So much has been written about technique that only a brief review of the basic elements will be attempted here.
Striking the ball. Heading, passing and shooting. To analyze these areas requires focusing on three elements.
1) The approach. The player will either move to the ball or the ball will move to him. This involves the distance, (time for preparation), angle and height of the ball relative to the player's position at the moment of contact. Every opportunity to strike the ball is slightly different, yet, general principles can be taught to meet each situation. An important point is the placement of the nonkicking foot. It is a part of the approach.
2) Contact. The art of placing two square inches of body onto two square inches of ball at exactly the right moment while both are probably in motion and an opponent is trying to interfere. Any miscalculation in the approach will become obvious here. Correct contact will be difficult if not impossible.
3) Follow through. A huge problem area for many children. Most kicking skills result in crossed legs, stabbing at the ball, planted kicking foot and a myriad of other problems. The follow through should be seen as a completion of the process. Play through the ball not to the ball.
Receiving the ball. Taking a ball that is coming to you and playing it to yourself. Here three elements can be coached.
1) Get into the line of flight of the ball. You can't control it if you watch it go by.
2) Choose the controlling surface and present it to the ball. The decision of what body part to use to control the ball. Failure here is the dreaded "brain lock."
3) Relax and withdraw the controlling surface. Think of "catching an egg" not bracing for a collision.
Dribbling. There are four elements that need to be mastered and these can be taught best in small-sided games like 2v2. These games offer immediate feedback to the player.
1) Close control. Close is relevant to the situation. A midfield breakaway might involve a distance of four to six yards. Inside a crowded penalty area six to eight inches.
2) Change of direction. Right then left, forward then back. A straight line causes few problems for the defense.
3) Change of pace. Slow to fast, fast to stop. Produces the same result as a change in direction, problems for the defense.
4) Disguise. Fakes and feints, the subject of numerous videos. Without the first three elements they are of little use.
Improvement in technique can be measured in five areas.
1) Range - An increase or decrease in space. Increasing the distance of passing or decreasing the distance needed for ball control.
2) Scope - A change in the number of technical options available to the player in a given area. The player who can pass with either foot, use the outside as well as the inside has greater scope then the one who only has a one footed push pass.
3) Precision - The player that can "hit a dime" at 40 yards. Accuracy.
4) Economy - Making it look simple, little wasted effort or energy.
5) Speed - Being able to handle the demands of a faster game. The change in speed is the biggest hurdle that a player faces when he moves up a level. His play must be more economical which means there is a greater demand on his scope. The range that is expected will change, increase/decrease, and he must play a more precise game because his mistakes will be punished.
Timing and body shape. Timing, while more a matter of insight, plays a key role in the use of technique. A pass delivered too early or too late will not get the job done. A great dribbling move done too soon won't fool the defender, too late it's a tackle. Small-sided games involve the element of real time. Drills don't. Finally, look at the children's body shape as they play. Compare a "good" player with a "poor" one. The good player seems to exert less effort, is more comfortable and even plays with a sense of style and grace that the poor one lacks. To control the game you have to control the ball. To control the ball you have to control your body.