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Dribble Up Soccer Juggling App

The Dribble Up app has 3 main ways you can improve your soccer skills: ball control, shooting, and juggling. We’ve done a soccer shooting app review so now it’s time for a look at the Dribble Up juggling feature.

You get to the juggle tracker from the main user screen of the app by clicking on the Juggling Tile. At that point it asks you to roll your Dribble Up soccer ball into the tracker to get started juggling.  That step is pretty straight forward, use your foot to move the ball into the circle on the screen to get the juggle tracker ready.

After you scan the ball you want to make sure you don’t stand too close to the device for a few reasons. The first is pretty simple, if you’re juggling really close to your phone or tablet and take a bad touch the ball could get away and knock over your device.

Another reason to stay at least a few feet back from the device is that getting the ball too close to the camera can cause it to count extra juggles, in our experience.

You’ll know once you’ve successfully scanned your ball because the juggle count shows up on your screen, starting with zero. At that point you can begin juggling and the counter goes up with your touches and the app will read out a count of how many times you’ve juggled the Dribble Up ball.

Once you lose control and the ball drops the counter goes back to zero but the app does show you the highest number of juggles you have that session and also how many juggles you need to reach the next juggling level. When you’re not juggling if you touch the screen you’ll see the option to “Finish” which will end your juggling session.

Smart Ball Juggling

Our take on the smart ball juggling training is a little different then our thoughts on the smart ball foot skills. If you’re starting to learn basic foot skills then the Dribble Up app is great for teaching your feet the right movements. However, if you’re just learning how to juggle then you probably don’t want to jump right into the app to track your juggles.

The reason for this is that it’s easier to teach your brain and foot to do a Toe Tap or Foundation than it is to keep a moving soccer ball in the air. So if you’re a beginning juggler a really great way to start to train your brain and your feet on how to juggle is the “drop and catch” trick.

You drop the ball onto your strong foot, kick it up into the air, then catch it with your hands. Then you do the same for your weak foot and then alternate back to your strong foot. See how many times you can do this in a row without letting the ball hit the ground.

Once you get to 100, then try and juggle the ball back and forth between your left and right foot without catching it. You still might not be able to keep the ball up for a long time but it’s probably a little better than when you first started.

You can continue the “drop and catch” method and challenge yourself to see how many you can get in a row without dropping. Once you feel pretty confident then you can move on to the “bounce juggle”.

Bounce Juggle

This requires more control than the drop and catch but isn’t as tricky as straight up juggling. With bounce juggling you drop the ball on your strong foot and kick it up in the air. Let it bounce once, then kick it back up into the air with your weak foot. So you’re not having to be as precise as juggling the ball the whole time in the air but now you’re adding in the practice of moving your feet and body in between each juggle to prepare yourself for the next juggle.

Count how many bounce juggles you can get in a row with the ball only bouncing once in between each juggle. Once you’ve gotten in 50 bounce juggles then try regular juggling and you’ll see you’ve gotten a little better at it.

The whole reason to progressively work on your juggling is that starting cold can be frustrating. We don’t want players getting frustrated and giving up because they’re not having success with their juggles. You can use these methods with a Dribble Up ball but don’t have the app running because the drop/catch or bounce juggling will simply confuse it.

Tracking Juggling Improvement
If you’re able to juggle a little bit and want to get better the Dribble Up ball can be a fun way to measure your progress. See how many juggles you can get with the app running and then work on the bounce juggle method described above for a while without the smart ball app. After you’ve trained for a while juggle with the app again and chances are you’ll see your score improved.

Right now it doesn’t track your juggle count over time like it does for footwork but that feature will surely come in future releases. That ability to see your training history is one of the features that a lot of players love about the smart ball and the app will be even better once it tracks your juggle history as well.

Juggle Contests
Once you’ve improved your juggling to the point that you can consistently keep the ball up over time then the app becomes a fun way to compete against your friends. Once a juggle tracking leaderboard is added the juggling feature will be a good way to run a juggle-off or a juggle-a-thon for your team or club.

Learning to Juggle

So, in summary. If you’re wanting to learn how to juggle I wouldn’t use the app to track your juggles right away because that could be frustrating. Instead use the methods described above to get comfortable with juggling and as you improve you can start using the app to challenge yourself and your friends.

