The Joy Of The Dribble
by Peter Prickett - Follow Peter https://twitter.com/PeterPrickett
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There is nothing more thrilling. Nothing more bewitching. Nothing more exhilarating.
Nothing more infuriating.
For every moment that populates YouTube, Instagram and Twitter there are dozens that have left coaches, team mates and fans scratching their heads. A blind ally. An overlap ignored. A chase to shoot spurned.
The dribbler is a very special breed.
He (or she) comes in many varieties and sizes, often with their own trademark move.
We have the explosive powerful runners from deep positions who use their combination of pace and skill to send defences into mass panic.
Then there are those burst away off of their first step, blasting down the line and tormenting fullbacks for fun.
Or the inverted winger who wants to cut inside so they can shoot. Everyone watching knows what they want to do. Knowing and preventing are very different things.
There are the most mesmeric players of all. The ones who leave us checking what we just saw. “How did he do that? How did he wriggle through that gap? How did he get out of that bear pit?”.
When watching youth football the dribblers are the first to stand out. If you are fortunate enough to have one or two (or even more) in your team every match will have these moments of sheer joy.
Followed by the frustration of said player failing to play a simple square so his team mate can tap the ball home.
These players garner all the attention. For good and for bad. Those parents standing at the side will holler and hoop as the youngster produces a moment of magic that ends up with the ball in the net. Yet it could have been mere seconds earlier when exact same youngster attempted exact same magic but it didn’t come off, so exact same parents were screaming “pass”, “release” or even “too greedy”.
George Weah was too greedy against Verona.
Saeed Al Owairan was too greedy against Belgium.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was too greedy against NAC.
Messi was too greedy against Athletic
Maradona was too greedy against England.
There are hundreds and hundreds of examples of goals like this. We should all be so grateful that they exist. Different goals bring different pleasures. The brilliance, beauty and excitement of the solo goal is unrivalled.
Children want to dribble. When they are in their first phase they want to do three things. Kick the ball as hard and far as they can. Score goals. Dribble. Passing is not something they really want as an outcome. It may be a by product, but it isn’t going to be on their list of desires. The egocentric nature of young players means they want to score the goal themselves, from where ever they are on the pitch. This will require a dribble. A glorious, joyous dribble.
Players of all ages should have no fear of the opponent. Of the player coming to tackle them. That encroaching enemy should not induce panic, it should induce excitement, for here comes opportunity. The opportunity to use a flick flack, roulette, double stepover, drag laces, hocus pocus…….. The list is endless and ever expanding.
In order for young players to see it as an opportunity the adult world has to let them try things out. Try the new moves. Fail at the new moves. Try them again. Fail again. Until that magic moment when the success comes. That moment of success could be game changing, for the team and for the individual.
The environment is vital. Freedom to experiment at all times. Not just in training but in games too. Time set aside for the opportunity to master the ball. To learn and add to that never ending list of moves. The opportunity to try them against one opponent, two opponents or even three and four. Different scenarios demanding different moves or even different combinations of moves. With no repercussions. No embarrassment. No criticism. Just a chat about observation, timing and decision making. It must be their decision, for right or wrong. Human beings are wired in an incredible way. If we keep making a mistake we eventually work out how not to make the mistake, as long as there is perseverance, desire and encouragement.
It is not just the famed dribblers who need to have total control of the ball. Players more renowned for their passing ability have these moves in their game. They treat dribbling like karate. They learn it but avoid using it. Unless as a last resort. Xavi, Pirlo and Scholes, the great conductors of the game are all in possession of a spectacular arsenal of moves. Their decision making process has steered them in a different direction.
But it is ultimately the joy that I am after. Watching a player cause the opposition to panic because they have no idea how to stop the player with the ball glued to his feet. A whole back four go into retreat because of what Ronaldinho might do to them. A full back pensively waiting for that moment when Robben or Overmars decide to cut inside to strike. They now it is coming. Cat and mouse. The sword of damocles. When? When? When?
These moments, these special moments are often match winners. In order to allow these incredible players to win the matches we have to accept that they will infuriate, they will have fill us with frustration, but the trade off for the successful moment is glorious. It is no coincidence that Barcelona, Real Madrid and co score as many goals as they do when they have players who can single handedly take on entire defences. It is no coincidence that Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal look like far greater attacking threats when Coutinho, Hazard and Sanchez are at the top of the game.
A game replete with the joy of the dribble.