tracking leaderboard is added the juggling feature will be a good way to run a juggle-off or a juggle-a-thon for your team or club.
Learning to Juggle
So, in summary. If you’re wanting to learn how to juggle I wouldn’t use the app to track your juggles right away because that could be frustrating. Instead use the methods described above to get comfortable with juggling and as you improve you can start using the app to challenge yourself and your friends.
Another good time to use the juggling app is when training is canceled for weather and you want to get touches on the ball but you can’t get outside. Just be sure to clear the counters and tables of fragile items before you start your juggling!
The Dribble Up soccer app really helped our kids improve their technical footwork over the summer. One of the reasons it made a difference is that they went through playlists in the smart ball app every day. Those consistent touches on the ball really helped develop their muscle memory so the motions of standard fakes and feints were more natural.
Of course it takes some discipline to do technical footwork training every day consistently in the summer. One of the questions we get from some soccer families is how do players get into the habit of regular technical training? Some kids who are really passionate about the game and about getting better will just do it on their own but of course every player is different.
How to Motivate Kids to Train Regularly?
For every one youth soccer player you know that goes out and trains on their own you probably know a few more who might need some reminding or urging to get in their regular training. We tried several things over the summer to see what could help motivate regular training. One thing that was pretty successful was our soccer skills contest but it was a lot of work to setup and run.
One thing that was simple but effective was the use of a song playlist to go along with their Dribble Up soccer playlist. Inside the Dribble Up app under Settings there’s sub menu called “Audio & Video Settings”. Inside that section you can toggle off the Background Music that plays while your kid is going through the drills.
The music that comes with the smart ball app is good to have when they’re going through the drills, it can get them fired up. However, something we found what works even better (at least for our daughter) is turning off the music and instead playing her own music playlist.
Over time she’s created a “pump up” playlist that she likes to listen to before games. We have it setup as a Spotify playlist and we discovered that she also really enjoys listening to it while she works on her foot skills with DribbleUp. Listening to that playlist kind of gets her “into the zone” so she doesn’t even think about the fact she’s getting in lots of reps on the ball. When she’s listening her adrenaline is pumping and the energy level is high.
Here are some of the songs on her playlist:
Party Rock Anthem – LMFAO
Better When I’m Dancin – Meghan Trainor
Confident – Demi Lovato
Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
Dark Horse – Katy Perry
The Champion – Carrie Underwood
Firework – Katy Perry
Thunder – Imagine Dragons
Fight Song – Rachel Platten
Girl on Fire – Alicia Keys
Stronger – Kelly Clarkson
Roar – Katy Perry
This is Me – Keala Settle
Obviously her playlist has a lot of “girl power” and it might not work for an 11 year old boy but that’s fine. Every kid has their own pre-game music that gets them going. If they can listen to that when they’re doing Dribble Up playlists or any other technical soccer drills at home then they’re more likely to do it.
Soccer Training Playlist
Not only is your player more likely to be motivated to work on their skills but once they get into a groove they’re probably more likely to work on it for longer because their music gets them “in the flow”. For that reason it’s good to have a longer list of songs setup, 12-14 could work well for younger kids.
They probably won’t go through all of them each time, if they’re doing a ball workout that lasts 10 minutes and they have 12 songs that are 2-4 minutes each then they’ll only get through some each day. If you put the songs on shuffle then they’ll have a good mix of music over time. Having them play in a random order keeps it fresh and prevents them from associating a certain song with a specific part of the workout.
Over time you can create multiple playlists with different “moods”. For example this one is my daughter’s “go to” list of pump up songs but she has other playlists she can listen to depending on how she’s feeling. Music can be a powerful mental tool. Even if she doesn’t feel like training if we put one of these playlists on Alexa it can help prepare her to break out the boots.
So if you’re looking for a way to motivate your player to train more often or for longer stretches or even just to help mix up their training routine you can try putting their footskills to a playlist.
The Dribble Up soccer ball, smart ball app, and the coach’s dashboard helped us run a soccer skills contest this summer during the World Cup. If you’re a parent or a coach this will be a Dribble Up review of how you can run a contest for your family or run a soccer skills contest for your team.
Our main goal was to get players more touches on the ball over the summer. I’ve always wanted to run a soccer skills contest like this for our team but until now there wasn’t a great way to plan, coordinate, and track the players, drills, and results. We’ll share some suggestions for Dribble Up on ways to make it better but overall it was a success and our experiment got in over 30,000 touches in 30 days!
