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Five BlazePod drills to sharpen your soccer skills

By Timna Katz
Updated on Jul 07, 2024
7 mins read

With the EURO 2024 at our doorstep, Europe’s best and brightest aren’t the only ones looking to polish up their performance on the pitch. To stay at the top of their game, improving a soccer player's Reactive Intelligence is essential in making a good player great.

It's not just about reacting fast; the goal is to make the right decision quickly with pinpoint precision. Think of a soccer player who shoots to score impulsively versus one who can stop, analyze the pitch, and shoot with precision; all in mere seconds.

Through BlazePod’s FRX training, soccer players can improve their reaction time, visual awareness, and information processing speed, equipping them with the undervalued cognitive skills to exceed expectations in the fast-paced, unpredictable, and competitive soccer arena. Whether you are concentrated on hand-eye coordination training or general agility exercises for soccer, you can use BlazePod’s workout lights to advance, enhance and supercharge your gameplay.

Here are five in-app BlazePod training drills that are the best exercises for soccer players to improve your overall performance on the pitch:

1. Keepy Uppies - Juggling

While it may earn praise from friends, juggling won’t directly translate to scoring goals. However, the importance of juggling to improve your game performance and crucial technique should not be underestimated.

Not only does juggling force players to be constantly and spatially aware of the ball’s position, but it also pushes them to gain control and shift it into a move that will progress their play. Whether juggling on or off the pitch, the body has to work in tandem to maintain control of the ball, making players more skilled at other super important techniques during a game.

BlazePod’s ‘Keepy Uppies’ drill lets players flex their juggling skills and be the envy of the team, but it also simultaneously challenges their spatial awareness and ball control to master their reaction time game and see results when it really counts.

For this drill, lay out four Pods in a straight line with 30 cm between them. You will have 30 seconds to tap out all the Pod with your feet as they lights up, but the catch is you have to be juggling a soccer ball throughout the drill. If you can successfully keep the ball in your possession and in the air, Ronaldinho may have more competition than he thought.

2. Agility X Dribble - Dribbling

Dribbling, or the ability to continue carrying the ball against opposition, separates a decent soccer player from an excellent one. Scoring goals is important, but players need to get closer to the opposition’s net in the first place. With a good grasp of dribbling, players can maintain possession of the ball, advance it up the pitch and even create scoring opportunities.

Every forward and striker understands the importance of dribbling, but they are not the only ones who need it to excel. If the opposition is manning up on the forward line and no one is open, a defender or midfielder can maintain possession by dribbling around players.

Practicing ball control is one thing, but practicing dribbling under pressure while continuing to focus on your surroundings is another skill entirely. It’s a skill not reliant on just speed; but more importantly outsmarting your opponent. If you can improve your Reactive Intelligence to think faster, smarter and make unexpected decisions on the fly, competition will start to slim.

For BlazePod’s ‘Agility X Dribble’ drill, place four Pods in a square formation ten meters apart from one another. Create a smaller square with four poles or cones and position them five meters apart. Set a fifth Pod in the center of the square.

When a Pod lights up, dribble the ball around the inner-square pole adjacent to the Pod, continue to dribble towards the Pod and tap it with your foot. Quickly return to the center Pod to proceed. With only 45 seconds, the Agility X Dribble drill is a great opportunity to show off your dribbling skills, outpace your teammates and earn your coach’s stamp of approval.

3. Slalom and Shoot - Head Up Scanning

Every second counts; no one knows this better than a soccer player. Spanish soccer legend Xavi Hernández once said, “Think quickly, look for spaces. That’s what I do: look for spaces. All day.” Holding the ball is just half of the game; situational awareness of the opposition, noting open space and planning the next move are the components of an unbeatable player.

Scanning in soccer is no easy skill to acquire, and it’s even more difficult to apply to gameplay. In recent years, the importance of it has become more and more clear to athletes and coaches alike. At the height of his career, Xavi could scan 50 times per minute or 0.83 times per second. Think you can do better?