Another good time to use the juggling app is when training is canceled for weather and you want to get touches on the ball but you can’t get outside. Just be sure to clear the counters and tables of fragile items before you start your juggling!

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Dribble Up Soccer Playlist

The Dribble Up soccer app really helped our kids improve their technical footwork over the summer. One of the reasons it made a difference is that they went through playlists in the smart ball app every day. Those consistent touches on the ball really helped develop their muscle memory so the motions of standard fakes and feints were more natural.

Of course it takes some discipline to do technical footwork training every day consistently in the summer. One of the questions we get from some soccer families is how do players get into the habit of regular technical training? Some kids who are really passionate about the game and about getting better will just do it on their own but of course every player is different.

How to Motivate Kids to Train Regularly?

For every one youth soccer player you know that goes out and trains on their own you probably know a few more who might need some reminding or urging to get in their regular training. We tried several things over the summer to see what could help motivate regular training. One thing that was pretty successful was our soccer skills contest but it was a lot of work to setup and run.

Dribble Up Settings

One thing that was simple but effective was the use of a song playlist to go along with their Dribble Up soccer playlist. Inside the Dribble Up app under Settings there’s sub menu called “Audio & Video Settings”. Inside that section you can toggle off the Background Music that plays while your kid is going through the drills.

The music that comes with the smart ball app is good to have when they’re going through the drills, it can get them fired up. However, something we found what works even better (at least for our daughter) is turning off the music and instead playing her own music playlist.

Over time she’s created a “pump up” playlist that she likes to listen to before games. We have it setup as a Spotify playlist and we discovered that she also really enjoys listening to it while she works on her foot skills with DribbleUp. Listening to that playlist kind of gets her “into the zone” so she doesn’t even think about the fact she’s getting in lots of reps on the ball. When she’s listening her adrenaline is pumping and the energy level is high.

Here are some of the songs on her playlist:

Party Rock Anthem – LMFAO
Better When I’m Dancin – Meghan Trainor
Confident – Demi Lovato
Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
Dark Horse – Katy Perry
The Champion – Carrie Underwood
Firework – Katy Perry
Thunder – Imagine Dragons
Fight Song – Rachel Platten
Girl on Fire – Alicia Keys
Stronger – Kelly Clarkson
Roar – Katy Perry
This is Me – Keala Settle

Obviously her playlist has a lot of “girl power” and it might not work for an 11 year old boy but that’s fine. Every kid has their own pre-game music that gets them going. If they can listen to that when they’re doing Dribble Up playlists or any other technical soccer drills at home then they’re more likely to do it.

Soccer Training Playlist

Not only is your player more likely to be motivated to work on their skills but once they get into a groove they’re probably more likely to work on it for longer because their music gets them “in the flow”. For that reason it’s good to have a longer list of songs setup, 12-14 could work well for younger kids.

Dribble Up soccer playlist

They probably won’t go through all of them each time, if they’re doing a ball workout that lasts 10 minutes and they have 12 songs that are 2-4 minutes each then they’ll only get through some each day. If you put the songs on shuffle then they’ll have a good mix of music over time. Having them play in a random order keeps it fresh and prevents them from associating a certain song with a specific part of the workout.

Over time you can create multiple playlists with different “moods”. For example this one is my daughter’s “go to” list of pump up songs but she has other playlists she can listen to depending on how she’s feeling. Music can be a powerful mental tool. Even if she doesn’t feel like training if we put one of these playlists on Alexa it can help prepare her to break out the boots.

So if you’re looking for a way to motivate your player to train more often or for longer stretches or even just to help mix up their training routine you can try putting their footskills to a playlist.

 

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Dribble Up Soccer Skills Contest Guide

The Dribble Up soccer ball, smart ball app, and the coach’s dashboard helped us run a soccer skills contest this summer during the World Cup. If you’re a parent or a coach this will be a Dribble Up review of how you can run a contest for your family or run a soccer skills contest for your team.

France vs Croatia World Cup Final

Our main goal was to get players more touches on the ball over the summer. I’ve always wanted to run a soccer skills contest like this for our team but until now there wasn’t a great way to plan, coordinate, and track the players, drills, and results. We’ll share some suggestions for Dribble Up on ways to make it better but overall it was a success and our experiment got in over 30,000 touches in 30 days!

