Monday, 5 November 2012

Keys to Learn Striking a Soccer Ball

A player’s ability to strike the soccer ball is obviously paramount in order to score goals. The areas where players have the most difficult time when learning to strike the soccer ball are…

Approach, locking the ankle and keeping the toe down. The shot a player could be hitting could be a stationary ball; a ball rolling back towards the player, a ball rolling forward or the player could be shooting off the dribble. Players have to be able to hit all the shots. I like to start teaching the kids to hit a dead ball/stationary ball and then we can move into shooting or striking a moving ball. This gives the player a chance to get their technique down.

So the main points that players need to learn when striking the soccer ball?
  • Approach
  • Body posture
  • Plant foot
  • Locking the ankle
  • Striking through the middle of the ball
  • Follow through
  • Hitting the target
  • Moving balls
1. Approach
Approaching the soccer ball is very important. The players should get all the “little steps” out in the beginning and get into their stride so they are running onto the soccer ball with nice smooth strides.
The player should have a look to see where the target is when approaching the soccer ball. Once the player knows where the target is the player can put his or her head down, approach and shoot.

Why is this important to have an even stride?
• The approach is clean.
• Good stride to meet the soccer ball w/out choppy steps.

We will cover the plant foot more in the next section so the lets stick to getting the stride right. Line up a soccer ball in front of goal, against a wall or with partners. Don’t be concerned about the target right now just the stride!

2. The Plant foot
The player now has a good stride and is meeting the soccer ball balanced and ready to strike. The Plant foot is very important because if the player does not get the foot into the right position the shot will not be good.

The plant foot determines direction. The player must get the plant foot in the right place as this helps the player to get the whole body into the shot. This will improve power!

A plant foot behind or at the wrong angle will cause the shot to have no power or the player will get under the soccer ball, which causes the shot to rise.

The most common mistake that young players make is planting the foot behind the soccer ball or to close to the soccer ball. The plant foot should land next to the soccer ball with a little space – between the foot and the soccer ball. I will tell the players I don’t mind having the foot a little ahead of the soccer ball but not behind the soccer ball.

3. Striking the ball
The challenge when striking the soccer ball is locking the ankle and keeping the toe down.

The players must learn how to point the toe down and lock the ankle and strike the ball with the laces or instep. Run your players through instep exercises to help players get the feel for the sweet spot or instep on

the foot, through repetition and practice.
Finally, now that the players have the approach and plant foot down we can
get into striking the soccer ball.

Technique - The player pulls the leg back, locks the ankle and strikes through the middle of the soccer ball. An easy way to help players recognize they are in the right spot is if they look down and they are over the soccer ball. The
analogy I use is the player has a “big eye on their chest.” The eye must look down over the soccer ball when the player is preparing to shoot. This also means the player will shoot using the entire body not just the leg.
The knee on the plant foot should be slightly bent - the shoulders square to the target and the head still and the arms should be out for balance.

Common mistakes:
• The player unlocks the ankle and raises the toe – the coach can tell because the ball will spin – it is not a clean shot.

• The player does not swing the leg back far enough.
• The plant foot is behind the soccer ball.
4. The follow through
The player has just hit the soccer ball so the next step is the follow through.

Technique: What we want the player to do is land on the shooting foot after the shot. This means the player has now gotten the whole body into the shot and followed through the ball.

Common mistake:
• The player will hit the soccer ball and stop the follow through and land on the non-kicking foot failing to get the whole body into the shot. This leads to weak shots…

• The player will reach with the plant foot, which will cause the player to be off balance when they shoot. There will be no follow through here since the player is not leaning forward. This is generally due to approach.

These are some of the areas where coaches can observe and correct the technique and help the player self correct. A big part of coaching is getting players to realize what they did wrong and self correct. The player should beat the coach to the punch in explaining what happened. This is when you know; the player is getting the point.

5. Hitting the target
There are several reasons why players don’t hit the target or the player hits a weak shot.

• Plant foot going in the wrong direction.
• The player does not lock the ankle or hit the sweet spot. The player raises     the toe slightly just prior to shooting.
• Twisting the shoulders or hips, which changes the direction of the soccer ball.
• Getting under the soccer ball and not striking through the soccer ball causing the ball to rise.

A recap for hitting the target with a good shot.

• A quick look at the target followed by a good approach.
• Getting the plant foot down – direction.
• Drawing the leg back and locking the ankle.
• Striking through the middle of the soccer ball.
• Landing on the shooting foot.

6. A good shot

What does good look like?

A good shot has very little spin on the soccer ball and the soccer ball will dip and move. Getting the players to a point where they can hit this shot takes time. As the players grow physically and hone technique this shot will become possible with dead balls, rolling balls, and even volleys out of the air.

Continue to preach the mantra and the players will improve…

• Look at the target.
• Take a nice approach to the soccer ball.
• Get the plant foot down next to the soccer ball.
• The players need to hit the soccer ball with the instep and not the toe – toe down and ankle locked.
• Have a nice follow through so the player gets the body into the shot.
• Land on the shooting foot.

Once the players have the dead ball down they can start hitting a rolling ball.