Former Columbus Crew midfielder Brian Maisonneuve has some very simple advice for players trying to improve their skills when he spoke to us in 2004.
“Work on the fundamentals of the game and have that down pat before you try anything else. The dribbling, passing and trapping – have that down before you start doing the rainbows and practicing the bicycle kicks. You can’t do much else until you get those down.”
The advice may sound simple, but mastering footwork, short passes and trapping with every part of your body are things you will do every minute of the game. Bending the ball around a wall may look cool, but you aren’t going to do that more than once in a game. By spending the most of your time on what you do most of the time in a game is a better idea than focusing on specialized skills.
Plus, the former Indiana standout says – having the skills down levels the playing field no matter what size or age you are. That’s important as kids enter their teenage years and begin to grow at different rates.
“You look at the best players in the world and they do the simple things the best. At a young age when every kid is different sized – there are late bloomers and early bloomers,” he added. “In ninth grade, if you are 5 feet and 100 pounds, at least if you have the fundamentals, that is going to get you through the game. You are not going to be able to out-jump or out-muscle anybody. As long as you have those fundamentals and know the game of soccer, that will get you through until your size catches up.”
Maisonneuve even has a simple way to help practice those basic skills too, and it won’t make your parents spend a single cent to get it for you.
“At the house where I grew up, I used to pound the ball against the brick wall. I used to make up shooting games with my friends, one and two-touch games where you trap it and play it against the wall like a racquetball game. I used to practice juggling the ball against the wall not letting it hit the ground. Just be creative.”
If you don’t have a brick or concrete wall at your house, there is very likely one at your school or at a nearby gymnasium. The great thing about using a wall to practice your skills is that you can do it indoors during the winter as well or outdoors in the summer. Just make sure there is no one on the other side of the wall that you might annoy with your practice. Wooden or painted walls do not make good places to practice because they can be easily damaged.
It’s not a matter of where you play, rather it is matter of how you play and how much fun you have when you do it.
“The more time you spend with the ball at your feet, you are going to become a better soccer player. You are going to improve the fundamentals whether it is passing, shooting or dribbling. As long as you are touching the ball and having a good time, you are going to become a better player.”