Controlling the Ball
I’m going to tell you how I learned to control the ball. It took me some time to understand that the ball has a profound relationship with the man. Because it is round the ball is the most simple and perfect shape, not only geometrically, but also it feels perfect. When we hold a ball we can move our hands over its surface without finding any resistance or surprises. There are no angles and because it is round one’s hands are always the same distance from its center of gravity. I hope you won’t ignore this fact, because the more we understand what things are, the more we will realize how they work. The same relationship exists between the hand and the ball as between the foot and the ball. Though of course the relationship between your feet and the ball is more complicated because they cannot actually grasp it. So you must use the top, the inside, outside and even the underneath of your foot to control the ball. We can also use the heel, knee, thigh, chest, shoulder and head to dominate this round object which seems to defy and even play tricks on us.
You’ve probably already noticed that when someone sees a ball rolling towards them their immediate reaction is to give it a great kick to send it as far off as possible. Then they start running after the ball as if they wanted to apologize to it! Before I learned how to control the ball, I remember that I too wanted to kick it as far as possible without bothering to think how or where. We only have to see it rolling, flying or bouncing and we want to play with it. If we want to play soccer, then it’s obvious that the first thing to learn is how to control the ball and thereby control the direction in which we kick it.
It’s essential to treat the ball as if it were your friend. To learn to control it, put it on the ground, look straight at it and it seems to ask you to come and play. Your body must be well balanced and your muscles relaxed. Then gently place your foot on top of the ball and roll it back, trying to lift the ball from the ground and putting your toe under it. The longer you keep the ball under your control, the better. In order to keep your balance, bend forward and keep your arms up, slightly bent and relaxed, just a little below the line of your shoulders.
Use the knee of your support leg as a spring. The controlling foot should always aim at the center of the ball. Keep the ball bouncing by using the flexibility of your ankle. Look straight at the ball as if you were hypnotizing it. Your movements and balance should vary according to the position of the ball. Look away only for a moment and you will lose it, because you haven’t paid it enough attention. Always stay together. Mark out a circle with a radius of two meters and then try to practice without allowing the ball to leave the circle. If you can keep it bouncing twenty times without it touching the ground, you’re off to a great start. Don’t forget to repeat the whole thing with your other foot. A good player must know how to control the ball with both feet.
Next you should try to control the ball with your thigh, then your head and even with your shoulders. With a lot of practice you can develop various combinations, such as flicking the ball from your foot to the knee up to your head and from there back to your foot, etc. You will soon discover that the more you practice the more you will be able to do. Another bit of advice: you will only learn what you have practiced because practicing is the only way of learning. If you make a mistake, don’t be discouraged. Think about why it went wrong; work out how to correct the fault and then try again. The more you do it the quicker and better you’ll become. You’ll also be learning other things at the same time, such as your own limitations. Never think that you know everything-we are always finding out something new. If you haven’t got a ball, it’s possible to learn even with an orange, or a ball made of rolled up stockings or newspaper. I’ve even seen people practicing their control of the ball with a box of matches! This first lesson is very important because controlling the ball is the basis of what comes next.