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Ball Skills

Slide Tackle      Volley      Block Tackle

Positional sense
With regard to youth seven a side football. Set out, with small markers, a grid sectioning the pitch into three areas. Introduce two forwards and two opposing defenders, with respective goalkeepers, either end of the pitch, to occupy either section and four midfield players, two from each team to the middle section. Each team must play the rules as normal, but all players must stay to their respective sections, therefore encouraging the sense of positional play.

Passing competition

One ball and one cone per person. Arrange players into pairs. Every player has a ball and a cone. Players and cones are placed say 10metres apart. Player one then passes the ball with the AIM being to hit or get as close to player 2's cone. Player 2 then takes his turn. One point is awarded for the person that comes closest with 2 points awared for a hit. The competitive element can help players focus on the exercise. Change partners after an agreed time and vary the distance between the cones. This exercise can also be used to improve shooting accuracy.

Know the danger!
Teach kids that the most dangerous spot on the field is in front of the goal. Have kids shoot at goal from both sides of the goal from outside the box. Once completed, let them then take shots from in front of the goal. Rather than try to explain the concept, they can see for themselves that bringing the ball to the centre and then shooting is more productive (due to the greater width of the goal available) than shots from the sides. Once completed ask them which shots were easier to make. Let THEM tell you! Alternatively, they also learn that this is the most important area to defend. Letting the kids learn by experiencing it for themselves is more productive than trying to verbally explain the concept.

Dog eat Dog
Its simple and great for beginners. Create a circle grid with cones and have the kids dribble within the circle. Tell them they have to kick out the balls of the other kids while maintaining their ball in the circle. The last kid with a ball wins. This teaches kids to look up when they dribble, keep the ball close to them, and learn to attack the ball as a defender.

Inside Outside
Have the team line up on the goal line (everyone has a ball) the team will run to the center line and back with the ball. The one condition is that on the way to the center line they must use only one leg touching the ball first with the instep then the outside of the foot. On the way back they have to use the other leg doing the same thing. This will help teach the players to use both legs and the inside and outside of the foot.

Kicking Technique

Soccer kicking techniques range from basic shooting and passing skills up advanced techniques, such as bending the ball around a wall and overhead kicks. We start with coaching the basic skill of using the instep for kicking at goal, and passing the football. Follow the links for tips on other soccer kicking techniques.

The photographs demonstrate the right and wrong way to kick a football. The instep, the part of the foot where the laces are, provides both power and control. The most common mistake made by beginners is to use the toe. Not only is this painful if somebody tackles hard when you are trying to kick, but it is terribly inaccurate. The advantage of the instep is that it presents a flat surface to the ball, and can also be used to make the ball swerve and dip.

The non-kicking foot provides support, and should be bent as you kick. When we want to keep the ball on the ground, the head is down, over the ball. The follow-through should be long and smooth, and another useful tip is to approach the kick slightly from the side whenever possible.

This basic soccer kicking technique is often overlooked, because it is so simple. The real skill is being able to kick accurately whilst under pressure, and it is far more important to consistently excel at this basic skill than to be able to perform fancy tricks. Useful drills for beginners include passing the ball in pairs over 10-20 metres within a narrow corridor, and for sole training kicking at targets on a wall. 

The Lofted Kick

The lofted kick is the soccer skill used to play the long ball, cross the ball into the penalty area, and to clear the ball from defence. Apart from the chip, used for short-range kicks, this is the only technique for lifting the ball into the air with real power.

This soccer skill uses the instep as for the basic kicking technique, but it is important to strike low down on the ball to generate lift, and to lean back slightly. Beginners sometimes find it difficult to balance properly, and it is important not to fall too far to the side as you kick. Using the non-kicking foot as a firm anchor, and putting your opposite arm out for balance will help. Another useful tip is to try to place the non-kicking foot slightly in front of the ball instead of level with it.

It is important to obtain distance from your kick as well as height. Do not just kick the ball as high as possible. The object is to kick the ball high enough to clear any opposition players, but extra height is not necessary.

Corner Kicks and Crosses

The cross and corner kick are vital soccer skills, because a large proportion of goals arise from crosses and corners. The orange box in the illustration represents the most dangerous area in football for the defending team - in front of the six yard box. A well aimed header from crosses kicked into this area is extremely difficult to stop.

The soccer kicking techniques for taking crosses and corners are the lofted kick preferably with some spin applied to swerve the ball. When the ball is being crossed from near the touchline at a steep angle, it might be necessary to use the area around the big toe for kicking in order to keep the ball in play.

Tactically, there are two main types of cross - the near post cross and far post cross. At the near post the attacker tries to get in front of the defender, ideally with a run towards goal to obtain momentum. At the far post, the attacker usually tries to get behind the defence, on the blind side. This type of cross tends to favour taller player who can jump high over the defence, whereas shorter players are better at the near post. Another interesting tactic is the flick-on, in which a player in front of the six yard box deflects the ball into the danger zone. An advantage of this cross is that it is almost impossible for the goalkeeper to cut out, and for this reason a defender is usually stationed in front of the six yard box at corners.

