A couple of weeks ago I posted about how essential it is to develop your skills with the sole of your foot.
After all, the use of the sole is one of the key differences between the 11-a-side game where it is moderately used, to 5-a-side (including futsal) where it is an absolute must if you want to be a decent player.
Save your sole
I promised then that I would show you some practical ways to help build your skills in this essential area. So we made a video!
The idea of making this was to ensure that you have some practical ways to help improve. What’s in the video is, I think, the best way you can spend 10-15 minutes on your own to really improve your 5-a-side game.
And the advice isn’t just aimed at players coming from the 11-a-side game, who often need a lot of work on these techniques, but also for 5-a-side / futsal veterans who could also do with a brush-up.
The Sole Skills Workout
Simply, the workout is a routine of 8 exercises that take you through all the basic movements with the sole of the foot.
You can do this almost anywhere. It doesn’t require any complicated equipment, just a ball, and some markers if you have them (you can use anything as a marker). A watch, or the timer on your phone, is also useful to keep track of how long you’re doing each exercise for.
You should do as many of the 8 exercises you can. Do them for 1 minute each, focusing on your technique. That means starting slow if you’re finding them tough.
As you get better, you can increase your speed. As a guide, you’ll find that in the video the exercises are being done somewhere between a medium and fast pace when they’re in full flow.
If you’re doing the exercises at a good speed and taking only 30 seconds rest in between each, you’ll find that this will also be building your fitness as well as your skills – it’s a high-intensity workout which should leave you panting for breath but feeling ready to unleash on the pitch.
This really is great for building fitness and it works your leg strength as well as your core, in addition to developing all-important fast-foot speed.
A word of warning
Before you go off to begin your workout, it’s advisable to do a warm up first.
This workout can place a fair bit of stress on your ankles, Achilles and calf muscles. A bit of gentle jogging, simple ankle rotations (draw an A, B and C with each foot, rotating just from the ankle) and then some knee raises should be a good minimum before you get fully stuck in.
I like to also do a bit of ball-juggling first if there’s time, as that’s an easy way to loosen up the muscles whilst improving your skills in the process.
Step by step
Consider these moves the basics of Jedi-training yourself in the ways of the sole.
The video will show you all you need to know, but each exercise is described below as well. By the way, as to the choice of music – it had to be soul!
- Sole taps – simply tap the sole of one foot on top of the ball, followed by the other. The ball shouldn’t move much as you do this. Try to keep a steady pace – you’ll find that in order to go fast you’ll need to pump your arms. Stay light on your toes and try to look up as you do it. (Bonus: as you get good at this, try moving slowly forwards and then going backwards as you tap).
- Sole-to-sole (inside) – similar to the one you’ve just done, but this time you roll the ball with the sole of your foot across your body and on to the other foot.
- Sole-to-sole (outside) – to me, this is the one that feels a bit strange. It’s the same as before, but you need to roll the ball outwards with each foot before repeating it on the other. If you are really struggling here, try it whilst moving slowly forwards. It might make it feel more natural.
- Sole drag-backs – here we combine the sole with using the laces. With the ball in front of you, put your foot on it. Then, drag it back towards you before flicking it forwards with your laces. Catch the ball and repeat on the same leg. After 30 seconds swap to the other leg. (As an alternative you can also try flicking the ball forward with the instep, for some variety.)
- Fake sole pass – this is a cracker, which you can certainly use in a game. Go to kick the ball forwards as if playing a pass. Use the sole to roll the ball forward, barely letting it leave contact with your foot at all. Then, drag the ball back toward you and on to your other foot, pushing it in the opposite direction. Repeat on the other foot.
- Step over, instep, sole of opposite foot – pretty much as the name says. This will require some concentration at first. Try to perform it with a nice convincing step-over – the sort that would unbalance an opposition defender. The step over in the video on the right side is a little lazy; you can probably do better.
- Behind the leg – the drag-back is a classic. Using the sole, drag the ball back beyond your standing leg. Use the instep to flick it behind that leg then catch the ball with the original leg you started with. Do 30 seconds on each leg.
- Through the cones – time to finish off with some freestyle. Arrange your markers (you can use books, cans of drink, anything) in any pattern you like. Practice turning, weaving and rolling in and out of them. Keep your head up where possible.
This WILL make you a better player
If you can’t already do all of the above with ease for a minute each then that’s good – there’s room for improvement!
If you can get to the stage where you can do these exercises well; I promise you will become a technically improved, fitter and all-round better player than when you started. Of course you’ll need to do it a few times in order for the benefits to show – try doing it three times in a week and see if you can notice the improvement.
People who have been asking, ‘how can I improve my football skills?’ – this is it, right here. Get practicing.
Over to you
I really wanted to show you this workout as it has really improved my game in the past. Not just the skills, but my fitness too.
So now I want to know from you: what one thing has really helped improve your game? What one bit of advice would you recommend to other people who are looking to improve their 5-a-side?
If I get enough comments, I’ll compile all these tips into a separate article. Who knows, maybe something you’ll share is worth a whole post of its own?