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Dribble Up Soccer Ball Coaches Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shared Team Dribble Up Ball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dribble Up Team Set

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dribble Up Trainer

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

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

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

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

 

How to Use the Coaches Dashboard

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

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

  • Teams
  • Players
  • Playlists
  • Homework

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

Dribble Up Teams

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

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

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

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

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

Dribble Up Players

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions

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

Dribble Up Playlists

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

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

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

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

Dribble Up Drills

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

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

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

Playlist Tips

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

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

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

Suggestions

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

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

Sample Playlists

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

Futsal King

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

Turns

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

Dribble Up Homework

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

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

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

Assigning Homework

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

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

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

Suggestions

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

How to Get Started With Dribble Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Dribble Up Soccer Ball Playlist Tips

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

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

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

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

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

So we changed our approach and created multiple playlists:

  • Mini Messi
  • Messi
  • Super Messi

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

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

  • Mini Ronaldo
  • Ronaldo
  • Super Ronaldo

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10) Teach Players How to Use the App

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

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

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

Happy Dribbling!

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Dribble Up Smart Soccer Ball Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dribble Up Success

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

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

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

Happy Dribbling!

 

DribbleUp Smart Soccer Ball

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DribbleUp Smart Soccer Ball Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5) Train with Bumpers

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Dribbling!

 

DribbleUp Smart Soccer Ball

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Dribble Up Coupon for Your Club Map

Find Dribble Up coupon codes for soccer clubs or organizations that have players who use the smart ball for training. Some clubs use the ball for the whole team and others have players who train with it on their own to get ahead. You can check here for your club promo code - Size 4 | Size 5 .

You can enter your club’s name below to see if a dribble up coupon code exists for your club. You can also include your team name or coach to see if your team has a dribble up team account, that’s optional – not necessary.

So, for example, you could mention just your club “Southern Soccer Academy”. Or you could say “Southern Soccer Academy – U12 boys”.

Be sure to also include your email address in the field below it so we can send you your discount code.



Who Uses Dribble Up?

After most orders we have a conversation with the family to learn more about the player(s) who will be using the smart ball and the soccer club or organization(s) that they play for.

We’ve noticed several things that the players have in common.

1) Multiple Soccer Teams
Many of the youth players are playing on multiple teams. Whether it’s their high school team, club team, rec team, ODP team – many kids play for more than one team. Overall these players really love the game and just want to get in as many chances to play as possible.

Some players on the very top level teams that participate in the Development Academy ( DA ) or Elite Clubs National League ( ECNL ) only play for that one club but are very committed to their club’s intense training schedule.

2) Enjoy Skills Training
Another common thread is that these players can spend hours training away from team practice. It’s not just time specifically spent on foot skills, one dad said his daughter has a size 1 ball that’s always at her feet. As she’s brushing her teeth in the morning or evening she’s juggling or passing off the wall.

Another mom said her son just “plays soccer nonstop”. Of course it makes sense that these kids would enjoy the Dribble Up ball, they’re passionate about the game/training and the smart ball gives them another way to do that.

3) Ball Envy
Most families who come looking for a smart soccer ball have either used one or been told about one. Some folks start off looking for the Adidas miCoach smart ball and end up getting a Dribble Up because of the price difference but most of them either tried out or had DribbleUp specifically recommended to them by other players or by coaches.

For example, one dad said that a local college uses the the ball to help develop their players individually and someone on the coaching staff recommended it for his daughter.

We lent one of ours out to a friend and haven’t gotten it back yet. We’re hoping once they get their own smart ball it’ll show up again, it’s definitely addicting!

4) Supportive & Curious Parents
Often times parents who buy a smart ball are in some role of leadership within a soccer club. Whether it’s as a team manager, a coach, registrar, director of coaching, or technical director many times they’ll also have a kid in the club and they’re testing out the smart ball.

This is encouraging for those clubs because it shows that folks who have a role in the future of the club are interested in trying out new methods to help their players develop.

Dribble Up Clubs

Below is a map of all the soccer clubs or organizations who have players that are using the smart soccer ball. If your club isn’t represented and should be let us know. You can click on the soccer player icon to see more info about each club. One thing you’ll notice is that many of the clubs are in the Midwest where we’re located. There are teams on both the East Coast and West Coast but the Midwest is definitely ahead in the number of Dribble Up players.

Why are we interested in what players are using the ball and which clubs they play for? As we mentioned earlier it’s encouraging when club leaders are looking for new approaches to help develop their players.

However, we don’t think it’s solely the job of the club and coach to develop soccer players. Just like teachers in school hope and expect that parents will be involved in encouraging their kids to read and learn at home – coaches appreciate and expect when their players put in the work to get better outside of team training.

