We can all agree that soccer is a game of fine margins, and one mistake could cost your team the match. If you want to stop making mistakes, improve your skill set, and become an indispensable member of any team, you need to learn how to get better at soccer.
Thankfully, this post has you covered. We spent the past few weeks discussing with over a dozen professional soccer players from different countries.
From our research, we’ve come up with six hacks that will help you become a better soccer player – some of them you can try right away and start seeing results as soon as your next game.
While we took the time to provide guides to help you take effective action for each tip, below is your to-do list in a nutshell:
- Learn to Use Your Weaker Foot
- Improve Your Heading
- Practice Regularly with Drills that Improve Soccer Skills
- Learn from Pro Soccer Players and Coaches
- Play Against Tougher Opponents
- Find Your Best Position (#Bonus Tip)
Learn to Use Your Weaker Foot
One thing we noticed with players who struggle is that they tend to rely too much on their dominant foot during soccer games.
You’re limiting your options if you only play with your right or left leg. It also makes you more predictable when up against smart defenders.
That’s why some of the best players in the world can play with both feet. You can see how well Cristiano Ronaldo (a natural right-footer) does it in this clip.
We’re not saying both your feet should be equally strong, but you should at least be able to pass, shoot, dribble, and tackle decently with your weaker foot. It will open up vast possibilities for you on both offense and defense.
So, how do you achieve such a feat after years of overreliance on one foot? We have a few effective methods.
1. Strengthen Your Leg at the Gym
It’s no fault of yours that one leg is stronger and more flexible than the other. Most players are born that way.
The best way to rectify this is to focus more on strengthening the less dominant leg next time you hit the gym.
2. Start Simple
Don’t start working on improving your weak foot play during a match. Don’t even consider it. In fact, we don’t recommend you start during training either.
Just take your ball, go to a wall, and start to kick it. Kick it again after every rebound. Do this every day for 2 to 4 weeks. You’ll need the best soccer ball you can find as a subpar one will wear out very quickly.
3. Monitor Your Technique
Strength, power, and elasticity aren’t the only attributes that matter when you kick a ball. You must also consider your technique, which helps with accuracy and good ball control.
Have someone study your kicking technique with each foot. What are you doing differently on both feet? Once you get your answer, make efforts to correct your technique so it’s well-balanced every time you kick or control a ball.
Improve Your Heading
Many amateur soccer players have a problem heading the ball. If you’re one of them, don’t feel bad. It’s completely normal because, as humans, our base instinct is to move our head away from a hurtling object and not to dive head-first into it.
However, heading is a key part of soccer. You can use it to clear crosses in defense, win back possession in midfield, and score or assist goals in the final third.
Even if you’re shorter than most players, improving your headers will only make you better. Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney were never the tallest on the soccer field, but both were good at heading the ball when provided with the opportunity, especially the latter.
To get better at soccer, you need to improve your heading. You can do this by developing two aspects of your game: heading skill and technique.
To Improve Your Heading Skill…
- Repeat simple heading drills and pay attention to each stage of the heading process
- Try to find your best heading positions and rhythm with off-the-ball training
- Practice with others, so you get used to winning contested headers
- Learn to glance at your target while the ball is in the air before heading it
To Improve Your Heading Technique…
- Practice hard, so you know when you need a jumping or standing header
- Ensure your eyes are open and on the soccer ball before connecting
- Build momentum with your upper body by arching it just before contact
- Follow through with your head and neck
- You should always aim to strike the ball with your forehead (this is both safer and more effective)
- Always try to land on your feet
Practice Regularly with Drills that Improve Soccer Skills
This may seem like a no-brainer; however, not many players are doing it correctly. In general, five abilities define a soccer player:
Whether you’re a defender, midfielder, or forward, you need all of the above skills, albeit for different purposes.
We asked professional soccer players what simple drills worked best for them and compiled enough data for each ability.
You can do these drills in between soccer practice or in your leisure time at home.
You’ll be passing the ball at least 70% of the times you get it, no matter your playing position. That’s why every professional soccer player must be a good passer.
Some effective drills to help with your passing are:
- Target Practice: Place a foot-sized object 10 yards away and try to hit it with the ball.
- Pass and Move: Place cones around the pitch, then have several players pass the ball and rotate their positions repeatedly.
- Round Circle and Middle Person: Players form a large circle with 1-2 defenders inside. Pass among each other without losing possession to the defenders.
Most players need to dribble at least once during a game. It helps to break presses and open up new passing or shooting options.
If you want to get better at dribbling, we recommend you take a look at our soccer dribbling drills and secrets for the best results.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the drills we revealed there:
- 1v1: The defender passes to you, and you try to beat them.
- Passing Prohibited: A special 2 to 4-aside game where you can’t pass or shoot – only dribble.
- Slaloms: Dribble through a scattered line of cones while creating tough restrictions on how you’re allowed to do it.
