Soccer Updates

Improving Our Ability to Strike Balls Cleanly - Part 2

Authors: John Ellinger - US Youth Soccer

After discussing the techniques necessary and giving an example of a training exercise for bending balls in last week's blog, it is time to discuss how we can improve our ability to drive a clean ball over distance. One of the most rewarding moments in a soccer game for a player is right after  they have just sent a 30 or 40 yard long ball right on the money to teammate, or after scoring a long range goal from outside the "D". 

Mechanically, all of the points that we have previously mentioned still hold true when you are driving a ball over distance:
  • Position of the non-kicking foot - remember the position of the non-kicking foot will depend on whether the ball is stationary or moving
  • Keep your eyes on the ball
  • Strike the proper part of the ball in order to drive it straight at the target or bend it towards the intended target
  • Use the proper part of the foot-in this case the instep
  • Body lean forward or a slightly backwards lean depending upon the distance to be covered and/or the intended area of the goal that is targeted (high or low)
  • Remember to lock the ankle just prior to contact with the ball
  • Always follow through towards the target. 
The bottom line is that in order for the player to master this particular skill it is going to take many hours of striking balls to various targets/or at goal from distance on the training field. The player will undoubtedly experience a few "shank you very much moments" along the way (I did mean to say shank).

Other than having two players with one ball placed thirty yards apart from one another and striking balls repetitively, while gradually increasing the distance, here is an exercise that can be used in training to help improve the players ability to strike balls over distance. Set up a coaching grid 50 x 70, with two target zones at each end which are 10 x 70. The middle zone will now be a 30 x 70 grid. The coach now splits the team up into pairs, with each pair having one ball. Player A (who is in one end zone and wearing red) must check into the middle zone and then make a run back into the same end zone. Player B (who has the ball and is in the other end zone) now takes one touch of the ball once their partner begins their run back into the other end zone and then drives the ball to their partner so that it can be received in the end zone (the driven ball has to reach Player A in the air). After several minutes of practice, the coach can turn this activity into a competitive exercise by stating that once the pair of players are unsuccessful in completing the task for the second time, they are now eliminated from the competition and they now must practice juggling with their partner in the space outside the grid being used for the competition until this game ends. The coach can repeat this exercise several times. The players, while participating in this exercise, will get a great deal of practice striking a moving ball to a moving target, as well as valuable practice striking straight and bending balls over distance. If the coach wants to add an additional element of difficulty, the player receiving the ball only has two touches to get the ball under control in the end zone.

Improving Striking the Ball Cleanly - Distance

Next week we will discuss the technique of chipping a ball to a teammate or at goal.

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