Setting an Example

Just the other night at the end of training we shared with our U12 players that we could tell which kids are doing work outside of practice. Those players are not only making themselves better technically but also making the team better because their better touch and comfort with the ball gives them more time to make tactical decisions. It also accelerates the learning process at training because they’re able to more easily pick up and execute the new skills we’re teaching.

We don’t think players need to rely only on their coach and club to help them improve.  Clubs that have kids that are motivated to get better on their own help make those clubs better and to contribute towards creating a culture of hard work and development. That’s why we’re interested in which clubs have players using training tools like Dribble Up.

Here’s a list of clubs by region

  • Mid-West
    • SC Waukesha
    • Sun Prairie Soccer
    • Nationals Tri-County
    • Sporting Lees Summit
    • Minneapolis United
    • Sporting Springfield
    • Lakeview High School
    • St. Charles Youth Soccer
    • Michigan WolveHawks
    • Michigan Jags
    • CUSA Crew
    • Midland Soccer Club
    • Vardar Soccer Club
    • KC Scott Ghallager
    • South Suburban Soccer Assn
    • Piper Soccer Club
    • Prior Lake Soccer Club
  • South
    • South Carolina United FC
    • Brevard SA
    • Cape Coral Soccer Association
    • United Futbol Academy
    • Houston Dynamo Academy
    • Southern Soccer Academy
    • James Island Youth Soccer
  • East
    • Howell Soccer Club
    • East Hampton Soccer Club
    • Western New York Flash Academy
    • Global Premier Soccer Rhode Island
    • Cedar Stars Academy
    • Torpedoes Soccer Club
  • West
    • Spokane Scotties
    • Maple Valley Premier League
    • Valley Center Hurricanes
    • LA Galaxy South Bay
    • Heat FC
    • Inland Empire Surf Soccer Club

DribbleUp Smart Soccer Ball Package

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DribbleUp Smart Soccer Ball Users Guide

When we first bought the DribbleUp smart ball the team told us we didn’t need any instructions or a manual, installing and using the app was simple – but if we had questions to let them know.

The DribbleUp app was simple to use and we started training with it the afternoon we opened the box. However, many of you who purchased a smart ball from our store have asked for installation and setup instructions so here is the DribbleUp users guide.

If you don’t yet have a smart ball and would like to try one out we have both size 4 and size 5 that we can ship out right away, you can return it if the ball doesn’t meet your training needs – click here to Dribble Up.

For new developments on the smart ball, tips on using it for training, and Dribble Up coupons enter your email below:

1) Download the Free DribbleUp App

iPhone / iPad App

You can download the DribbleUp app on newer generations of an iPad or an iPhone.  I tested it on my wife’s iPhone 5 and it ran great, anything older than that and you could start running into a laggy experience when doing the drills.  It’s a sophisticated tracking application that requires a lot of processing and optical tracking so your experience won’t be as good on older phones. That goes for both iPhone and Android devices.

Obviously the benefit of running the app on your iPad is that you have a bigger viewing area when you’re training but then it’s not quite as portable as your phone. Luckily you don’t have to choose, you can install the app on both your iPhone and your iPad and use it on the device that suits your situation. You’ll need an additional stand for a tablet that doesn’t come with the DribbleUp ball but you can find them on Amazon.

If you do a search in the Apple App store you’ll see two listings, one for basketball and one for soccer.  Here’s a link to the soccer version in the App Store – Dribble Up App iOS

Here’s the link to the Android version in the Google play store. You can run the app on both Android phones and Android tablets (although the Amazon Fire is based on Android the processor isn’t strong enough to run the tracking app) – DribbleUp App Android

2) Create Your DribbleUp User Account

When you first open the app you’ll be taken to a sign in screen that will have link to the Sign Up screen if you’re new user. They don’t require much information – just Username and Password.

Name – Your Name isn’t shown in the app, I assume it’s used for customer service purposes or perhaps will show in later versions.

Username – Your Username is what will display on the leaderboard so choose it carefully.

If you’re signing up as part of a team your coach may have a certain format that they want you to use. It’s not possible right now but I can see in the future DribbleUp giving you the option to publish your profile online for other players or coaches to see. So imagine yourself someday sending a link to your DribbleUp profile to a college coach and what they might think of the username you chose.

If you have multiple people using the DribbleUp ball you can create a different account with a different user name for each of them. We have a different account for each of our kids and once you setup the accounts you can switch between them in the app.

Email – Your email isn’t used in the app, only if DribbleUp needs to contact you.

Password – Once you create your password you probably won’t need it again for a while since the app remembers you. If you do forget it there’s a Forgot Password option.