Soccer Skills Contest Results

I’ll go into all the details of how we setup and ran the contest for other coaches that want to get their players on the ball, but I’ll be honest, it was a lot of work. It didn’t help that we were on our family vacation and then away at summer camp during most of the month-long contest, but two things made it worth the effort.

Player family feedback

1) Kids Loved the Contest
Since it was the first time running a soccer drills contest we reached out to parents during the month to see how we could make it better. We heard some useful feedback that we tried out, but the most rewarding responses were from families who were loving the contest and were in the smart ball app and on the ball every day.

Some families had siblings that were competing on the leaderboards and fighting over whose turn it was to use the Dribble Up ball. (Side Note. I was a counselor at a youth camp during one week of the contest and the only time I had to work on it was late at night once all the kids in my cabin were asleep and I could barely keep my eyes open. Every night I would ask myself if it was really worth it but reading those emails from parents kept me going!)

2) Better Ball Control
Summer is a busy time for soccer families. It’s hard to schedule regular weekly training because you’re out of town and trainers/coaches are on vacation. Plus, a lot of parents and kids want to take time off from the busy schedule of training and give their brains and bodies a break.

However, I figured putting in 5 minutes a day on ball work would be a reasonable thing to tryout. So, the test was to see if we could get consistent touches on the ball using both feet every day over the course of a month. Simple & unopposed reps using a variety of drills to get them moving the ball & their body in different ways & manipulating it with different parts of their feet.

Daily Soccer Drills

DribbleUp at Summer Camp

Turns out that we were able to get touches in every day except for one jam packed Tuesday at camp when the kids were asleep almost before their head hit the pillow. They did playlists at rest areas, hotel hallways, living rooms, patios, dorm lounges, parks, sidewalks – never once on a soccer field – but several times during half time of a World Cup match.

Dribble Up Leaderboard

One of the cool things about the smart ball is being able to go back and look at the data. Over 30 days he did 787 drills in the Dribble Up app. Although that averages to about 26 drills per day there were some really busy days where he’d only do 10 drills but then other days where he’d do 40.

For example, towards the end of the month he realized he was almost at the top of the big leaderboard so there were a few days where he hit it really hard to get up to 2nd place overall. Looking back at the data he averaged about 12 minutes a day on the ball, definitely more than the 5 minutes we were targeting. Over the 30 days he got in about 31,100 touches so over 1000 touches a day.

Foot Skills on the Soccer Field

All that training was great but the real question was whether all those reps would make a difference on the field. Our first training session of the season started off with some 4v4 play in a pretty tight space. The head coach spent time talking to the parents while the assistant coaches sat back and watched the 4v4. It’s a mix of kids that haven’t all played together before so it was a chance for them to get on the field together for the first time.

After observing about 20 minutes of play in a smaller space it was obvious the time spent on the ball had paid dividends. Since the end of the previous season both ball control and confidence on the ball had increased. That’s what you would expect and the reason that so many people buy Dribble Up but it was our first experiment to really test it out over a period of time. Thanks to our busy summer we didn’t play in any leagues or do any regular training so the only consistent touches they got on the ball were using DribbleUp.

After getting on the field after 30 days of footwork I noticed the constant process of scan, decide, play was both sharper and faster. The turns and moves were more decisive and stronger. The ability to evade pressure and then turn the ball or find a teammate meant more possession and more scoring for the “blue” team he was a part of. It was good to see the work paying off both because it made him a better player but also to know that contests like these have the potential to motivate and improve youth players around the country.

If you’re interested in doing something similar keep reading and we’ll go into detail about how to set it up and run the contest.

How to Run a Soccer Skills Contest

When you setup a contest how you design it depends on what outcome you’re trying to achieve. We wanted to get kids more touches so that’s a common thread across all the areas we’ll talk about. First we’ll go into player motivation and how holding a contest in conjunction with a soccer event can really bring it to life. Then we’ll go into more of the nitty gritty details on:

  • Offering Rewards
  • Building Playlists
  • Assigning Homework
  • Choosing Winners
  • Contest Sponsors

As you read through the details, if you have questions or suggestions you can send them to us at this email – contests@soccerstripes.com

Player Motivation

Soccer Brain
Soccer Brain

The most important factor in getting kids to put in extra work is motivation. Ideally every kid would be self-motivated and young soccer players would be in the backyard or park working on their foot skills every day on their own. Since motivation levels vary across players, a contest is a great way to get everyone fired up to train. This is true particularly when you’re talking about consistent practice.