BlazePod’s ‘Slalom and Shoot’ drill is the perfect exercise to practice individual skills in a group training session, improve spatial awareness skills, and gain better ball control. The whole team can get involved, or you can complete the drill with a trainer by your side. But, remember, there is a difference between ‘looking’ and ‘seeing.’ Make sure you’re not just looking for the sake of it, or you’re wasting seconds you don’t have.

Place three small performance goals in a line five meters apart, and position four cones in a diagonal line directed towards the goals ten meters away. Attach a Pod to the rim of each goal, and have each player line up behind the cones with a ball of their own. When the drill begins, each player must dribble, in turn, through the cones, all while staying aware of which Pod performance goal is lit. Once they reach the end of the cones, the player must shoot to the goal with the lit Pod. Once they have made their shot, the next player will begin.

Be wary, ‘Slalom and Shoot’ may sound simple, but the Pod lights change every three seconds. If players aren’t constantly scanning, they risk making an error and slowing down the whole team’s hit rate.

4. Dribble and Pass - Over-the-Shoulder Scanning

“Head up” scanning is step one, but the real nitty gritty of spatial awareness and opposition placement in soccer lies in over-the-shoulder checking. While looking up may be daunting in itself, turning away from the ball is a whole other story.

Over-the-shoulder checking requires more than an observation of what’s coming next; it’s about strategizing the opposition’s movements two and three steps ahead. In the beginning of unlocking this new skill, players will usually scan to see what pressure lies nearby that poses an immediate threat to their next move. A more trained over-the-shoulder scanner surveys the pitch to ascertain what the opposition will do well after their play.

Studies conducted by the English Premier League suggested that players who paid great attention when looking over their shoulder tended to execute 83% of passes more accurately; compared to those who neglected to look with 60% accuracy passing rate.

For BlazePod’s ‘Dribble and Pass’ drill, place three reaction lights in a line two meters apart from one another. Adjacent to the center Pod five meters ahead, set an additional Pod on one meter above the ground against a wall or rebound board. Begin the drill by standing between in the center of the formation. When one of the three Pods light up, dribble the ball to and around the Pod and then quickly kick the ball against the rebound. Before you receive the ricocheting ball, you will need to scan over your shoulder to figure out which Pod is lit up.

While this is an individual drill, it lays the foundation for strong team communication. Through continuous field awareness, you can learn to identify and communicate crucial details like open spaces, potential threats, and scoring opportunities, and stack up against the best of the best.

5. Ball Control - Technique in Tight Space

Whether you are a forward on the front end of a fearsome defender or playing out from the back; ball control is key. Enhancing a player’s Reactive Intelligence will rouse fast reaction times and reflexive responses. By training ball control in tight spaces, you can feel comfortable, confident and coordinated even with a small amount of wiggle room. You will discover quickly that no opposition is unbeatable.

Within practicing technique in tight spaces, there are unlimited opportunities and tricks you can apply to flex your skills and maintain possession of the ball. From the Cryuff turn to the Ronaldo step-over, with enough patience, practice and precision, anyone can apply these moves to their outplay game. However, if you think you will just whip this play out on the pitch without any training put in; think again.

We recommend you try BlazePod’s ‘Ball Control’ drill to sharpen these skills. Simple on the surface, the tight spacing setup of this drill requires a high level of skill to navigate effectively. Place four training light Pods in one line, 30cm apart from one another. You will need to select your focus color and three distracting colors. When the drill begins, your chosen color and the other three agility light Pods will flash. Dribble the ball around your color as quickly as possible.

Push too hard, and you will lose control of the ball and waste precious seconds. Go too slow, and the Pod lights will change color before you have time to reach them. Stay focused on your main color, or you will mistakenly circle around the incorrect Pod. The ‘Ball Control’ drill is not for the faint of heart but, if you can successfully complete it, you may expect a call from La Liga sometime soon.