3) Assemble Phone Stand

The phone stand ships as two pieces to avoid any damage en route.  Assembling the stand is pretty simple, screw the bottom tripod into the top phone holder.  The legs of the tripod telescope out to get your phone higher off the ground and to give it a better angle to track the ball from.

If you need a tablet stand you can use the same base and simply order a top section that holds a tablet.

4) Slide in Android or iPhone

Pull up on the top section of the phone holder, slip your phone into the holder, and let the top slide back down and hold your phone tight.

Be sure to position your phone far enough to the right so that the stand doesn’t press on any of the buttons on the side of your phone.

We’ve found it helps to angle the phone downwards a bit once it’s in, point it slightly towards the floor. Something else to be aware of is that a bright light in the background behind the ball can throw off it’s tracking. For example, if you’re inside and there’s a bright lamp behind you it can cause issues with the upcoming scan step.

5) Open the DribbleUp App

You’ll see something that looks like the picture below. To get started, tap the “Daily Workout” tile to see any homework assigned to you via our virtual skills team, by your coach, or through the Dribble Up daily skills.

The default playlists from DU Everyday will have simple 2 minute playlists with 3 or 4 drills each. If you’re part of our virtual skills team there will be a variety of playlists. The playlists listed first will be the longest and most complex, the farther you go down the list the shorter and simpler they get. For instructions on how to access those playlists read about the Soccer Stripes Squad.

Below the “Daily Workout” tile you’ll see a tile called “Ball Control”. Tapping on that tile will take you to the library of workouts that DribbleUp has built. The drills are organized in order of simplest to more complex labeled – Novice, Rising Star, Pro, First Team, Elite, MVP, World Class.

The first time you open the app or click on a playlist you’ll probably see a dialog that says “Setup your first program”, go ahead and click the green “Setup” button. This will download some of the videos and playlists to your smart ball app so that you can use the app to work on the soccer drills even when you’re not on the network or on wi-fi.

6) Soccer Drill Prep

A good way to get started before jumping right into one of the workouts is to tap the “Ball Control” icon and choose one of the soccer drills from the library like Foundations or Sole Flicks.

Once you tap on a drill it will show you a preview video of the drill. The app shows you the trainer doing the foot skill and then zooms in and shows you a slo-mo shot of the drill so you can see how it works. Once you’re familiar with the move you can tap the green “Start” button and it’ll ask you to scan the ball as we showed you above.

This is a nice way to start because it’s only 1 drill and gets you used to the Dribble Up app and how it tracks the ball. There’s no time pressure of moving onto the next drill, you can keep playing with the same drill again until you’re comfortable with it and have the hang of how the smart ball app works.

Here is an example of the trainer demonstrating one of the drills for you.

 

Once you’re comfortable with the moves in the playlist you’re ready to press the Start button.

7) Start the Playlist

Once you press the green Start button you’ll see this screen, asking you to scan the DribbleUp ball. Drop your ball on the floor and roll it with your foot so it shows up inside the circle on the screen and once the ball is scanned the playlist will begin.

You’ll know right away if the scan didn’t work because the virtual cones that show on the screen will be red.  Typically the virtual cones are green and only turn red if you go outside of them.

If the cones are red immediately, tap the screen again and you’ll be given the option to either Quit or Resume.  Choose the Quit option – then press the Start button and scan your ball again.  If you’re consistently getting red cones make sure you don’t have a bright light source behind you that’s confusing the app.

Each drill will show you a video demo and then give you a few seconds to get ready before it starts a timer.  When the timer begins that means the app has started grading your skills.

7) Review Your Performance

After you’ve completed the playlist the app shows you a score of how you did on each drill. The drills are graded on four different aspects:

 

Speed – Execute as quickly as possible while keeping control

Cone Control – Keep the cones green

Consistency – Each touch should take the same length & time

Pattern – Match the pattern of touches for the drill.

You can tap the screen to read more about your score for each one of those areas.

Player Progress

DribbleUp also has a Progress tile that shows a history of all the skills sessions you’ve gone through. This is a great measure of technical development because players can see their progress over time. Ideally they’ll see themselves getting higher scores if they consistently use the app to train those same playlists.

At some point when they move up to the next level of difficulty it’s likely the scores will dip again as they work to master the additional attention to detail.

 

Awards & Leaderboard 

One of the ways that Dribble Up motivates players to train harder is via the Rewards tile which unlocks different awards as you progress through your skills training. You reach different levels by earning points. It has multiple Levels such as “Rising Star”, “Going Pro”, “First Cut”, “MVP”, “Corner Kick”, “Gold Star”, “Pitch Legend”, etc.

Some of the levels will turn the ball tracker a different color (purple, green, yellow, orange, red), which is a neat visual way to show progress. As you train more your ball tracker will change colors as you move up the Levels.