Soccer Skills Contest Results
I’ll go into all the details of how we setup and ran the contest for other coaches that want to get their players on the ball, but I’ll be honest, it was a lot of work. It didn’t help that we were on our family vacation and then away at summer camp during most of the month-long contest, but two things made it worth the effort.
1) Kids Loved the Contest
Since it was the first time running a soccer drills contest we reached out to parents during the month to see how we could make it better. We heard some useful feedback that we tried out, but the most rewarding responses were from families who were loving the contest and were in the smart ball app and on the ball every day.
Some families had siblings that were competing on the leaderboards and fighting over whose turn it was to use the Dribble Up ball. (Side Note. I was a counselor at a youth camp during one week of the contest and the only time I had to work on it was late at night once all the kids in my cabin were asleep and I could barely keep my eyes open. Every night I would ask myself if it was really worth it but reading those emails from parents kept me going!)
2) Better Ball Control
Summer is a busy time for soccer families. It’s hard to schedule regular weekly training because you’re out of town and trainers/coaches are on vacation. Plus, a lot of parents and kids want to take time off from the busy schedule of training and give their brains and bodies a break.
However, I figured putting in 5 minutes a day on ball work would be a reasonable thing to tryout. So, the test was to see if we could get consistent touches on the ball using both feet every day over the course of a month. Simple & unopposed reps using a variety of drills to get them moving the ball & their body in different ways & manipulating it with different parts of their feet.
Daily Soccer Drills
Turns out that we were able to get touches in every day except for one jam packed Tuesday at camp when the kids were asleep almost before their head hit the pillow. They did playlists at rest areas, hotel hallways, living rooms, patios, dorm lounges, parks, sidewalks – never once on a soccer field – but several times during half time of a World Cup match.
One of the cool things about the smart ball is being able to go back and look at the data. Over 30 days he did 787 drills in the Dribble Up app. Although that averages to about 26 drills per day there were some really busy days where he’d only do 10 drills but then other days where he’d do 40.
For example, towards the end of the month he realized he was almost at the top of the big leaderboard so there were a few days where he hit it really hard to get up to 2nd place overall. Looking back at the data he averaged about 12 minutes a day on the ball, definitely more than the 5 minutes we were targeting. Over the 30 days he got in about 31,100 touches so over 1000 touches a day.
Foot Skills on the Soccer Field
All that training was great but the real question was whether all those reps would make a difference on the field. Our first training session of the season started off with some 4v4 play in a pretty tight space. The head coach spent time talking to the parents while the assistant coaches sat back and watched the 4v4. It’s a mix of kids that haven’t all played together before so it was a chance for them to get on the field together for the first time.
After observing about 20 minutes of play in a smaller space it was obvious the time spent on the ball had paid dividends. Since the end of the previous season both ball control and confidence on the ball had increased. That’s what you would expect and the reason that so many people buy Dribble Up but it was our first experiment to really test it out over a period of time. Thanks to our busy summer we didn’t play in any leagues or do any regular training so the only consistent touches they got on the ball were using DribbleUp.
After getting on the field after 30 days of footwork I noticed the constant process of scan, decide, play was both sharper and faster. The turns and moves were more decisive and stronger. The ability to evade pressure and then turn the ball or find a teammate meant more possession and more scoring for the “blue” team he was a part of. It was good to see the work paying off both because it made him a better player but also to know that contests like these have the potential to motivate and improve youth players around the country.
If you’re interested in doing something similar keep reading and we’ll go into detail about how to set it up and run the contest.
How to Run a Soccer Skills Contest
When you setup a contest how you design it depends on what outcome you’re trying to achieve. We wanted to get kids more touches so that’s a common thread across all the areas we’ll talk about. First we’ll go into player motivation and how holding a contest in conjunction with a soccer event can really bring it to life. Then we’ll go into more of the nitty gritty details on:
As you read through the details, if you have questions or suggestions you can send them to us at this email – firstname.lastname@example.org
The most important factor in getting kids to put in extra work is motivation. Ideally every kid would be self-motivated and young soccer players would be in the backyard or park working on their foot skills every day on their own. Since motivation levels vary across players, a contest is a great way to get everyone fired up to train. This is true particularly when you’re talking about consistent practice.