I’d venture a guess that the percentage of kids who kick around twice a week in the backyard is much larger than the percentage of kids who are doing footwork every day of the week at home. Of course, we all know kids that are out training on their own every day…. but for every one of them how many more do we know that don’t have that same level of intense motivation to improve? A contest gives them a reason to get on the ball for the duration of the contest.

Soccer Events

Tying the duration of the contest to some real-world tournament or league can be a great way to get kids even more excited about competing. In our case we ran it in conjunction with the World Cup so there was a lot of enthusiasm to tap into after watching the best players in the world on the field using their moves.

Every day we’d give a preview or backstory about one of the matches and the name of the playlists would be pulled from the games. We used a few different approaches like focusing on famous players:

  • Mohammed Salah Stylin
  • Messi Magic
  • Debryune De Beast
  • Romelu Lukaku

Talking about soccer culture – going into some history, well known programs, team nicknames, etc.  Kind of like “soccer appreciation”

  • Ginga Football
  • Golden Boot
  • Les Bleus
  • Viking Clap
  • Die Mannschaft
  • Three Lions

As we got towards the end of the World Cup and there were fewer teams left we also talked about matchups:

  • Croatia v Denmark
  • Brazil v Belgium

Of course the World Cup is only every 4 years but you could do the same thing with the Euros, Gold Cup, or the Champions League. You could also use run a contest alongside part of the season for Bundesliga, La Liga, English Premier League,etc. It’s not quite as exciting in terms of a tournament atmosphere but lots of players know those leagues and would be another good reason to encourage players to watch more soccer.

Contest Rewards

Another way to motivate kids to compete is to offer rewards. You know best what will motivate your players in terms of a reward – you can get pretty creative when setting up your rewards structure. One thing to consider when you set up the rules for rewards is what behavior you’re trying to encourage.

We wanted to encourage a lot of touches on the ball so we setup our contest to run daily and so that every playlist you completed gave you an entry in the daily contest. The more drills a player went through the more entries they earned and the higher their chances of winning the contest for the day.

Footskills and Fortnite

We knew many kids were going to spend a part of their summer playing video games so our incentive tried to balance that with time on the ball. Our daily prize was an Xbox digital gift card that players could redeem in their video games. We also offered a PS4 version for kids that play on the PlayStation.

The idea was that players could see quick results from their efforts if they won (from a prize perspective) since they could cash in their winnings once we sent them out. Also, it was a prize that they’d want to win again so they wouldn’t slack off after winning it once. We wanted them to be motivated to be on the ball as much as possible every day. Since we were running the contest around the country it was also easier to distribute a digital prize.

Measuring Progress

The Dribble Up ball gives you a few different ways to keep track of player progress that can help you with offering rewards. If a player uses a smart ball to do their drills you can base your rewards on a variety of areas:

  • Participation
  • Drill Performance
  • Frequency
  • Difficulty
  • Improvement

Participation
The Dribble Up app actually lets you go through the drills with a regular ball and we wanted to encourage as many players to participate as possible so we gave people an entry for doing a playlist. We gave them a bonus entry for doing it with a smart ball because that way we could confirm the player actually went through it.

Drill Performance
After the player does the footwork in a playlist they’re given a score on how well they did. Typically, when a youth player does a playlist for the first time they run into at least a few drills where they have room for improvement. After they go through the drill enough times the score gradually rises if they’re working to improve.

I always tell players that rather than worry about the score, focus on the execution of the drill and the score will sort itself out. I bring this up because you could give entries based on score but it would be a lot of work to track in the current setup. We did give an extra entry if a player earned an A on a playlist. We did this because I wanted kids to think about the technique and not just rush through the footwork. Another way to handle that would be to not award entries for scores below a minimum level but I didn’t want to discourage players who were just getting started and learning the skills. When a player’s confidence is lowest is when they’re most vulnerable to stop trying based on a bad score.

