One major theme that we always try to show players is that in order to get better at soccer, you need to put in work outside of official team practices.
Individual training, encompassing technical skills and fitness work, is just as big a part of improving your game, if not even more so.
Here are 5 ways you can improve your soccer skills in your backyard, and you won’t need any fancy equipment.
Best Soccer Skills to Practice at Home to Improve Your Game
1.) Juggling Exercises
Juggling is an excellent exercise to work on in the backyard, but just because you can do cool tricks when you juggle does not mean that you are going to be a great soccer player. What juggling can do, however, is help perfect your touch.
You need to be able to feel just as comfortable as you are juggling in the backyard as in a league or championship game. To be clear, I’m not saying that you will actually be juggling the soccer ball in a game, but you will have to be able to control it. If you can juggle with ease in your backyard, then you will be able to control the ball much better in the game in a variety of situations.
When juggling, try manipulating the ball in different ways. For example, try juggling the ball without spin, with side-spin, with backspin, and topspin. If you learn how to control the ball when and how you want to, you will be able to manipulate it when you make passes in a game.
For example, there are times when you need to make a pass with backspin on it in order to keep the ball in play. You might need to be able to bend the ball around a defender’s leg in order to complete a pass.
Also, try to catch the ball on top of your foot and then start juggling again. Make sure that you are able to catch the ball on top of both feet, not just your dominant one. All of these juggling skills will help you in another very important area in soccer: trapping.
2.) Trapping (or Receiving) Exercises
After you are tired of juggling, you should work on trapping the ball out of the air. Here is one good way to do it: kick the soccer ball as high as you can under control. If you have to make a quick little sprint, that is fine. (This will also help with your fitness.)
When the ball is coming down, use the laces (the top of your foot) to settle the ball to the ground. As you are settling the ball, you do not want it to bounce high off your foot.
Also, the ball should not bounce away from you. You should be able to perform a move with your next step; this is really the key because you are keeping the ball close and will be able to play quick.
One final point: the term trapping, which used to be preferred, is often changed to receiving these days, which signifies a more fluid motion of bringing a ball under your control, as compared to trapping which brings to mind stopping the ball dead, which isn’t advantageous for making your next move.
As simple as it seems, dribbling is a great skill to work on in your backyard. When dribbling, you need to be able to think a couple of plays ahead.
You need to be able to push the ball into a space where you can get the ball and the defender cannot.
When dribbling, work on keeping your eyes up and in front of you, rather than staring down at the ball.
Also, if you have a dog and he or she likes to chase a ball, then you can use your dog as a defender. Try moves to get past your dog.
Here’s an example of a passing drill you can perform in your backyard.
Start by taking a cone or another soccer ball and place it 10 yards away. This will be used to simulate your teammate in a soccer game, since a cone or a soccer ball is not any bigger than the width of a player’s foot.
Every inch counts in this exercise; if your pass is off by just a little bit, then you are not helping out your teammate. You could be putting him or her into a bad situation like a 50/50 challenge.
You can start by passing a moving soccer ball on the ground. The reason you should pass a moving ball is because this is how it will be in a game. Make sure you are passing with both feet.
After you have hit your target at 10 yards, then move it back 5 yards. Keep moving the target back til about 40 yards.
Once you have mastered passing the ball on the ground, pass the ball in the air. I would start at 20 yards away. You want to be able to have the soccer ball hit your target in the air, as this will simulate a perfect pass.
When you are passing the ball in the air, you want to make it as easy as possible for your teammate to trap it. This is where he or she just has to lift a foot slightly off the ground in order to trap and play the ball quickly.
5.) Kicking a Soccer Ball Against a Wall
If you have a wall (perhaps from a garage or shed) in your backyard, you can use it for your soccer training.
Make sure it is a brick or concrete wall because you don’t want to put a hole into the surface. Also be sure there to pick a spot where there are no windows close by.
Once you have found a good wall to kick a soccer ball against, you can begin working on your skills.
Kick the ball against the wall with the instep of your foot (alternating feet) allowing the ball to bounce only once. Start out by standing about 2 feet away from the wall.
As you get better move back about a foot. Try to get in 100 one-bounce kicks off the wall.
Once you have mastered the instep, move onto striking the ball with your laces using both feet against the wall allowing only one bound before striking it back into the wall.
You will be able to perform this skill work on grass. One-bounces were created by Brian Jaworski, the Grinnell College Head Men’s Soccer Coach.
More Tips for Improving Your Game by Yourself
All of these skills can easily be worked on in your backyard without needing a teammate.
In order to get the most out of your training without anyone else there to keep you motivated, there are a few things you can do.
For one, it’s a good idea to clarify your goals of what exact skills are the most important to you to improve.
What is it that you’re working for? Making the team? Getting more playing time? Scoring more goals?
This helps you stay focused on the big picture and more motivated to continuously improve.
Along with this, it’s important to set a regular schedule for your training. Be sure it is realistic so you can stick with it.
These don’t need to be hour or two hour sessions by any stretch, even just 20-30 minutes regularly can have a major effect on your skill levels.
Finally, find ways to make the training exercises interesting and challenging for you. For juggling or wall kicks, try to get to a set number without messing up.
As you improve, adjust your challenges accordingly.
For more detailed training plans including these and many other types of drills, check out our individual soccer training system.
Do you have any other soccer training exercises you like to perform in your backyard? If so, let us know in the comments!
Photo Credit: clt3jxm