I’d venture a guess that the percentage of kids who kick around twice a week in the backyard is much larger than the percentage of kids who are doing footwork every day of the week at home. Of course, we all know kids that are out training on their own every day…. but for every one of them how many more do we know that don’t have that same level of intense motivation to improve? A contest gives them a reason to get on the ball for the duration of the contest.
Tying the duration of the contest to some real-world tournament or league can be a great way to get kids even more excited about competing. In our case we ran it in conjunction with the World Cup so there was a lot of enthusiasm to tap into after watching the best players in the world on the field using their moves.
Every day we’d give a preview or backstory about one of the matches and the name of the playlists would be pulled from the games. We used a few different approaches like focusing on famous players:
Mohammed Salah Stylin
Debryune De Beast
Talking about soccer culture – going into some history, well known programs, team nicknames, etc. Kind of like “soccer appreciation”
As we got towards the end of the World Cup and there were fewer teams left we also talked about matchups:
Croatia v Denmark
Brazil v Belgium
Of course the World Cup is only every 4 years but you could do the same thing with the Euros, Gold Cup, or the Champions League. You could also use run a contest alongside part of the season for Bundesliga, La Liga, English Premier League,etc. It’s not quite as exciting in terms of a tournament atmosphere but lots of players know those leagues and would be another good reason to encourage players to watch more soccer.
Another way to motivate kids to compete is to offer rewards. You know best what will motivate your players in terms of a reward – you can get pretty creative when setting up your rewards structure. One thing to consider when you set up the rules for rewards is what behavior you’re trying to encourage.
We wanted to encourage a lot of touches on the ball so we setup our contest to run daily and so that every playlist you completed gave you an entry in the daily contest. The more drills a player went through the more entries they earned and the higher their chances of winning the contest for the day.
We knew many kids were going to spend a part of their summer playing video games so our incentive tried to balance that with time on the ball. Our daily prize was an Xbox digital gift card that players could redeem in their video games. We also offered a PS4 version for kids that play on the PlayStation.
The idea was that players could see quick results from their efforts if they won (from a prize perspective) since they could cash in their winnings once we sent them out. Also, it was a prize that they’d want to win again so they wouldn’t slack off after winning it once. We wanted them to be motivated to be on the ball as much as possible every day. Since we were running the contest around the country it was also easier to distribute a digital prize.
The Dribble Up ball gives you a few different ways to keep track of player progress that can help you with offering rewards. If a player uses a smart ball to do their drills you can base your rewards on a variety of areas:
The Dribble Up app actually lets you go through the drills with a regular ball and we wanted to encourage as many players to participate as possible so we gave people an entry for doing a playlist. We gave them a bonus entry for doing it with a smart ball because that way we could confirm the player actually went through it.
After the player does the footwork in a playlist they’re given a score on how well they did. Typically, when a youth player does a playlist for the first time they run into at least a few drills where they have room for improvement. After they go through the drill enough times the score gradually rises if they’re working to improve.
I always tell players that rather than worry about the score, focus on the execution of the drill and the score will sort itself out. I bring this up because you could give entries based on score but it would be a lot of work to track in the current setup. We did give an extra entry if a player earned an A on a playlist. We did this because I wanted kids to think about the technique and not just rush through the footwork. Another way to handle that would be to not award entries for scores below a minimum level but I didn’t want to discourage players who were just getting started and learning the skills. When a player’s confidence is lowest is when they’re most vulnerable to stop trying based on a bad score.
Our contest was daily so players had a chance to win every day. We didn’t put any limit on how many playlists a person could get an entry for completing so the more they did in one day the higher their chances of winning. At the time the smart ball app didn’t easily show how many days in a row you’d practiced with the ball. Since then the Dribble Up app has released an update that shows your “streak” of training days, so you could give a bonus entry for every day they keep that streak alive.
The Dribble Up app does have multiple levels of difficulty that it assigns to drills so you could create playlists based on difficulty levels and award more entries for higher skill levels. I’ll talk later about how we created playlists but we didn’t offer more rewards for more difficult drills. The age and skill level of players in our contest varied so we tried to assign a range of playlists to accommodate players at multiple levels of development. We didn’t want to discourage the younger players by offering the older or more skilled players a greater chance of winning.