Another common motivational tool that has proven successful in many sports is the Leaderboard. As you can see in this graphic you access it from the main screen by tapping the Leaderboards tile. This view compares you to other players using DribbleUp and has been particularly effective in getting my kids to consistently train with the app. There’s something about a player list and where you rank that keeps you coming back into the app and wanting to move up higher relative to the other players.  Of course the only way you can do that is to train more!

Everyone sees the Global leaderboard but if you’re a part of one or more virtual teams, like our Soccer Stripes Squad, you’ll see multiple leaderboards and your rank on each one. The leaderboard has two different views, you can see where you stand for the current week and also “All-Time”.

So if you’ve logged hundreds of hours with Dribble Up since you downloaded the smart ball app you might rank pretty high on the “All-Time” leaderboard but if you’ve had a busy week and haven’t done much training you could be towards the bottom of the weekly leaderboard.

Juggling & Shooting

The Ball Control feature is probably the most used feature of the smart ball app. The library of drills is pretty big and the combination of playlists of drills can keep players improving for a  long time on their footwork with a variety of different drills each day or week.

However, many users waited eagerly for the Shooting and Juggling features when the app first came out and we’re happy to say now that they’re both available.

As you can see here you can access both Shooting and Juggling from the main screen by tapping on their respective tiles. The Juggling tile tracks how many consecutive juggles you’re able to successfully string together. The juggle counter only counts touches that are below the knees so this method requires more control. We did a juggling app review and also offer some tips on how you can start off simply and get better at juggling over time.

The Dribble Up shooting app feature requires more setup and on that page we go into detail on how to set up and use the shooting functionality. It’s a fun way to compete against your family or teammates and also a good way to get more consistent about the placement of the ball when you shoot.

DribbleUp Support

If you have issues with a ball itself let us know and we’ll get you a replacement. If you have a problem using the ball email us and we’ll help you work through it.

If you have a problem with the app report it to the DribbleUp team. We had a strange bug in beta mode where the Slap Cut Squirt drill set our kids points back to zero. Needless to say they weren’t very pleased but the Dribble Up team got the bug fixed right away and corrected the whole issue quickly. So if you find a bug in the app the team will fix it right away.

If you have feature requests can also submit those to the DribbleUp team but those aren’t guaranteed to be made. The developers of the app are eager to improve the experience but I had a few suggestions that weren’t implemented because they solved the problem we were encountering in a different way than suggested. So if you have recommendations or enhancement requests please pass them to the DribbleUp team for consideration.

If you have any other questions that aren’t addressed here please leave a comment below or send us an email to support@soccerstripes.com

 

DribbleUp Smart Soccer Ball Package

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DribbleUp Makes Your Kids Want to Practice More?

If a professional soccer player told your kid to work on their weak foot, would they do it? One lucky Tuesday night in September a few years back we skipped out of practice a bit early for an autograph session with MLS defender Chance Myers. His tip to my son, “work on your weak foot”.

Myers went on to play in 27 games that season for Sporting Kansas City. He started and played all game for each of the five playoff matches and put away his PK in the MLS Cup final against RSL to help Sporting KC win the MLS cup. So you’d think a kid would listen to advice from a player like that…

Getting a kid to work on their weak foot isn’t easy. Like many fundamental skills in sports it takes a lot of repetition to fine tune. As soccer legend Dennis Bergkamp describes in his “Stillness and Speed” book some 8 year olds enjoy that repetition of just working on their touch – but who are we kidding, most kids aren’t Dennis Bergkamp.

Those regular repeated touches are so important to building technical skills but for a lot of players they just aren’t much fun and the whole point of playing soccer when you’re a kid is to have fun.

Making Training a Game

In general youth players enjoy playing in a game over simply doing technical work. The ability to make technical training feel like a game makes it a lot easier to get kids to work on those fundamentals.  That’s why our experiments with the DribbleUp smart soccer ball have been so encouraging – our kids don’t even blink when the Left Foot Circuit or Left Foot Advanced playlist comes up on the screen!

This latest session of DribbleUp took the game element to a new level.  The iPhone mirroring cable that I mentioned in the last post arrived and turned the footskills training into a night of family fun! As you can see from the picture, even the family dog got involved.

 

Obviously we shooed the dog away but the reason she was hanging around was that all my kids were in the living room doing DribbleUp. My two oldest would take turns hopping in and out of the playlists and the youngest just liked to be in the background so she could watch herself on TV.