Frequency
Our contest was daily so players had a chance to win every day. We didn’t put any limit on how many playlists a person could get an entry for completing so the more they did in one day the higher their chances of winning. At the time the smart ball app didn’t easily show how many days in a row you’d practiced with the ball. Since then the Dribble Up app has released an update that shows your “streak” of training days, so you could give a bonus entry for every day they keep that streak alive.

Difficulty
The Dribble Up app does have multiple levels of difficulty that it assigns to drills so you could create playlists based on difficulty levels and award more entries for higher skill levels. I’ll talk later about how we created playlists but we didn’t offer more rewards for more difficult drills. The age and skill level of players in our contest varied so we tried to assign a range of playlists to accommodate players at multiple levels of development. We didn’t want to discourage the younger players by offering the older or more skilled players a greater chance of winning.

Improvement
One of the nice things about the smart soccer ball and the app is that it keeps track of the players training data over time. In the next section we’ll look at some of those stats the contest but the ability to track the data could allow you to offer rewards or bonus entries based on improvements in drill performance, increased frequency of training, or tackling more difficult drills over time. Right now, this would be pretty manual since there’s nothing that calculates it for you in the dashboard but I really like the concept.

For purposes of development we always tell youth players not to judge themselves compared to their teammates but based on their own improvement. Running a contest that motivated them based on how they improved could have a pretty good impact. Here are some of the player stats from the contest

Player Results
Over 30 days he averaged about 12 minutes a day. This chart shows drills per day but you can see that the number each day varied based on what was going on in our summer schedule. For example, you can see the number per day drop the week we were at camp because pretty much every minute was scheduled and the only time he could get in his footwork was 10 or 11 PM once the day was done (and he was supposed to be in bed).

The cool thing was that even though he was exhausted those days he wanted to work on his foot skills because of the contest. One night we were both so tired we forgot, you can see it drop down to zero one day during the month, but 29 out of 30 is pretty good consistency.

Seems like this is a decent illustration of how if you commit to doing something regularly the end result can be good even if you don’t spend a ton of time on it each day. Of course, you don’t need a smart ball to work on your skills each day. We could just have easily stuffed his regular Adidas ball into the camp bag. The nice thing about the app and the Dribble Up ball was the accountability. On those days when he was tired and wanted to skip he couldn’t just “mark it down” that he’d done footwork – the app only gave him credit if he actually put in the work.

Total Drills Breakdown by Which Foot they Used

If you look at the trend line you can see the overall number of drills per day gradually increased over the month, I’ll talk more about that in the Playlist setup section.

This graph shows the breakdown of work on his strong foot vs his weak foot. The biggest percentage of drills involved using both feet. For example, in all these drills the player alternates feet from left to right during the drill:

  • Foundations
  • Push Outs
  • Sole Flicks
  • V Taps
  • Strong Rolls
  • Outside Inside
  • Toe Taps
  • L Pull
  • Triangle

Some drills were specific to a foot, like Right Foot Roll Tap or Right Foot Roll Chop, but they all had corresponding left foot versions and we tried to balance using both feet when creating the playlists. So overall, he strengthened both his strong and weak foot during the month. This was important for him because he likes playing in the middle of the field and really it’s good for any player to be skilled with both of their feet.

Scores Across all Drills for 30 Days

Drill Performance
The Dribble Up app gives players a score based on 4 factors – Speed, Control, Consistency, Pattern. The lowest score he earned was a C+ and many of those were ones he did with his weak foot. Even though the number of drills with both feet was pretty even he didn’t have as much control with his left. Looking back it would have been better to assign more weak foot versions of a drill to get in more practice on those. The “NA” category are drills that DribbleUp doesn’t track for performance yet, simply that they’re completed.

One thing that makes it tricky is that you’re assigning drills to a group of players so weak vs strong foot will vary depending on the group. It would be nice if Dribble Up stored the player’s weak foot in their profile and we could assign “Weak Foot” drills and “Strong Foot” drills and the app would have them do the Right or Left footed version based on their profile.

Combination Drills Tended to Have Lower Scores

Another area where he trended to lower scores was combination moves like triangles to sole fakes or triangles to L turns. That makes sense because they’re more complex and I didn’t include as many of them in the playlists so he practiced them less. Although combining moves on the field is a great way to deceive an opponent so definitely shows an area he needs work.