One of the nice things about the smart soccer ball and the app is that it keeps track of the players training data over time. In the next section we’ll look at some of those stats the contest but the ability to track the data could allow you to offer rewards or bonus entries based on improvements in drill performance, increased frequency of training, or tackling more difficult drills over time. Right now, this would be pretty manual since there’s nothing that calculates it for you in the dashboard but I really like the concept.
For purposes of development we always tell youth players not to judge themselves compared to their teammates but based on their own improvement. Running a contest that motivated them based on how they improved could have a pretty good impact. Here are some of the player stats from the contest
Over 30 days he averaged about 12 minutes a day. This chart shows drills per day but you can see that the number each day varied based on what was going on in our summer schedule. For example, you can see the number per day drop the week we were at camp because pretty much every minute was scheduled and the only time he could get in his footwork was 10 or 11 PM once the day was done (and he was supposed to be in bed).
The cool thing was that even though he was exhausted those days he wanted to work on his foot skills because of the contest. One night we were both so tired we forgot, you can see it drop down to zero one day during the month, but 29 out of 30 is pretty good consistency.
Seems like this is a decent illustration of how if you commit to doing something regularly the end result can be good even if you don’t spend a ton of time on it each day. Of course, you don’t need a smart ball to work on your skills each day. We could just have easily stuffed his regular Adidas ball into the camp bag. The nice thing about the app and the Dribble Up ball was the accountability. On those days when he was tired and wanted to skip he couldn’t just “mark it down” that he’d done footwork – the app only gave him credit if he actually put in the work.
If you look at the trend line you can see the overall number of drills per day gradually increased over the month, I’ll talk more about that in the Playlist setup section.
This graph shows the breakdown of work on his strong foot vs his weak foot. The biggest percentage of drills involved using both feet. For example, in all these drills the player alternates feet from left to right during the drill:
Some drills were specific to a foot, like Right Foot Roll Tap or Right Foot Roll Chop, but they all had corresponding left foot versions and we tried to balance using both feet when creating the playlists. So overall, he strengthened both his strong and weak foot during the month. This was important for him because he likes playing in the middle of the field and really it’s good for any player to be skilled with both of their feet.
The Dribble Up app gives players a score based on 4 factors – Speed, Control, Consistency, Pattern. The lowest score he earned was a C+ and many of those were ones he did with his weak foot. Even though the number of drills with both feet was pretty even he didn’t have as much control with his left. Looking back it would have been better to assign more weak foot versions of a drill to get in more practice on those. The “NA” category are drills that DribbleUp doesn’t track for performance yet, simply that they’re completed.
One thing that makes it tricky is that you’re assigning drills to a group of players so weak vs strong foot will vary depending on the group. It would be nice if Dribble Up stored the player’s weak foot in their profile and we could assign “Weak Foot” drills and “Strong Foot” drills and the app would have them do the Right or Left footed version based on their profile.
Another area where he trended to lower scores was combination moves like triangles to sole fakes or triangles to L turns. That makes sense because they’re more complex and I didn’t include as many of them in the playlists so he practiced them less. Although combining moves on the field is a great way to deceive an opponent so definitely shows an area he needs work.
One suggestion for Dribble Up would be to keep track of drills that players did the worst at and let them know which ones needed the most work.
For example, after looking through the scores over the month he seemed to struggle the most with the “Outside Outside” and “Back Side Turns”. I remember hearing him complain about the “Outside Outside” a few times as he went through it, that it was tough for him. That would be a good one to focus additional work on to add comfort with that movement to his soccer toolkit.
One thing we saw was an improvement in scores over time. This graph shows the breakdown of scores for the first two weeks of the month vs the 2nd two weeks and you can see a higher percentage of better scores in the second half. It makes sense because he had 2 weeks of going through those drills under his belt but it’s nice to see that the reps led to improved technique.
Building the playlists took a while at first because I tried to design them using a progression of similar footwork. Kind of like you might design a training session to focus on one specific area and not be a hodge podge of skills the goal was to make playlists that were composed of related moves.
For example, one playlist might have drills that involved using the sole of the feet. When I created the “La Furia Roja” playlist it included drills that worked on changing direction and turning with the ball. After the first week and a half of creating playlists it got easier because I was able to start re-using some of them or making a copy and tweaking them slightly.