It reminded me quite a bit of the scene when our kids play Wii sports – all huddled around the TV giving words of encouragement and waiting for their chance to jump in. We spent quite a while with the smart ball that night because the app kept the kids wanting more:

  • Unlocking Drills
  • Completing Homework
  • Earning Points
  • Earning Badges
  • Advancing on the Leaderboard

These were all things that kept the kids wanting to play for “just 5 more minutes”. As you can see in the pictures as they advanced up the levels the color of the ball tracker changes.

It starts off blue and once you get to the next level it turns purple. If you want green you have to earn enough points to level up.

Every time we’d advance to the next level a collective cheer would come from all the kids, pretty funny.

Leaderboard

Adding the element of competition can be a good way to motivate people to work harder and it seems to work well for DribbleUp. My kids love checking the leaderboard to see how they were doing in relation to other players were training with the smart ball.

I’m not exactly sure what the logic is for positioning players on the leaderboard because you’ll see people with lower levels above users with higher achievement levels. It seems there’s some weight added for recent training which seems to make sense in terms of encouraging players to use it more often.

As you can see in the screenshot the user ttillette is on Level 16 but perhaps hasn’t used the app in a while so Soccer_Stripes user appears higher on the leaderboard. Once more players start using the smart ball and moving up the achievement levels I imagine the player ranking will make more sense. I honestly don’t care too much about the algorithm b/c what matters isn’t actually your spot on the list but that the leaderboard motivates my kids to work harder. The one thing to be careful of for the DribbleUp app is making the ranking rules too hard to understand because that could discourage players who don’t understand why they’re not moving up the leaderboard despite working hard at training.

 

Leveling Up

The app has a series of levels you can achieve based on how many points you earn from going through a playlist.  The number of points you earn is based on how well you perform your skills. As I mentioned before, each Playlist is broken down into multiple skills like “Side Taps”, “Ball Steps”, “Sole Flicks”, etc.

After you finish the playlist you’re given a score for how you performed each skill, A-F.  It’s actually been tough for my kids to get a high score. I talked to the folks at DribbleUp and the scoring right now is based on how a professional player would execute the move. This obviously makes it tough for a 9 year old to get an A because they won’t have the same technical expertise as a pro player. The plan is to add a multiple levels (like Easy, Medium, Hard) so a player can be tested based on their current level.

As you can see the number of points you earn is based on your overall playlist score. In this case they got a C which earned them 261 points.  We did have the bad luck of running into a bug with the Slapcut Squirt drill that earned us Negative Infinity points.  As you would expect that zeroed out their points so they were back to level 1. Needless to say they went to bed quite unhappy that night. Luckily they’ve gotten that bug fixed since then.

As you get more points and move up the levels you unlock Badges in the Awards section of the app. My son really like that part of it but so far it seems like it’s too easy to unlock levels. He was able to move from Level 2 to Level 6 in one night of training.

Granted we did spend quite a bit of time doing DribbleUp last night, probably more than the average user would spend in a typical footskills session.  It is cool how the color of the tracker changes as you move up levels, just a visual indication that you’re making progress.

It could be that the higher in levels you go, the more points you need to advance to the next level.  I haven’t really paid attention to that but it would make sense that the difficulty would increase as you move up. I do like the point system because even if you don’t get an A on a playlist you still get some credit for working at it.

Frustrations

Our biggest complaint about the app is still that the tracking isn’t perfect. I talked to the DribbleUp team after our last session and they pointed out that the lighting can play a part in difficulties in tracking.

If you have a bright light in the background it can throw off the tracking so it’s not consistent. The majority of our time spent using the app has been inside and we do have a lamp in the background which could be causing some of our frustrations. You can usually tell if it’s going to be an issue for a playlist immediately after you scan the ball. If the virtual cones are quick to jump from green to red, or if they start red then you know the scan had an issue.

We learned that if you tap the screen there’s an option to Pause or Quit the playlist. So whenever we saw red cones right away we’d quit and re-scan the ball.

Other than that, the app has been fantastic! As we use it I’ve been sending notes to the team at DribbleUp and it’s been neat to see our feature suggestions and bug fixes start popping up in the app.

As the chill of winter approaches and Daylight Savings Time gets closer to stealing our light in the evenings after school I really think DribbleUp will got a lot of use in the cold winter months.

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How the DribbleUp Smart Soccer Ball Wrecked My Kids Bedtime

Once upon a time there was a kid who didn’t like going to bed….

I’m sure you’ve never been a part of that story before right? As if my kids needed another excuse not to go to bed, our DribbleUp smart ball came in the mail today.

Sleep or Soccer?

Finishing up our nightly pre-bedtime reading ritual my son asked “Can we tryout that new ball, just real quick”?  Normally, “wait till tomorrow” would have been the answer but we’d been waiting to get the smart ball for a while and I was just as curious as him to see how it worked. It was just sitting there in the box, waiting to be tested. A tantalizing mix of soccer and technology, the siren song couldn’t be ignored.