One suggestion for Dribble Up would be to keep track of drills that players did the worst at and let them know which ones needed the most work.

For example, after looking through the scores over the month he seemed to struggle the most with the “Outside Outside” and “Back Side Turns”. I remember hearing him complain about the “Outside Outside” a few times as he went through it, that it was tough for him. That would be a good one to focus additional work on to add comfort with that movement to his soccer toolkit.

Scores Improved Over Time

One thing we saw was an improvement in scores over time. This graph shows the breakdown of scores for the first two weeks of the month vs the 2nd two weeks and you can see a higher percentage of better scores in the second half. It makes sense because he had 2 weeks of going through those drills under his belt but it’s nice to see that the reps led to improved technique.

 

 

Creating Playlists

Creating Playlists in the Dashboard

Building the playlists took a while at first because I tried to design them using a progression of similar footwork. Kind of like you might design a training session to focus on one specific area and not be a hodge podge of skills the goal was to make playlists that were composed of related moves.

For example, one playlist might have drills that involved using the sole of the feet. When I created the “La Furia Roja” playlist it included drills that worked on changing direction and turning with the ball. After the first week and a half of creating playlists it got easier because I was able to start re-using some of them or making a copy and tweaking them slightly.

Gradually Longer Playlists

The coach’s dashboard makes it pretty easy to clone a playlist and change it, one thing that would be nice would be the ability to categorize similar playlists so if you had several that were variations on each other you could group them together on the back end. That way when you’re assigning homework it would be easier to know more about a playlist you created several weeks back.

One thing we touched on some already was that as the contest went on I created longer and longer playlists. We started out in the beginning with 8 or 9 drills in a playlist and as the days went by we gradually added drills. As you can see here towards the end of the contest we had playlists of 14-15 drills.

Assigning Homework

During the contest we assigned multiple playlists each day. The way homework assignments work now isn’t perfect because you can only assign playlists for one week at a time. It would be nice if you could assign multiple weeks out. The current setup makes it more challenging to plan a multi-week contest or for a coach to plan a few weeks of foot skills training. We still used the Homework for the contest, it was just a little more work.

Each day when the player opened their app and tapped Daily Workout it showed them the playlists available for the day. We started off with just assigning one playlist and the player could go through it as many times as they wanted. Each completed entry earned them another entry in the contest.

Quickly we discovered it wasn’t very exciting to work on the same playlist multiple times in a row, so we started adding multiple playlists for homework each day. We added our custom playlists and a few pre-made ones from Dribble Up as well to give the kids some variety.

Some of the feedback we got from parents was that the playlists we were creating/assigning were too difficult for some of the younger kids and was getting a little discouraging. In some families the older sibling was enjoying it but the less developed players were struggling so we started using a range of playlists each day.

Homework Suggestions

We went with an approach of having 3 levels of playlists, each with an increasing level of complexity and also number of drills. We tried to add multiple playlists at each level to give the players some variety. Currently there’s no way to indicate the complexity level of the playlist or the “level” so we simply listed them in a range of most challenging at top and simplest at the bottom.

Playlist Ordering – One suggestion for Dribble Up is to allow us in the coaches dashboard to re-order the playlists for the day after we assign them. If you want to add another playlist and the order which they appear in the app is important to you (it was for us b/c that’s how we showed the various levels) you must remove the playlists you’ve added and re-add them all in the desired order.

Playlist Categories – Another suggestion would be to let us assign categories to playlists, we could then use those to organize and display the playlist by level. That would also be a helpful feature for coaches who might want to assign playlists by topic (turning the ball, juggling, etc) or by player role (back line, mid-fielders, strikers).

Favorite / Worst Drills – As we went through the contest my kids figured out their favorite drills, for example multiple times I heard my daughter commenting she really liked the Push-Out drill. From a player’s perspective it would be nice if they could tag their favorite drills and then each player could have a “Favorites” playlist. That would be nice for a contest because if they wanted to get more entries they could run through a playlist of their favorite moves. Similarly, if there was an automatically generated playlist that kept track of their worst scoring drills it would be nice each day to have them work on the drills that they needed the most work on.