The coach’s dashboard makes it pretty easy to clone a playlist and change it, one thing that would be nice would be the ability to categorize similar playlists so if you had several that were variations on each other you could group them together on the back end. That way when you’re assigning homework it would be easier to know more about a playlist you created several weeks back.
One thing we touched on some already was that as the contest went on I created longer and longer playlists. We started out in the beginning with 8 or 9 drills in a playlist and as the days went by we gradually added drills. As you can see here towards the end of the contest we had playlists of 14-15 drills.
During the contest we assigned multiple playlists each day. The way homework assignments work now isn’t perfect because you can only assign playlists for one week at a time. It would be nice if you could assign multiple weeks out. The current setup makes it more challenging to plan a multi-week contest or for a coach to plan a few weeks of foot skills training. We still used the Homework for the contest, it was just a little more work.
Each day when the player opened their app and tapped Daily Workout it showed them the playlists available for the day. We started off with just assigning one playlist and the player could go through it as many times as they wanted. Each completed entry earned them another entry in the contest.
Quickly we discovered it wasn’t very exciting to work on the same playlist multiple times in a row, so we started adding multiple playlists for homework each day. We added our custom playlists and a few pre-made ones from Dribble Up as well to give the kids some variety.
Some of the feedback we got from parents was that the playlists we were creating/assigning were too difficult for some of the younger kids and was getting a little discouraging. In some families the older sibling was enjoying it but the less developed players were struggling so we started using a range of playlists each day.
We went with an approach of having 3 levels of playlists, each with an increasing level of complexity and also number of drills. We tried to add multiple playlists at each level to give the players some variety. Currently there’s no way to indicate the complexity level of the playlist or the “level” so we simply listed them in a range of most challenging at top and simplest at the bottom.
Playlist Ordering – One suggestion for Dribble Up is to allow us in the coaches dashboard to re-order the playlists for the day after we assign them. If you want to add another playlist and the order which they appear in the app is important to you (it was for us b/c that’s how we showed the various levels) you must remove the playlists you’ve added and re-add them all in the desired order.
Playlist Categories – Another suggestion would be to let us assign categories to playlists, we could then use those to organize and display the playlist by level. That would also be a helpful feature for coaches who might want to assign playlists by topic (turning the ball, juggling, etc) or by player role (back line, mid-fielders, strikers).
Favorite / Worst Drills – As we went through the contest my kids figured out their favorite drills, for example multiple times I heard my daughter commenting she really liked the Push-Out drill. From a player’s perspective it would be nice if they could tag their favorite drills and then each player could have a “Favorites” playlist. That would be nice for a contest because if they wanted to get more entries they could run through a playlist of their favorite moves. Similarly, if there was an automatically generated playlist that kept track of their worst scoring drills it would be nice each day to have them work on the drills that they needed the most work on.
Choosing a Winner
Picking a daily winner was the most arduous part of running the contest. We kept a spreadsheet with the Dribble Up handles of the players in the contest and would update it based on their stats in the coach’s dashboard. Basically each player had a row in the spreadsheet and would get a certain number of entries each day based on the number of playlists they completed. They also received bonus entries for using a smart ball and for earning a score of A+. Those entries were each assigned a number by a formula in the spreadsheet and we used Google’s random number generator shown here to choose the winning number for the day.
Obviously, this was time consuming so we eventually figured out a way to automate the process to make it go more quickly. However there were still manual steps involved which meant we were typically behind on notifying the contest winners.
The players were patient in waiting to find out who won each day but announcing the winners sooner probably would have been better motivation to keep more kids active each day.
I was happy with the approach of basing the contest on participation and not on skill level. This allowed a variety of ages and skill levels to participate. Players competed against each other by who trained the most each day so it motivated them to get more touches. Having it daily gave them a fresh start each day, they didn’t get “behind” the person on the leaderboard and get discouraged.
We tended to batch up choosing winners and sending out prizes so we’d do multiple days at once. After we figured out the winner we’d notify their parents and ask them if they’d prefer a PS4 or Xbox gift card. Then we’d buy them online and email the code to the parent of the winner.
Next time we run the contest we’ll branch out and add additional prizes so we can motivate players who don’t play video games.
