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Dribble Up Soccer Shooting App Review

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.

Goal Alignment

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.

Device Connection

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.

Summary

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.

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Do Dribble Up Soccer Drills Help in a Game?

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

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

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

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

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

Left foot Half Spin

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

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

Right Foot Roll Tap

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

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

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

Right Foot Inside Outside

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

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

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

One & Two Touch Passes

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

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

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

V Taps

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

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

 

Soccer Drills vs Live Game

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

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

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Dribble Up 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