Choosing a Winner

Picking a daily winner was the most arduous part of running the contest. We kept a spreadsheet with the Dribble Up handles of the players in the contest and would update it based on their stats in the coach’s dashboard. Basically each player had a row in the spreadsheet and would get a certain number of entries each day based on the number of playlists they completed. They also received bonus entries for using a smart ball and for earning a score of A+.  Those entries were each assigned a number by a formula in the spreadsheet and we used Google’s random number generator shown here to choose the winning number for the day.

Contest winner email

Obviously, this was time consuming so we eventually figured out a way to automate the process to make it go more quickly. However there were still manual steps involved which meant we were typically behind on notifying the contest winners.

The players were patient in waiting to find out who won each day but announcing the winners sooner probably would have been better motivation to keep more kids active each day.

I was happy with the approach of basing the contest on participation and not on skill level. This allowed a variety of ages and skill levels to participate. Players competed against each other by who trained the most each day so it motivated them to get more touches. Having it daily gave them a fresh start each day, they didn’t get “behind” the person on the leaderboard and get discouraged.

We tended to batch up choosing winners and sending out prizes so we’d do multiple days at once. After we figured out the winner we’d notify their parents and ask them if they’d prefer a PS4 or Xbox gift card. Then we’d buy them online and email the code to the parent of the winner.

Next time we run the contest we’ll branch out and add additional prizes so we can motivate players who don’t play video games.

Contest Sponsors

Contest sponsor calendar

Finding sponsors for the prizes was another time intensive part of running the foot skills contest. It definitely required a good deal of pre-work to communicate with companies or products that the players would be interested in. Whatever the duration of your contest, it helps to come up with a list of 2 or 3 times the number of actual sponsors that you’ll need because some won’t get back with you until later and some won’t be interested in participating.

You’ll likely have a lot more success dealing with small or medium sized sponsors because the big companies take a lot longer to make decisions and a lot of them don’t even have a process in place to be able to sponsor a $10 prize for the day.

You may encounter some companies that prefer to give away their own product as a prize rather than support the prize that you’re offering. Keep that in mind when you reach out to sponsors because logistically it could be difficult to deliver certain products.

As part of being a sponsor we also included a summary of their site, product, or service in the contest announcement each day. It really helps to work with companies that you know well because it makes putting together the write-up a lot easier. If you choose companies you’re not familiar with it requires a lot more research and prep time.

Contest sponsor example

One of the cool things about having prize sponsors is that if you do it correctly you can introduce your players and their families to a lot of neat tools that will really help “soccer dads” and “soccer moms” out there.

I know we’re very thankful for all the companies we worked with that helped motivate the players in our contest and that so many were willing to participate is a good sign for youth soccer in this country.

Soccer Contest Results

After reading through the story of the contest you may be thinking that it’s too much work to host something like this event and that the effort isn’t worth the end result. From our perspective, two things made it worth the time and money.

Motivation

The first was the enthusiasm that it generated in the players that joined the virtual “Soccer Stripes Squad”. As a coach you can teach kids tactics and technique but what’s tricky to inspire is getting them to play with passion. If you get them to love the game and to be excited to train it’ll make the soccer experience more rewarding and make them a better player. Each kid is motivated differently but the fact that contests like these get some players into the game makes it worthwhile.

Confidence

The second reason is that all these reps on the ball can really build confidence in a player. All these touches give them additional control and that ease with the ball translates to more confidence on the field. The gift of confidence is one of the most valuable things you can give a young player. However, you can’t really “give” it to them, they have to earn it. Buying them a new pair of cleats might make them feel good for a few minutes into the game but unless they have the control and moves to back up those shiny new shoes it will be temporary confidence. Contests like these are a great way for players to build that confidence and after these 30 days we’ve seen great results in 1v1 situations, small sided games like 4v4, and on the full pitch.

Our goal in publishing this is to make it easier for you to run a contest if you think it would help your players. If you like the idea but don’t have the time then we’d invite your players to join the contests we’ll be running with this virtual team.

Update – After the contest ended we discovered that the smart ball app actually counted a players touches as they went through the drills. That data isn’t available in the coaches dashboard yet but we asked the team at Dribble Up to run a report for this contest and it turns out that for the 30 days he had over 31,000 touches.

To help your player get over 1K touches a day have them join our virtual team. If you’d like to learn more about the Dribble Up ball for your player or about using the ball as a coach or for your club you can enter your email below.

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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