This is crucial if you’re an attacker or midfielder. As a defender, it also makes you an asset to the team.
Here are some effective shooting drills:
- Dribble and Shoot: Receive a cross, control it, dribble, and finish beyond a keeper.
- Channel Agility Drill: Carry the ball through a channel formed with cones and shoot to score just before you reach the end.
- 1v2: Try to get past a defender and finish beyond the keeper in goal.
This ability covers your fitness, stamina, and aggression. Try these soccer drills to help you win more 50/50 contests, which could make all the difference in a game..
- Aggression and Fitness: 4 players compete within a 30×30-yard space. Points are scored by holding possession for 5 seconds.
- Point Passing: A long queue of players take turns passing to a point person. Run to the end of the queue after each pass.
- Sprint Race: Race your teammates with the ball for a distance within 100m.
Your ball control and kicking accuracy depend on your technique.
Technical drills include:
- Kick and Trap: Kick the ball as high as you can, then try to control it with your laces. The ball shouldn’t bounce away from your boot.
- Juggling: Juggle the ball in the following sequence: right foot, left foot, both feet.
- One-Touch Round Circle: Players form a large circle with 1-2 defenders inside. Pass among each other on their first touch without losing possession to the defenders.
Learn from Pro Soccer Players and Coaches
No amount of practice can replace real experience. That is why one of the fastest ways to get better at soccer is to get advice from pro players and coaches.
Learning from these people who have played soccer longer than you have will improve your football IQ so you make better and faster decisions on the pitch. It will also expose you to the tactical aspects of the game.
There are two ways to learn from pros:
- Watching them live or on video
- Meeting them in person
1. Watch Experienced Players Who Play Your Position
You may attend live matches or check out YouTube videos. Analyze their movements on and off the ball. Prior to this, be sure to write down questions and then find the answers by watching these matches. Below are some examples.
As a goalkeeper, how often does the player communicate with their teammates? When does the full back overlap, and when do they hold out? What do the defenders do to ensure they hold their lines? How does the forward make runs into free space in the box?
2. Meet Pros and Ask Questions
Not everyone has access to professional soccer mentors. However, there are ways to get that for yourself. Sign up for a soccer academy in your location or join a local team.
You may not become an immediate starter, but the more you learn and train, the better prepared you’ll be for your first game.
There are also some online courses you can take, but you’ll need to be careful with this. There are a lot of subpar courses out there, so only go for proven ones.
Finally, if you can afford it, we recommend getting yourself a personal coach. You’ll learn a lot about tactics while improving the quality of your training.
Play Against Tougher Opponents
Sometimes, players try to figure out how to get better at soccer while oblivious to the fact that they haven’t challenged themselves enough.
Teammates, rivals, and the entire league play a huge role in player development, which is why we recommend you face tougher opponents.
This may be hard at first, but your mind and body will become faster and sharper to meet up with the new standard.
There’s a reason young talent like Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland had to move to bigger and better leagues to maximize their potential.
Other benefits of playing tougher opponents include:
- It improves your focus because you always have to be on your toes
- You get to meet and learn from players who are better than you
- You learn how to take a loss which breeds good sportsmanship (a vital trait for any pro player)
- It forces you to make decisions faster
Join tryouts for bigger teams that will put your abilities to the test. Even if you don’t make the cut, you’ll come out a better player.
Also, feel free to sign up for local soccer competitions, even if it involves a bigger crowd than you’re used to. Remember, if you hope to become a successful professional soccer player, you must get used to playing under the pressure of large crowds.
Find Your Best Position (#Bonus Tip)
Have you considered that you’re not playing in your best position? Granted, there are cases where you need to fill a specific role for the team.
However, if you’re still developing and you have a choice of where to play, it’s best you choose your optimal position.
Note that this tip also serves as a last resort in case you’ve tried the others and still feel you can get better faster.
Ultimately, you want to play soccer in a position you enjoy, but most times, you won’t know you enjoy a role until you give it a try. Take Chelsea right back, Reece James, for example. He used to be a midfielder, and he never wanted to play right back at first.
To get your best position, find answers to the following questions:
- What are your current preferences?
- What are your best attributes?
- What positions will be ideal based on your attributes?
- If you have to, how do you adapt to this new role?
To help you with the above, we’ve compiled a list of all the skills and attributes you need to play in each position:
- Ball control
- Ball control
- Attacking movement
- Ball control
- Attacking movement
- Ball control
- Attacking movement
Feel free to use the above data to narrow down your list of possible positions and try them out. Find one or two that balance enjoyment with effectiveness, then train to adapt to the new positions.
Get Better at Playing Soccer
Now that you know how to get better at soccer, your next task is to hit the ground running and get to work.
You should start to see results as soon as your next match. Even if you don’t see it at first, remain consistent, and you’ll eventually become a much better football player
Tom is an accomplished writer, with years of experience producing buyer’s guides and tutorials for athletes online.
And it goes without saying – he’s sports-mad.