Soccer + Scripture #CloseControl (Part 6)

This post was originally featured on Experience the Story (xts.onehope.net)

I have coached my son on multiple soccer teams since he was 3 years old. As someone who loves the sport, the next greatest thing to playing yourself is teaching others how to play the beautiful game. Seeing faces light up as they discover and master a new skill is a thrill for any coach. One of the most important technical skills you can help a young player develop is how to have close control of the ball using both feet. Many players today rely on their dominant leg. When they are forced to use their weaker leg, their control falters exposing their vulnerability and often forfeiting the ball to the other team.

To build up control and endurance, I start every practice with the same two drills: “Walk the Dog” and “The Snake.” In “Walk the Dog” we set 4 cones in a 20×20 foot square and have each player run with the ball around the square—first in a clock-wise direction, and then the other way. Players are to turn each corner as close to the cone as possible without losing control of the ball. I call it “Walk the Dog” because running with close ball control while turning corners is much like walking a real dog. You keep your dog on a leash so he doesn’t run away. We do the same when running at speed with the soccer ball. The goal is to keep the ball as close to you as possible, like it is on an invisible leash, so that you don’t lose that which is the most precious to you.

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These foundational skills are necessary to master “The Snake” as well. In this drill, several cones are placed in a straight line with a 3 foot gap between each one. Players then have to “slither” their way through the cones using the close ball control they have learned from “Walk the Dog.” They are forced to use both feet as they slalom from right to left. With every successful completion, we make the gap between the cones smaller and smaller to increase the challenge.

Some of the greatest dribblers in the modern game have all played for Barcelona: Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Neymar Jr, and Messi. All of these great players were able to run at speed and twist an opponent into something that resembled a human pretzel, all while maintaining the closest possible control over the ball. Neymar Jr.—in a game against the Argentine team River Plate—slalomed his way past 5 players before being cynically wiped out before he had a chance to shoot. In a game against Getafe, Lionel Messi went past several players at breakneck speed to score one of the greatest individual goals of all time. And it doesn’t take much YouTube research to find countless mesmerizing videos of Ronaldo and Ronaldinho manipulating the ball in close control mode while traveling the pitch at full speed.

Watching these phenomenal players guard the ball with exceptional skill drives home the point of “keeping that which is most precious close to me.” I am reminded of what is the most precious thing to me—Jesus. In his epistle, James states that if you “draw near to God then He will draw near to you and cleanse your hands and purify your hearts” (James 4:8). There is a great reward for keeping God close to us.

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As we raise our children to be strong in the Word of God, we would do well to take the soccer drill of “Walk the Dog,” pivot it to spiritual terms, and teach our young that they must also keep Jesus close to themselves as they grow.

The human propensity is to keep that which you deem the most valuable as close as possible. The question is, will that be Jesus or something from the evil influences of the world? Just before Jesus ascended into heaven He gave us the Great Commission and capped it off by saying these words, “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world, Amen” (Matthew 28:20).

LET’S ENCOURAGE AND TRAIN UP OUR KIDS TO KEEP JESUS CLOSE…

Here are a few easy memory verses to get started:

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**This was a guest blog post from the OneHope Blog. To see more excellent posts on raising kids to be strong in the Word of God, visit; Experience the Story

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