Times have changed, and the days of jumpers for goalposts are fewer and farther between than ever. Strict rules on ball games on streets and a huge increase in road traffic have restricted where and how often youngsters can practise their football skills.

But if you have a garden, you’ll always have your own mini training pitch. The truth is that you can work on most of your basic skills at home — as long as you have the right approach. And the right equipment.

Practise Control with a Rebounder

Even the smallest of gardens or yards can host a keep-up session. Keep-ups aren’t just lots of fun, they’re perfect for improving touch and control. But most youngsters fall into the comfort zone of doing them in exactly the same way every time.

One way to make things a little more challenging is to use a rebounder. This is a small frame, fitted with elasticated netting. The players hits the ball against the netting, then controls the rebound. But the exact flight of the ball is far less predictable than it is with keep-ups. The player learns to improvise, control their body weight and use both feet.

Use a Wall

If all else fails, you can use a wall or a fence for rebounds. Mastering touch, control and passing is all about repetition. As long as the ball comes back to you when you hit it, you can practise to your heart’s content. Give yourself a bigger challenge by drawing target areas on the wall with coloured chalk.

Use a Portable Goal

Let’s face it, the whole point of football is to score goals. And it’s hard to practise the art of scoring in a garden without a target. Samba garden football goals are perfect for use at home, as they’re lightweight, corrosion-proof and mobile. They can be erected and dismantled in seconds. Some even have detachable targets and a carry bag included.

Cone Dribbling

Even the smallest of gardens can be utilised for cone dribbling. In fact, some would say the smaller, the better. Invest in a few training cones or markers, and create your own dribbling assault courses. Dribble around your course as quickly as you can, without touching the cones or losing control of the ball. You can gradually increase the difficulty level to ensure you continue to progress.

Push-Pull Dribbling

Set up a course with your markers or cones, and dribble around it using the sole of your boot. This involves hopping on your spare leg, and “pushing” and “pulling” the ball around the course. This not only develops close control skills, but it also strengthens key muscles in the feet and legs.

Header Volleyball

You don’t even need a net to play this game in your garden. Just line up some cones or markers, and use that as a net. The idea is to take no more than two touches with the head to get the ball over the line and into your opponent’s half. Again, a small, enclosed space like a garden can help you to develop control with your heading.

Use a Futsal Ball

Futsal is a short form of the game that is very similar to five-a-side. However, the ball used is significantly smaller than the one used in professional football. It’s also quite a bit heavier and denser. This means that lofted and long balls are harder to execute. As a result, players have to rely more on close control, touch and improvisation.

The fact that a futsal ball doesn't travel long distances and is smaller than a standard ball makes it perfect for use in a small garden or yard. You can practise keep-ups and dribbling to your heart’s content. You can also use it in conjunction with a Samba football goal or a rebounder.

Finesse Shooting

You probably don’t want to be smashing shots at your Samba goal with maximum power — at least not in a small garden. But what you can work on is your finesse shots… those taken from the side of the ball with the inside of your foot. Set up a goal with attachable targets, and use a size three of four football for lots of repetition. Of course, if you have a large garden, a full-size ball is always best for over-14s.

If you have a small garden or yard at home — or even a small area of unused land in your area — put it to use. You may be able to improve your football skills in your free time.