Finding sponsors for the prizes was another time intensive part of running the foot skills contest. It definitely required a good deal of pre-work to communicate with companies or products that the players would be interested in. Whatever the duration of your contest, it helps to come up with a list of 2 or 3 times the number of actual sponsors that you’ll need because some won’t get back with you until later and some won’t be interested in participating.
You’ll likely have a lot more success dealing with small or medium sized sponsors because the big companies take a lot longer to make decisions and a lot of them don’t even have a process in place to be able to sponsor a $10 prize for the day.
You may encounter some companies that prefer to give away their own product as a prize rather than support the prize that you’re offering. Keep that in mind when you reach out to sponsors because logistically it could be difficult to deliver certain products.
As part of being a sponsor we also included a summary of their site, product, or service in the contest announcement each day. It really helps to work with companies that you know well because it makes putting together the write-up a lot easier. If you choose companies you’re not familiar with it requires a lot more research and prep time.
One of the cool things about having prize sponsors is that if you do it correctly you can introduce your players and their families to a lot of neat tools that will really help “soccer dads” and “soccer moms” out there.
I know we’re very thankful for all the companies we worked with that helped motivate the players in our contest and that so many were willing to participate is a good sign for youth soccer in this country.
Soccer Contest Results
After reading through the story of the contest you may be thinking that it’s too much work to host something like this event and that the effort isn’t worth the end result. From our perspective, two things made it worth the time and money.
The first was the enthusiasm that it generated in the players that joined the virtual “Soccer Stripes Squad”. As a coach you can teach kids tactics and technique but what’s tricky to inspire is getting them to play with passion. If you get them to love the game and to be excited to train it’ll make the soccer experience more rewarding and make them a better player. Each kid is motivated differently but the fact that contests like these get some players into the game makes it worthwhile.
The second reason is that all these reps on the ball can really build confidence in a player. All these touches give them additional control and that ease with the ball translates to more confidence on the field. The gift of confidence is one of the most valuable things you can give a young player. However, you can’t really “give” it to them, they have to earn it. Buying them a new pair of cleats might make them feel good for a few minutes into the game but unless they have the control and moves to back up those shiny new shoes it will be temporary confidence. Contests like these are a great way for players to build that confidence and after these 30 days we’ve seen great results in 1v1 situations, small sided games like 4v4, and on the full pitch.
Our goal in publishing this is to make it easier for you to run a contest if you think it would help your players. If you like the idea but don’t have the time then we’d invite your players to join the contests we’ll be running with this virtual team.
Update – After the contest ended we discovered that the smart ball app actually counted a players touches as they went through the drills. That data isn’t available in the coaches dashboard yet but we asked the team at Dribble Up to run a report for this contest and it turns out that for the 30 days he had over 31,000 touches.
To help your player get over 1K touches a day have them join our virtual team. If you’d like to learn more about the Dribble Up ball for your player or about using the ball as a coach or for your club you can enter your email below.
The Dribble Up soccer shooting app is out and we had some fun with it last weekend. Until now the ball was good for solo footwork and juggling but the shooting game lets you get better along with your friends or family. You can already match your foot skills against your teammates on the leaderboard but the shooting app is fun because you come together to compete.
Our kids tried it out after getting in some touches in the backyard and had a shoot out against an older player who was training with them. It was his first time using the Dribble Up ball and they had fun showing him how the smart ball worked and challenging their shooting skills.
Dribble Up Shooting Setup
While the kids were going through some drills I setup the app for the shooting game. It took me a bit the first time but it’ll be faster now that I know how it works.
From the home screen of the Dribble Up app you select the Shooting tile and it takes you to this setup screen. Basically it gives you instructions on how to setup the shooting game and also has a video that demonstrates the steps we’ll talk about below.
If you press the “Start” or “Let’s Go” button the app will ask you to scan the smart ball. Typically we’re used to scanning the ball when it’s already in the stand but when setting up the shooting you just hold your phone or tablet in your hand and point it at the ball with the app open and put the ball in the scanning circle. That part was easy, peasy.
Goal Tracking Setup
After scanning the ball you put the device in a stand behind the goal and tap the 4 corners of the goal on the app. We used the new iPad stand Dribble Up came out with recently and it worked pretty well, shown in this photo. It can hold a phone or a tablet, it’s pretty adjustable, sturdy, and it folds up and can fit in your pocket so definitely glad we picked one up.