Earlier in the evening, I’d gotten the TestFlight invite from the team at DribbleUp. The smart ball app was still in development and wasn’t in the App Store yet so we needed a special invite to access the drills.  As you can see in the pic the camera on my old and busted iPhone 5 was in no shape for any augmented reality app so I’d installed DribbleUp on my wife’s phone.

While I snuck downstairs to grab her phone as she graded papers my son unboxed the DribbleUp ball and we met back upstairs to login to the app and get the phone setup in the stand.

Soccer Drills

I guess being a studious kid, he picked the “Homework” tile first after opening the app and went to work on the “Right Foot Circuit” playlist. That playlist consisted of 5 different footwork drills, each 20 seconds long:

  • Right Foot Side to Side Rolls
  • Right Foot Outside Inside
  • Right Foot Roll Tap
  • Right Foot Front Back Rolls
  • Foot Stalls Right Foot

Each one had a text description but more importantly a video that described the drill and also demonstrated it. I was taking mental notes as we used the smart ball for the first time and sent off an email later on with some of my suggestions. One of them was that the preview video have the ability to “loop” so the user can watch the skill and practice it until they get it.

Now it shows the video once and you have to tap it to watch it again. While you’re learning the skill it would be nice if it repeated the video demonstration until the player got it down. Not a big deal for the basic footwork but would be helpful for the more advanced ones.

Smart Ball Tracking

When we tapped the Start button for a playlist we were prompted to scan in the smart ball. I talked a little bit about that step in other posts but basically the ball tracking is done with augmented reality tracking of the surface of the ball rather than other smart balls that have a sensor inside the ball.

So you hold the ball up in front of the camera and position it into the circle you see on the screen and the app reads the ball, kind of like a QR code for a soccer ball it seems. Once the scan is successful it gives you some time to get ready and then starts the timing/tracking of the skill.

Virtual Trainer

Once we chose the playlist and scanned the ball the first skill drill in the playlist begins. The video showed the trainer doing the skill and then the timer starts. Right away some up tempo music kicked off, which at first surprised me as being odd but as we continued through the night it grew on me.  Almost like a mental cue that you’re in training mode.

Kind of funny to imagine our U12 boys doing the 1000 touches warmup at practice to music and switching to a different foot skill every time the song changed.  But in the context of the app, I like the music.

As you can see in the picture, the app superimposes two cones on the screen that you need to stay between as you do the footwork.  The cones start off green but turn red if the ball “hits” or passes the virtual markers. (Apologies for the fuzzy image, a product of my damaged iPhone camera. After cracking the glass, it slipped into a cup of orange juice on the way to soccer practice and the camera has never been the same since.)

The trainer gives you audio cues as you go based on your performance. I figured they were random sound bites but as the night went on it seemed they were tied to my son’s actions. I posed that to the DribbleUp team in my later email and was glad to hear that the app is giving real time feedback to how the drill is being performed:

  • “Not good enough”
  • “Needs to be better”
  • “Stay focused”
  • “Pick up the pace”

The app moves from skill to skill in the playlist with a short pause between each one. You don’t have to scan the ball between each of the skills, only at the start of your playlist.

Soccer Skill Rating

After he finished the playlist the app gave my son a rating of how he had performed for each skill.  As you can see in the screenshot it scores player skill based on 4 factors:

  • Speed
  • Cone Control
  • Consistency
  • Pattern

One thing I didn’t like is that you couldn’t drill down into each of those factors to learn more detail about how each was being measured. That’s another piece of feedback I gave – allow us to tap on each factor to learn more about it.

He moved on to the “Left Foot Circuit” followed by the “Basic Playlist” without any prompting from me. I was sitting there thinking, who is this kid – working on his left foot?

You know how your kid always seems to listen better for other adults than they do for you? Well if I tell my son to work on his left foot he kind of groans and says sure Dad.  But the Virtual Trainer in the DribbleUp app tells him to “work harder” on his “Left Foot Roll Tap” and he grits his teeth and pushes on. Wicked! I wonder if it works for Math homework too…

The “Basic Playlist” was longer:

  • Side Taps
  • Ball Steps
  • Alternate Sole Flicks (I think that’s the one they showed in the Kickstarter video)
  • Left Foot Side to Side Rolls
  • Right Foot Side to Side Rolls
  • Right Foot Outside Inside
  • Left Foot Outside Inside
  • Right Foot Roll Tap
  • Left Foot Roll Tap

 

Each for 20 seconds.  By the end of that he was a little winded and needed a break so I jumped in and tried out a Triangle Playlist.  I didn’t do so hot, scoring a D overall. My son laughed at the old man’s score until he tried it and actually did worse than I did. As we got into Playlists other than the first few listed in Homework it seemed the tracking was a little off.

