It’s a common thought amongst the older generations that technology strictly prohibits physical exercise. While this may be true for most, it can be seen by some as an extension of ourselves. When used for progression rather than distraction, it becomes an important tool. Much like the many weight training, aerobic planning, or in general “Trainer” apps, comes a soccer specific trainer + Ball, DribbleUp. Just as with any training regimen, there are going to be a lot of factors that will affect what it can do for you: baseline ability, general fitness, dreams and aspirations.
What I know is that a majority of Americans growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s didn’t have proper coaching on the fundamentals of soccer. Some kids were lucky enough to get involved in a youth club that had pure soccer knowledge, developing first touch and ball control via Cruyff turns and Rivelino’s in tight quarters. Nowadays we have the possibility of a virtual personal coach no matter location – DribbleUp has prerecorded instructional videos, and augmented reality tracking to keep track of your personal bests. I’m going to break down how I think you can use this to take your game to the next level, and it’s going to boil down to consistency.
Ask most coaches what the most important characteristic in a quality soccer player is, they’ll likely say first touch. This is something that comes down to a love and passion for the ball at the foot, over the course of thousands of hours for professionals. DribbleUp has compiled a list of a couple dozen drills to build your foundational skills. Anyone can gain access to these regardless of if you have the DribbleUp ball. These drills are the most essential, sometimes basic moves that if they become second nature take your game to the next level. There is no one to say you have to pick up this app and get outside for touches 15 minutes a day, but if done regularly I think there can be a lot to be gained from the Ball Control portion. In my testing it was the most efficient in the augmented tracking with my phone, with the ability to keep track of touches within 5% of accuracy. Some combination of doing 2-3 of the ball control drills for 2 to 3 minutes a piece would go a tremendous way in building consistency on top of the ball. With the phone on the given stand sitting 5 feet away – two virtual cones on the screen display targets to roll over the ball to, or back and behind the leg, across the screen to the other cone. Other drills include toe taps: touches counted directly on top of the ball similar to running in place, and scissors around the ball in place. A solid 15-20 minutes at above half speed is guaranteed to get you a little winded, and a great warmup in general for practice or pick up games. If you really want to track your progress, a simple excel sheet could be made to track your personal best after each session – hopefully a feature that could be easily exported in future versions of this app.
Juggling is seen by some as a flashy pastime – at least this was the case of young Mason. Looking back I wish I had the patience to put time into it as a youth player, because the ability to have the control and balance over your touches is vital to good play. Those who can master the physics of ball flight are leaps and bounds above the rest. To make a perfectly weighted laces flick up to the head, landing 3 inches above the head and catching it on your forehead: that’s just magic. DribbleUp’s Juggling portion was the second which I tested, and with good results. With the phone on the stand 7-10 feet away, you roll the ball over into the area designated on the screen. From there you’re in an open juggling session, attempting to reach your highest juggle count. This counter worked surprisingly well, only one time miscounting by more than 1 when I brought the ball above my head and reset to my laces – causing the counter to reset to 0. Where it worked extremely well was small controlled juggle touches 6-12 inches above my laces, alternating left and right foot. This is going to be the 5-10 minute session I’d recommend in the juggling section minimum. While personal record for juggling can be quite cheesy to brag about, there’s something satisfying hitting a consistent 20-30 juggles per time you lift the ball off the ground.
Shooting was the one section where I had a hard time getting the tracking to work. The recommended positioning had the camera behind the goal net looking toward the field. After endless attempts to get the ball to register going in the goal – I had to give up. If there was one section in this I would care least about its shooting however. Getting out and strictly doing shooting practice can be risky for pulling a hamstring, and isn’t near as important in building first touch and ball control as the prior drill sections. (The issue may have been the goal size, which was recommended at a 6’ x 12’ goal – while I was on a professional 8’ x 24’ goal. I would recommend practicing on as close to your in game goal size as possible, hopefully future updates will allow this section to work properly.)
Finally, the ball is decent quality. It is definitely not a match ball as the bladder has a bit heavier feel to it, it doesn’t quite fly off the foot when striking shots. In terms of the ball control and foundation drills you wouldn’t be able to tell, the slight dimpled texture is nice on top of the ball. You are really paying for unique pattern on the ball which the augmented app tracks better. I did try to see if the DribbleUp App would work without the official ball, and to some extent it does. You are going to have it lose tracking a bit more often, maybe once every 3 sets or so, as opposed to hardly ever. The most important utility here – the bank of drills, touches, and workout plans can be used by anyone prior to getting your official DribbleUp ball. All in all, this is a great tool to have in your soccer bag, so give it a look!