Swerving or Bending the Ball

Bending or swerving the ball is one of the most exciting soccer kicking techniques. Brazilians, such as Pele, were famous for making the ball bend around a defensive wall, and this is one of the hallmarks of David Beckham. This skill is important in many areas of football, such as shots at goal around defenders that are obscured from the goalkeeper's view, corner kicks, crosses into the box, and passing the ball around opponents.

There are two main methods, namely using the outside of the foot to swerve the ball away from you, or using the inside of the foot to bend the ball inwards. Swerve is produced by kicking the ball off centre on the opposite side to the side you want the ball to swerve to. For example, if you want to bend the ball from right to left with your right foot, you make contact with the ball on the right side using the inside of your foot. To make the ball bend away from you from left to right, kick the ball on the left side using the outside of your foot. A tip for improving your skill using the inside of the foot is to swivel on your non-kicking foot as you kick the ball, but this movement should not be exaggerated.

The Chip

The chip is a football kicking technique used to quickly lift the ball over short distances, for example, to pass the ball over an opponent to one of your team players, or to lift the ball into the penalty area from a few metres away. The disadvantage of the chip over the lofted kicking technique is that it lacks power. The advantages are that lift can be produced quickly, and that the backspin generated from this method causes the ball to slow down on hitting the ground. This is especially useful when the ball is passed into a confined area, such as near the touchline.

The chip uses a stabbing or chopping motion in which the lower part of the foot, but not the toe, makes contact low down on the ball. The knee of the kicking foot is bent, and high at the end of the follow-through. As for the lofted kick, it is best to lean back slightly, but with the head down looking at the ball. A useful tip is to place the non-kicking foot slightly behind the ball.

The Wall Pass or One-Two

The wall pass, or one-two is a great football tactic for working the ball through the defense, beating the offside trap, for creating space in midfield, and for avoiding tight marking. The wall pass can even be played in defense. The move is simple, player one passes the football to player two, who immediately passes it back to player one. It's important that both players keep moving, and especially that player one runs into space as soon as he has played the ball.

An effective one-two requires team work: an understanding with your team mate. The key elements are accuracy in passing, timing and speed. Both passes should be weighted and timed so that the player receiving the ball does not have to alter stride. In the illustrations, the blue defender has to turn around and give chase, but the red attacker already has forward speed to run into space, and gains several metres over her marker.

An understanding between players is vital when playing the wall pass. Instead of running to the outside, player one might decide to cut inside round the back of the defender. Obviously, the player making the return pass must see which way he runs. Even more embarassing and costly is the situation where the return pass is sent straight back to a player who has already started his run. 

The Volley

Volley technique is a difficult soccer skill to master, but volleys have produced many spectacular goals. As well as goal scoring, volleys can be used for passing, and kicking the ball away from danger in your own area. In tight situations, it is often better for a defender to volley the ball away than to try to control the ball at a difficult height. The kicking techniques used for the full volley is different from the half volley, and the side volley pass.

One of the secrets of great volleys is the swivel motion. Start from a square position with both feet a comfortable distance apart. Then, without moving your feet twist your upper body to the right until your left shoulder is facing directly in front of you. Next, twist back to the right until your right shoulder is facing in front of you. This is the swivel motion that can improve your volleying technique, and it can be practised without a ball. Another way of thinking of this twisting motion is as a corkscrew. For a left-footed volley twist first to the right, and then to the left.

Keeping the ball down is one of the worst problems with volleying technique. As with all kicking skills watching the ball, and keeping the head down helps, but it is important to try to keep the knee over the ball.

The Overhead Kick

The overhead kick is a great football technique, and it requires a lot of skill to perform well. Often, we see players who attempt an overhead kick that is sliced or a complete miss, but sometimes it produces spectacular goals. A recommended soccer drill for beginners is to kick a football hung from the cross bar, and this training for the overhead kick is illustrated below.

Both feet must leave the ground for the overhead kick to be performed properly. The method is to jump off the kicking foot, and to throw the head back so that the body follows. At the point of contact with the ball, the upper body should be almost horizontal to the ground. On landing, try to keep the arms flat on the ground, and arch the back. Several players, including professional ones, have injured themselves attempting an overhead kick, so the landing is important, especially on hard pitches. Following this advice is entirely at your own risk! In particular, avoid landing on your head, the base of your spine and your elbows.

You can get the feel for the movement by hanging a ball in a net from the cross bar or other tall object, and kicking over head without falling over. Start with the ball at waist height, jump and kick with the same foot. Next, raise the ball higher and concentrate on throwing your head back and getting your non-kicking foot airborne. A landing mat is advisable.



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