That was another piece of feedback that I shared with the team. For some playlists the tracking was fine but for others it was a bit frustrating.  We shouldn’t have been getting perfect but we were definitely getting lower scores than we should have.  For example, on the “Roll Sole Sole” he was scored with -33% Speed, 89% cone control, 10% consistency, and 0% pattern even after doing it several times and improving as he went. I let them know which playlists were buggy so hopefully those will get fixed.

Bedtime

There are a lot of drills and playlists and we might have been up all night if my wife hadn’t finally come looking for her iPhone. I should have known “real quick” would turn into “much later”. She wasn’t happy he was up so late – and “what was he doing playing soccer inside”? Of course he said it was my idea and I blamed it on him for being so eager to try it and that ended our first night of DribbleUp.

DribbleUp Pros

  • Gets him in the habit of keeping his head up. Instead of looking down at the ball, he’s looking at the screen while doing the footwork. Of course you won’t have a screen on the field but I like the habit of not looking at the ball.
  • Virtual cones force him to work in a tight space.  Like the cone setups for Beast Mode soccer – not as in depth but enforcing constraints that help improve precision in touch.
  • Big library of drills and playlists to keep it fresh and challenging.
  • Interested in the ability to have homework drills

DribbleUp Cons

  • Buggy tracking for some playlists. I’m sending the buggy ones off so hopefully those will get fixed.
  • Fixed duration. It would be nice if we could adjust how long the playlists and drills ran for.
  • Scanning between drills. Seems like Playlists are the way to go, you only have to scan the ball at the start and not between each drill b/c that could get old.
  • No juggling. The Kickstarter talked about the ability to track juggles but that’s not in the app. Hopefully that’s an upcoming feature.
iPhone HDMI TV
iPhone HDMI TV

Overall I really like how excited the app gets my son to train.  We’ll see if his enthusiasm continues over time. We haven’t looked at the “gamification” of the app yet, how you move up levels and leaderboards. I imagine my kids will be really into that if it’s well done.

Something else I noticed on the Kickstarter project was a video of a player hooking the app up and seeing it on their TV. While I was waiting for the ball to arrive I inquired with the team about how that works and they pointed me to what cables to use to make that work.  So I ordered a HDMI iPhone cable that will let me mirror the app to our TV. Excited to test out that experience when it arrives.  Overall I’d say our first test of a smart soccer ball was a success!

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How Does the DribbleUp Ball Work?

While impatiently awaiting the delivery of the smart soccer ball that we supported on Kickstarter last week I did more research on what I’m hopeful will be a pretty cool soccer innovation.

If you’ve never supported a product on Kickstarter, one of the bummers is that you have to wait several weeks for the project to get it’s funding. During that time the creators typically spread the word about their new product to help attract early adopters.

There was decent coverage of the new smart ball online but after a while the articles seemed to start repeating some of the same details:

The possibilities for the ball and training would float around in the back of my head on my jog or on my commute. I took notes of my questions as they came up and one day I finally got in touch with the folks at Dribble Up.

I sent them a pretty big list of questions so I finally ended up just getting on the phone with some of the team and learning a lot about the ball and more about the future of DribbleUp.

The DribbleUp Ball

One of the main things I was interested in was the ball itself. I was concerned I might buy an early prototype of the ball that would be quickly obsolete when they came out with a newer version. What I learned was that the ball itself wouldn’t be changing, it was the app and that would constantly be upgraded.

From what I understand, there’s a unique pattern embedded in the surface of the ball, that’s what makes it “app enabled”.  Your iOS or Android version of the Dribble Up app uses that pattern to track the ball as it moves.  That’s why you hold the ball up to be scanned before you start playing.

Adidas also has a smart ball called the miCoach Smart Soccer Ball that needs to be set on a charging station regularly and uses a Bluetooth connection.  The DribbleUp ball doesn’t need to be charged and doesn’t need Bluetooth. The augmented reality function in the app is what is used to track the ball.

The Virtual Trainer

I mentioned this app to my son after I initially saw it and one of his first questions was who the virtual trainer was. His name is Yannick Salmon, he played for Jamaica’s international youth teams and professionally in Finland.

It’s interesting the difference in my take on this versus my son’s. I think it’s great that they have a professional player doing the demos but you don’t need Messi for an app like this. The idea behind DribbleUp is to focus in on the fundamentals and to encourage technical repition. You don’t need Ronaldo showing you how to do toe-taps, what players need is a reason to do them – every day.

How Many Balls & Users?

