It can make them look ineffectual and make their skills look just for show.
I’m sure we’ve all seen these players - I know I certainly have, but is it important for any developing footballer to be skilful on the ball and have an array of technical abilities?
Some may say no, that it is a waste of time and the skills are just used to show off and make the player look better, rather than actually provide substance to their game. Teammates may ask them to move the ball quicker and pass more, while some coaches may discourage the player from performing the skills.
But, in my opinion, for every player it is great to have the ability to perform these skills, even if they aren’t used every single game.
The reason for this is that it shows that the player is highly technical on the ball and you may never know when they will come in handy. These players, who do have skill on the ball, will possess more technical ability to get out of pressurised situations than they would have done without the use of these skills.
The main thing for the player is to have these skills but harness them, using them at the right time, rather than using them at times where they prove to be ineffectual. For instance, centre backs don’t need to be performing step-overs or roulettes in their own area, but developing the skill helps build confidence in the player, allowing them to realise that they are good on the ball and not defined purely by their position.
If you are a skilful player, it is important to make sure that you are using the skills for a reason, when trying to beat an opponent, or when creating an opportunity for a teammate, rather than for the sake of it. But having these skills can create more opportunities, more opportunities to show your technical ability.
Cristiano Ronaldo has learned to use his skills at the right moments but when he does, he typically is successful.
In youth development, players can and will regularly change positions. It’s likely that you will experience playing in a number of positions, even if you’re 13/14 years old. As a player, no matter the age, there is a high chance that you will change positions as your game develops and adapts. It’s rare that a young player starts out in one position and stays there for their entire footballing career.
Therefore, it is important to not let your football position define your technical ability.
It may be that the centre back shouldn’t be performing skills close to their own goal, but will you always be a centre back? Will the defensive player always play in those defensive positions, or become an attacking full back instead?
This is where it is important to begin to practise and develop skills in your own time, no matter what position you currently play. Firstly, it shows how much you have practised in your own time, giving you challenges and fantastic chances to develop your own game. Taking more touches on the ball can’t be a bad thing; your touch, dribbling and control of the ball will only improve if you’re practising and looking to develop more skills.
You may not necessarily use them in a match but you will be improving your understanding of what to do with the ball, and how to do it. At the higher levels of the game it is incredibly important that players are able to manipulate the ball and move it wherever they like, in unopposed, or opposed situations. Practising as much as you can with the ball will only help this.
You may not even go out to a game and have the goal of performing skills, but your practice in them may just give you the upper hand over your opponents, allowing you to be comfortable on the ball, while using both feet.
That is invaluable.
If you are comfortable on the ball, you’ll be a better player. That’s why developing skills and being skilful with the ball, even if you don’t use these skills during the game, is important.
And as mentioned earlier, don’t always expect to play in the same position. Players will regularly be moved around the pitch by coaches, especially at the academy level. If you’re more comfortable on the ball then you will be able to play in a number of different positions, giving you more opportunity to shine and potentially find you a position that allows you to flourish.
It’s not always about using the skills, it’s about being better on the ball and you will only become better on the ball if you spend more time with it.
Spend more time learning skills, developing your technical ability so that you are comfortable and confident with the ball at both of your feet. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you should go out and perform 10 step-overs and then a roulette in the next game, but practise so that you are talented with the ball on both feet, and more opportunities will come for you - even if you don’t use those skills in a game.
Coaches, scouts, teammates and spectators will all see your technical ability on the ball, if you spend time learning and developing your skill through taking more touches on the ball.
If you put in the effort, consistently over a long period of time, you will really see great benefits.
It’s not necessarily important to be really skilful in a game, but it’s important to practise more and more things with the ball, and using skills is one of the things that helps you take many touches and become a better footballer for it.