Learning the Art of Soccer Kicks
Learning to strike a soccer ball is the most basic, yet critical skill for new players.
There are three essential kinds of kicks that vary in relation with the foot, depending on the ball movement desired.
For the most accurate passing technique, use the inside center of the foot, along the line that runs parallel to the big toe.
Dan Metcalfe, Nike Youth Soccer Coach of the Year, best describes this motion: "The leg that is kicking the ball should swing from the hip, not the knee, just like a pendulum on a grandfather clock. To achieve this, turn the kicking leg so that the knee is facing the side, opening up the inside of the foot to the ball."
Lock the ankles and aim for the center of the ball. Make sure the "anchor" foot (the foot not striking the ball) is placed a step away and outside of the ball.
Usually known as the "power shot," this technique is more difficult to execute.
- Point the toes downward like a dancer, and strike the center of the ball with the area between the top of the foot and the inside center of the dominant foot (also called the "sweet spot," or the laces).
- Keep the ankle locked, knees and anchor foot slightly bent, and follow through the leg's natural extension.
- Make sure the player is leaning over the ball, using his arms for balance and power.
This contact is most effective for corner kicks, free kicks, or players looking to lob the ball high in the air.
- Use the same area of the foot as the power shot, but lean slightly backwards, angling the body like a golf club.
- The player should aim for the bottom right (or left depending on the dominant foot) portion of the ball.
- His movements should be smooth and relaxed.
"The closer the ground the kick, the higher the ball will go," says Metcalfe.
How to Train a Young Player
Get down on the grass with the player and walk him through the various shots by putting his foot on the ball in the appropriate spots. You can demonstrate, too. Drawing an "X" on the ball can also be helpful for the visual learners. And don't forget to practice with both feet -- ambidexterity is a must in soccer.
After finding the "sweet" spot, the young player will never want to toe-poke again.