Keeping your head up is one of the core tenets of dribbling in soccer, along with keeping the ball moving and near your feet. Dribbling a soccer ball is “a case of continually looking up and down,” says Wes Harvey, former men’s soccer team coach at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. You have to look down to see the ball and your feet. Then lift your head up to see where your teammates are in relation to the opponent for a possible pass or shot.
Tap, poke or kick the ball. Look up as you run to where you need to be for the next dribble. Keep your head up as much as possible as you dribble, especially if you have good peripheral vision, Harvey advises. “The classic thing I say to players is that when you are hitting a baseball, you don’t look away; similarly, you look at the ball when you make contact in soccer.” After you push the ball forward, look up.
Keep your glances down at the ball and your feet brief. “You don’t have to stare at the ball,” Harvey notes. “You do have to be aware of where it is.” Stay conscious of the fact that maintaining excellent field vision is just as important as good control of the ball.
Prepare to receive a pass by keeping your head up, especially if you are a forward. Conduct a quick check around you to see where everyone is and which way they are moving, so when the ball comes, you are prepared to dribble or pass -- or hold the ball while looking for a better option. “The problem is, if someone is moving and then cuts in a different direction, if you don’t look up, you pass to where they were headed, not where they are headed,” Harvey observes.
Improve your ability to dribble the ball with your head up by practicing a drill such as Peter Pan Dribbling, described in “The Baffled Parent’s Guide to Great Soccer Drills.” Have a partner hold a soccer ball and run in unpredictable patterns in the center circle of a soccer field. Dribble your own soccer ball to stay in his shadow, keeping your head up to track your partner. Add other pairs of teammates to the center circle, also shadowing each other, to add a higher degree of challenge.
Glancing up is important to avoid having the ball stolen, states U.S. Youth Soccer director of coaching education Sam Snow in “Coaching Youth Soccer.” You also risk not seeing a teammate open for a pass, he observes.