Welcome to Coach Kyle’s offseason soccer lessons! While we wait for the Loons to return to action, we feel it’s the perfect time for yours truly to put a few nuggets of wisdom out onto the internet.
To be totally honest, my bosses just needed to find something for me to do around here during the offseason, and I needed something to scratch my coaching itch because the U11 team I’m in charge of has apparently received enough of my “wisdom” to completely tune me out. So here I am, trying to look busy and hoping that someone wants to listen to my lessons. Whether you learn anything or not, please keep reading so they don’t realize they don’t need me around here.
I’m starting with basic techniques today, but if they keep me around, I’m planning to venture deeper into some of the nuances of the sport. Why do we call it the beautiful game? What’s the best style to play? Why are the players doing that? What the heck is going on? Keep me employed if you want to find out the answers to those questions! For now, let’s whet your appetite with some passing, dribbling, and shooting mechanics.
In my opinion, there is no skill as crucial as your ability to identify and deliver a good pass. Everyone has had a coach demonstrate how a well-kicked ball moves faster than even the quickest player, teaching us that the best way to score is by moving the ball between teammates quickly and efficiently. While there are many types of passes that require slight modifications to form, I’ll just cover the basic ground pass today.
Let’s start by striking the ball with the inside of your foot. This is the widest part of the foot, giving you more control and enabling you to make crisp, accurate passes. You’ll want to make contact in the center of the ball; that way, you aren’t smashing your pass into the ground or popping it up into the air.
In order to strike your pass well, you’re going to need to position your body properly. Make sure you plant your non-passing foot next to the ball, pointing in the direction that you want to go. This will guide your passing leg as you find your teammate. The best passes are made while leaning over the ball slightly, putting your center of gravity over your strike, and giving you the balance necessary to get perfect contact.
Passing is essential, but it’s useless if you can’t control it. Receiving the ball is all about matching and absorbing the ball’s momentum, cushioning it just enough to make it more manageable. The best way to practice this is by passing with a teammate, or, in a pinch, by finding a nice wall to bounce some passes off of. Juggling is another great way to get comfortable, and all you need is a ball.
Dribbling is widely regarded as the most exciting skill in the entire game, offering players the easiest method of self-expression on the field. Throw some step-overs and a few flicks into your bag of tricks, and you’ll have people oohing and aahing in no time. But before you get that far, you need to master the basics and get comfortable with the ball at your feet.
When dribbling, different parts of the foot will enable you to do different things. For example, dribbling at speed is best accomplished with the outside of your foot, allowing you to run forward with natural form while maintaining a consistent, soft touch with the outside edge of your laces. Using the inside of your foot gives you more control, enabling you to manipulate the ball in close quarters and get out of pressure.
Regardless of which side of your foot you’re using, make sure to keep the ball close with soft, repetitive touches. The more you touch the ball, the quicker you’ll be able to change direction and foil defenders. As you get increasingly comfortable, increase your speed and keep on grinding. I’ve always found dribbling through a line of cones to be a great, easy way to practice this skill, slowly moving them closer together as your control develops.
This is where the magic happens, right? Well, at least part of it. Creating the opportunity is half the battle, but the ability to take advantage of an opening is what makes professional players the big bucks. Striking the ball with power and precision is a wonderful feeling, and there are only a few things to remember when you’re trying to do it.
When precision is the aim, the inside of the foot is the way to go. Think of it as a really well-struck pass that you’re aiming at the net. Plant your foot, open up your body, and finesse your shot past any defenders or goalkeepers in your way. Striking sideways across the ball will give your shot some curve, but get a feel for the basics before you try to get too fancy.
To lift the ball, you’ll want to strike it slightly below the center, getting underneath and pushing through to fire it toward the upper 90. While the shots that kiss the bar are often the most fun to watch, never underestimate the low-driven shot. A well-placed shot on the ground can be even harder for goalkeepers to deal with, forcing them to dive or get down quickly to avoid conceding.
If you’re just looking to smash the ball, your laces are the best option. We’ve all seen those shots that nearly break the net, producing that oh-so-satisfying sound and bulge that come with a certified banger.
Just like any other time you’re striking the ball, you’ll want to start by planting your foot beside it. Then, after pulling your leg back to generate power, swing through the ball, pointing your toe down so that the laces of your cleat strike its center and the knee of your kicking leg is over the ball. If you’ve swung through properly, you should be landing on the same leg you shot with. Otherwise, you definitely could have hit that thing harder.
That’s all I’ve got for you this week, but I hope to be back with more tips before too long. If you don’t see another one of these articles for a while, I’ve either been fired, or the U11s have finally started listening to me and we’re winning national championships. Now make sure you do your part; send this article to 10 of your friends, make sure they at least click the link and join my pyramid sche—I mean, share my wisdom.