Category: <span>Tips</span>

How to Kick a Soccer Ball

Any soccer player will tell you that they started out kicking the ball with their toe. But they quickly learned that there was a much more effective way to get the soccer ball from point A to point B. If you ever consider playing soccer at a somewhat high level, there are a few things you should know first about how to kick a ball. Here are a few different shots that will help perfect your game.

The Angle Spot Kick

When trying to perfect this kick, the one thing you should know is that the sweet spot for kicking is a little bit above the big toe. Due to its sound nature, it is a good base point for any striking motion. Now, when you actually make contact, it is necessary that you have your foot at a slight angle in comparison to the ball. If you need help visualizing, imagine your foot at around the 1 o’clock position as it meets the ball. This means that while your foot is passing through the ball, it should be pointed down and out. This “sweet spot kick” is probably the most used throughout your soccer career, so it is very important to make sure you have a sound understanding. A mid-fielder will almost always use this trick when trying to feed the ball to a forward. Corner kicks are another good example of this kick.

Straight Kick

Let’s start off by visualizing what actually has to happen. Stand up straight and move your foot so it is directly in front of you. Then place a soccer ball right over your foot. When you release, the ball will hit perpendicular to your foot on the very top. This is where the straight kick will make contact. The reason it is called a “straight kick” is because everything about it is straight. When you are preparing to make this shot, simply remember that all of your laces (not just part of them) have to make contact with the ball. This requires you to keep your foot in a fixed position and not to move it at an angle like previously mentioned in the angle shot. Also, it is important to remember that your leg should almost be like a pendulum in that it will move directly back and forward in a straight line. After the kick is made, you can tell if you did it right because your leg should not wrap around.

Volley Kick

A volley kick, also known as a “straight” volley kick, is very similar to the straight kick as mentioned before. All the rules will hold true when it comes to striking the laces to the ball, but one main difference is that you can make this kick without breaking stride. There should be no hesitation while making this shot, and after the contact is made, the ball should, in theory, travel straight ahead at a low angle. This is by far probably the least taught shot because it is really something that comes with time. After you are comfortable with the soccer ball, you will begin to progress and be able to kick and dribble in full stride.



Mastering the Soccer Kick

Soccer is a very difficult sport to play, regardless of age or fitness level. It requires much out of your body, and the most physically fit will have to dig deep at the end of a game to keep stride with others. Regardless, even the fittest player will not succeed if they do not know the basics of the game. One of the most difficult aspects of the game, oddly enough, is kicking the ball. While this seems simple, it is one of the hardest to master. There are many movements that need to mesh effortlessly into one swift, sweeping kick.

One of the most important things to remember is that all of these movements must be put into one continuous motion. Firstly, you must eye your target. This will help you train your foot to follow your eye. It will take practice, weeks at best. This dedication though, will give your kick deadly accuracy. Secondly, after you improve your accuracy, then start making your kick less predictable, start trying to curve the ball. Importantly, you must learn to keep your head down now when shooting. This will help keep the ball on target, instead of shooting it over the post. Then, kicking the ball to make it curve will take practice too. To curve inward, sweep your foot towards the inside of the ball, and follow through your kick. Also, the same approach should be taken towards an outward curve, except kicking the outside part of the ball. Also, when you become proficient in this technique, try kicking the ball closer to the top and bottom, trying to create topspin and backspin, respectively. This will cause the ball to rise for more distance, or drop drastically for a precise cross or putting the ball to the post.

Mastering these techniques will take time, but, along with having speed and endurance, this added skill will make your game exponentially better, and the goals will start flying immediately. Also, it would be a great skill to show off to your friends as well.



Soccer Coaching Tips

After many years of coaching youth soccer teams, I’m convinced that there are a small number of sure-fire tips that will lead to a winning team. Basically, if you practice right, position your players right, and push-up in games, your chances are good. It all starts in practice.

A good practice is all about the touches.

No, that doesn’t mean high fives or group hugs. It simply means that you need to plan your practices to maximize the number of ball touches each player has. There’s nothing more boring at any age level than having 10 players stand around watching 2 players dribble a ball between a long line of cones, or having 1 line of players lined up to each take a single shot before chasing their wayward ball. Worse than boring, these drills are ineffective. There are countless resources available for a rookie coach – both on-line and in bookstores, but the best drills are ones that maximize touches. For example, instead of setting up 2 long lines of cones and having players take turns dribbling through them, set up a 20-by-20 square, put an equal number of players with a ball on each of the 4 sides, and have them dribble to the opposite side and back a dozen times, all at the same time. Each player is engaged, each player quickly learns they need to dribble with their head up to avoid collisions, and you can teach the same dribbling techniques in traffic, which is the way they’ll be dribbling in games.

A good practice is also fun.

Kids at all ages enjoy games and competition, and better yet, the lessons they learn in competitions are understood better than those learned from a repetitive drill. So instead of a solo dribbling drill followed by a passing drill between two players, make it a single competition. Set up a relay race among teams of two players each, with only two cones for each team. Each player will dribble from their first cone to their second cone, perform a specific turn or move around the cone, followed by a pass back to their teammate. Each player will soon learn that a bad pass will put them behind in the race, and that a bad “reception” will do the same. They police each other to do better at the fundamentals so that they will do better in the race. Recognize the teams that do well. Then mix up the teams and do it again. But choose games that work on multiple skills at once.