I was also curious about the interaction between the ball and the app. Turns out you can use any DribbleUp soccer ball with the same app, it’s not like the one specific ball is paired with the app.

So if I bought a ball for my daughter and a ball for my son and one day my daughter couldn’t find hers, she could still use her brothers.

The other question I had was whether my son and daughter could each have their own DribbleUp profile on one iPhone or iPad. Neither of them are old enough to have their own phone (they would disagree) so they’ll be using my phone. Turns out they can both use the same app on my phone and just login with their individual user.

What Kind of Drills?

Another question I had was what different drills came with the app? I sent them a photo of a setup we were using for working on turns.

Basically two rebounders setup opposite each other. You play the ball off one rebounder, turn and play it off the opposite one and repeat for a period of time.

I was wondering if we could we setup the virtual cones to the location of the two rebounders? Then we could measure how long it takes the ball to go from one to the other and see how long the turns are taking. We could track the progress of the quickness of the turns over time.

It sounded like that kind of thing is a more custom case and although it might be possible at some point down the road – at first you can’t upload your own drills. The initial library of drills did seem like a good start and had a mix of basic ones and a progression up to more difficult drills.

Free Smart Ball!

I spent quite a while on the phone talking about these various aspects of the smart ball.  The call checked off a lot of questions and concerns I had about the ball and I was also impressed that the product team was willing to spend so long discussing it with me. Made me think that they were pretty committed to getting it right which I thought was a good sign.

After the call my level of excitement about the DribbleUp ball was even higher so I went into Kickstarter and changed my pledge to the BOGO offer so I could get two of the balls rather than just one.

At this point the Kickstarter is already doing well in it’s funding. It has more than its $10,000 goal pledged so it’ll be funded.  With Kickstarter, if the product doesn’t get enough backers to raise the minimum amount of money then everyone who’s contributed gets their money back and creators don’t have the capital to pursue the idea.  In this case the ball has already been created – the team is raising the money to pay for the first big product run. They still have about a week till the Kickstarter ends, now I just have to figure out if we can get our DribbleUp balls early!

 

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DribbleUp Experiment

The smart soccer ball from DribbleUp came onto my radar via Twitter today when I saw Tristan Tilllette share a video of his kids with the ball. I’m a sucker for innovative products and a soccer fan so the combination was too intriguing to pass up.

I scoured the details of the Kickstarter product page and the more I read the more exciting the idea sounded. It seems to have the potential to be a really awesome training tool and the fact that creators (Mark and Eric Forkosh) had already delivered a successful version of a smart basketball gave it more legs.

DribbleUp vs. iSoccer

We’d used iSoccer in the past as a team and with my son individually and it was helpful but a few things about it weren’t ideal. Each drill was scored differently so the kid or parent had to understand the scoring of each drill and that was very inconsistent. Basically it made it hard for a player to do it on their own since they needed someone keeping track of their performance while they did the drill. It was also self-reporting so every time you did the drill someone had to enter in the scores.

We did use iSoccer at practice and run kids through the drills off to the side to get a baseline for their technical ability at the start of the season. You could tell which kids were active on it even if they didn’t enter their scores b/c their ability to maneuver the ball in training and games improved throughout the season. At on point soccer.com offered rewards for progressing through the levels but that program was eventually discontinued and interest in the app dwindled.

Motivation to Train

The reason I was first interested in iSoccer and why DribbleUp got my attention is that some kids are driven to get better on their own like these kids:

However many kids don’t have that same level of determination and drive. If I go out with my kids they’ll play all night and work on their foot skills with me – but if I’m inside and suggest they go out and work on their turns they just give me a look and quietly disappear to play Legos or read a book.

I get it, just working on footwork isn’t particularly exciting for most players. I love when I can get my kids into a Beast Mode workout but they definitely have to be in the right mood.

Jedi Mind Tricks and Soccer

I know what things my kids need to work on to improve but I want them to have fun while doing it – that’s the challenge for many parents and coaches. Some of the best teachers design lessons that help kids learn valuable skills without even realizing it. Some of my favorite coaches come up with drills that the kids see as just fun games but they’re actually learning important fundamentals of soccer.

Finding that balance between getting them on the ball and making sure they see it as fun (not a chore) isn’t easy. That’s why I was really hopeful when I first read about DribbleUp.

Making it a Game

My kids are part of the iPad generation, they love anything that has to do with an app or a game so I had a feeling they’d take to DribbleUp right away. Not only are they mesmerized by the digital realm but they also love “earning points” so I figured the gamification of training would be right up their alley.

 

That’s why I put in my Kickstarter order, looks like I’m supporter #211.

 

Heading to bed feeling hopeful and excited!