This setup step is what took me the longest. If you’re kneeling right in front of your iPhone to setup the shooting then you block the camera that’s looking at the back of the goal.
So I had to kneel off to one side of my iPhone in order to see the goal for the next step. There’s a hill behind our goal so we were raised up higher than ground level which made it trickier to angle the phone and setup the goal corners.
As you can see in the picture, the next step is to tap each of the four corners of the goal on the screen. This part was pretty easy, my first tap was too high above the top corner but I simply tapped the actual spot and it reset the goal corner.
One thing I would like is if you could put your finger in the middle of the goal and pinch out to draw a rectangle that covered the 4 goal corners. Would be simpler than tapping each corner but after mentioning that to the DribbleUp team it sounds like they’re working on a solution that would be even easier. However, for the time you tap each corner of the goal to let the app know what area you’re shooting at.
One thing I didn’t realize until after we were done is that I tapped the bottom right corner a little too high. I’ll talk a little later on about how that impacted the shooting game but make sure you get each corner in in the right spot.
After the app knows where the goal is you’re finished with that device, it’ll stay behind the goal the entire time and track the shots.
Contest Device Setup
At this point you need a 2nd device with the Dribble Up app that’s your view into how the game is going, we used a newer iPhone for the tracking (iPhone 8) and an older iPhone (iPhone 5S) for the display. Always use the newer model device for tracking since they have a faster processor and better camera. You’re supposed to be able to use a combination of Android and iOS devices with shooting but we haven’t tested that so we don’t know what the experience is like.
Open the DribbleUp app on the 2nd device and the home screen of you’ll see a green ribbon at the top that says something like “Shot Tracking Device Found – Tap to Connect”. Once you tap the ribbon it’ll open a setup dialog, as you can see in the photo.
This is where you tell the app whether you’re working on your shooting by yourself or doing a shooting contest by choosing 1 or 2 players.
You can also tell the app how many shots you want to take. If you’re shooting on your own probably just pick Unlimited so you can keep shooting as long as you want. If you’re doing a contest you can choose between 3, 5, or 10 shots.
Right now only 2 players can compete at once, I imagine as they build out the game you’ll be able to add additional players. The Dribble Up user shoots first followed by a “Guest” player. It would also be cool if multiple players that had Dribble Up handles could all join the same game.
Dribble Up Shooting Game
Once the setup is complete you’re ready to start shooting. As I mentioned, it takes a bit the first time you go through it but it’s simpler in the future once you’re familiar with it.
Shot Accuracy & Scoring Points
Once you enter in the number of players and the number of shots you’re shown a virtual view of your goal in the app. They divide the goal into 18 different zones and assign a point value for each one depending on how valuable a shot placed in that zone would be.
For example, the highest values are 500 points, both upper 90 corners. To the side and bottom of the upper 90 are zones worth 250. Basically the harder it would be for a keeper to save the shot based on where you place it, the more points you get for it.
The other sections are worth 150, 100, and 25 points. The value gets lower for sections that should be an easy save for the goalie.
Dribble Up Shootout
This view is from the middle of a 3 shot match between GoldenTouch and a Guest player. As you can see Golden Touch is winning, 375 – 350 points, but he’s already taken all 3 of his shots and the Guest player still has one left. So all the Guest needs to do at this point is hit the goal and they’ll win.
After each player takes a shot the app dings and shows where it landed and how many points they player earned for it. When it worked the shot tracking was pretty sweet but we did run into two issues as we went through the game.
Earlier I mentioned that I had slightly misplaced the bottom right corner of the goal when setting up the tracking. That meant that shots to the bottom right corner of the goal weren’t registered. It made sense after figuring that out when we were finished but was a head scratcher in the middle of the game. So if you have shots that aren’t being picked up at all it could be that you didn’t set up your corners of the goal properly on the tracking device.
The other issue we ran into was with the Bluetooth connection between the tracking device and the viewing device. At one point it lost connection and we had to start the game over again. My son was happy because he was losing the but other player who was ahead wasn’t happy about it. Our viewing device was an older iPhone, an iPhone 5, so not sure if that had something to do with it. When we first started we chose a 10 shot game and were 6 shots in when the connection dropped.
So when we restarted the game we only choose a 5 shot game so we’d be sure to get a winner in case the connection dropped again.