A winning team is positioned well.

In basketball, no matter what level, you never see the most awkward kid dribbling the ball up as point guard, or the shortest kid playing center. In football, you don’t develop your offensive line by putting your five smallest guys in to block at the same time. It just doesn’t make sense. Yet in soccer, I see it all the time.

So the tip to soccer coaches is simple – learn the attributes of good players at each position, and then position your players with a purpose. So what are these attributes? Well, a defender doesn’t have to have the best ball skills and he doesn’t have to be fast. He does, however, have to be brave and aggressive. If you put ball-shy, passive players at defense, your goalie is in for a long day. A goalie, meanwhile, needs to have decent hands and not be afraid of the ball. A center midfielder needs to be able to run and get to the ball. A forward should have ball skills and be able to shoot.

Now that you know the basic attributes, you need to match them up with your players, and as usual, you can do this in targeted games and competitions. For example, you can identify your brave, aggressive kids by playing a few games of Sharks and Minnows, where 1 “shark” enters a circle filled with all your other players (the “minnows”) and tries to knock as many balls out of the circle within 45 seconds. Keep track of how the sharks do, and you’ll get a good feel for the kids who naturally will be able to attack the ball on defense. Do the same thing for the other positions and their attributes, and keep running those games and drills from practice-to-practice, looking for development.

For development, depending on the age, you’ll want to move the players from position to position in games, but always try to pair up the less-experienced player at a position with an experienced “mentor”. For example, if you want to develop a defender, pair him/her up with a good defender and play them together. That gives the new defender a chance to learn in game situations, while also giving your team a chance to be successful. Similarly, put your inexperienced goalie behind your more experienced defenders, who will limit the quantity and quality of shots that the new goalie will have to face.

The bottom line is, if you want to be successful in your games, you need a single line of strength all the way up the field … 1 solid defender, 1 solid mid-fielder, and 1 solid forward. You can mix and match players around them, but if you have at least one solid player from goalie all the way to forward on game day, you have a chance to make a save and advance the ball up the field on an attack without hitting a “dead zone”. If you have all weak players at even one of those levels, then you will often lose momentum (and the ball) in that dead zone area.

And finally, on game day, push up.

That simply means that when your forwards and midfielders are on the attack, push your defenders to the midfield line to compete for the ball when the other team tries to clear it out of their zone. Any defender who isn’t competing for that ball can retreat in case the ball isn’t won. If you leave your defenders back by your goal, you may feel safer, but it’s a false sense of security – you’re really just increasing the other team’s scoring chances. Why? Because if your defenders are not pushed-up, then any clearing kick to midfield will lead to an attack on your side of the field. In addition, you’ll never force an off-sides pass with your defenders back. Since most successful teams tend to keep the ball on the opponent’s side of the field, pushing up on defense is often a key strategy to their success.

So that’s it. Make practices all about the touches, make practices fun, position players correctly, and push-up on defense. You’ll be well on your way to coaching a winning team.



Soccer Juggling Tips

I really love soccer. I’ve been playing it since I was four years old, at home with my family and friends, at school with my classmates and on the field with various recreational club teams. I’ve grown up kicking a soccer ball around, but it was not until my freshman year of high school that I learned how to seriously juggle a soccer ball. Being able to juggle a soccer ball is something all true soccer fans should at least attempt to figure out and it’s a lot of fun once one becomes familiar with it. It is not as hard as it may feel at first; it just takes practice and a few key points to remember when juggling for optimal success. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a little while to get used to, it took me way longer than my friends but I eventually caught on, as you hopefully will as well.

First, start with a decent pair of shoes. I have seen people juggle with everything from hiking boots to bare feet, but it is best to use flat topped, soccer or Converse-style shoes. These offer the greatest area for juggling. Once a person has mastered the art of juggling with these types of shoes (or basic running shoes), using other types of shoes or bare feet comes naturally.

Second, try a semi-flat soccer ball to start out with. These are easier to juggle than balls totally full, although they may require a little more force. Alternatively, get good at hacky-sacking (juggling a beanbag-type toy). This is a great way to learn the basic ‘movements’ associated with juggling. Hacky sacks may be purchased at many toy stores, and are sometimes associated with the old skool ‘grunge’ culture that sprang up in the Pacific Northwest.

Finally, keep the ball close to your body. Don’t be afraid to use your knees, hips, chest or, if comfortable, your head. There are some safety concerns associated with constant head bounces from soccer balls, so keep that in mind. The key with juggling is to learn to control the ball at each touch-its not a full on kick each time, rather its simply giving the ball enough force to stay near your body and move 2-3 feet up in the air.

Juggling is a lot of fun to do and a great way to hang with soccer buddies when not on the playing field. With all the above steps in mind, remember the main step: practice, practice, practice! Find a flat area, like a grass field or gym court and start kicking. Happy juggling!