The two shooters were 11 and 20, you can guess which one had the harder shot. The 20 year old shots registered right away every time but once or twice the 11 year old shot’s didn’t register immediately. In those cases the points weren’t awarded for 10-15 seconds after the shot. We didn’t know exactly what was happening in those cases so we just waited for a bit until the shot finally registered and the next player could shoot.
At one point it kind of reminded me of watching an episode of the EA Sports FIFA Live Challenge, pretty neat. When all the tracking was registering it was fun watching the players go back and forth with their shots with the appropriate amount of trash talking in between.
Shooting App Suggestions
After trying out the shooting feature we sent over a few suggestions to the team at Dribble Up.
1) Add a Miss Button
During the second round my son put the ball totally over the goal so it didn’t register at all and the “guest” player couldn’t shoot because the app still thought it was my son’s turn. So he shot again and hit the bottom right post which didn’t register, probably because I messed up the setup as I mentioned earlier.
Finally he took a third shot and put it on goal. Of course the other player was quick to point out that he’d gotten 3 tries to earn points when in reality he should have earned zero points for that shot. It would be nice if there was a “Miss” button so we could indicate a total miss and advance the turn on to the next player.
I imagine at some point the Dribble Up app will be able to register a total miss by itself but until then a “Shank” button would be a nice feature.
2) Allow Game Resume
After we lost connection to the tracking device from the viewing device and reconnected it would have been a lot better if we could have picked up the game where it left off rather than having to restart.
3) Allow Additional Players
It was fun to watch the two players in their shoot out but it would have been more fun if I could have jumped into the contest as well. I’m sure they have plans for this eventually but it’ll be nice when we can have more than just 2 players in a shooting contest. Would also be cool if multiple Dribble Up handles could join a shoot out rather than just 1 Dribble Up user and multiple guests.
4) Game Start Indicator
This one is pretty small but after you finish setting up your game in the app there’s nothing to let you know that you’re done and that the first shooter should start. Some kind of indicator to start the game would be good I think. Perhaps some kind of visual or audio signal to let the next shooter know to go would be helpful.
5) Record the Shot Data
After we were done playing when we stopped the tracking device you could see all the places on the screen where shots had gone. Not sure if that data is saved anywhere but right now there’s no way to see a history of your shot placement. Would be nice to see a history of games and also where your shots ended up.
Although it has some bugs the shooting feature is pretty slick and I can see us having lots of fun with it on the backyard goal. It’ll be a neat way to create some friendly competition when we’re working on shooting and eventually have a history of shot placement.
The first time you set it up will take the longest as you go through the steps and understand how it all works together. You do need two devices which could be an issue if you only have 1 phone or tablet. I am glad they set it up to use 2 devices because it wouldn’t really have been convenient to have someone running back behind the goal to look at the contest status.
From what they’ve said you can connect across different types of devices, like Android and iOS but we haven’t tried that yet. I’m glad they used Bluetooth rather than requiring an internet connection to have the 2 devices communicate because a lot people don’t have a connection available at the soccer field.
I can see the shooting app have a functional use in additional to just creating some fun competition. If you set it in single player mode you can certainly use the app to track your shots and work on your shot placement. The app won’t lie to you, you’ll know if you’re putting the ball in the best spots and be able to see if you can do it more consistently.
Unless you’re working on your free kicks or penalty kicks I wouldn’t practice shooting a dead ball. How many chances do you get in a game to shoot a ball sitting still in front of the goal? Good to take a setup touch first before you take your shot to help you train like you play. That being said, it never hurts to practice placing your penalty kicks. I’ve already seen many youth games where simple PK’s are sent wide, over the crossbar, or right at the goalie.
Coaches don’t often work on penalty kicks at practice since there are so many other important technical and tactical topics to cover during the relatively short period of time you’re with the coach. However, if you can make the time at home to train your shot then you’ll give your team a boost the next time they run into a PK situation. When the coach asks who’s up for the pressure of the PK it’ll be easier to step up and face down the goalie.
Overall it’s a cool addition to the juggling and footwork in the Dribble Up app and once they implement some version of the suggested improvements it’ll be even better.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
-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.
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.
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.
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.
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. [Update: Dribble Up ran a live competition with the shooting feature at a tournament last weekend and will release the feature in the next week or two]
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com . Here are some pics of the 1000 Touches playlist in action.
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.
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.
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.