A big thing that I am noticing throughout the club is that some players are receiving, passing, shooting, and dribbling the soccer ball in ways that are not helping them technically. The main reason why I and our staff stress good technique is because it ultimately leads to good decision making. Good technique allows you to stop worrying about ball and focus on the tactical decision that is at hand. If you constantly have to worry about your first touch, are too scared of pressure, or can’t figure out how to finish, there is something to be said technically that is probably leading to that bad pass, that weak shot/finish, or the first touch that bounces away from you.
So here are 5 little things that can help you in all facets of your game:
1. Shooting – PLANT YOUR WEIGHT. I cannot emphasize this enough. Most players struggle to hit the ball with power and pace because they don’t allow their body to balance enough so that their swing motion can take place. So if you see someone shoot the ball a little on the weaker side, its because their body was not balanced enough to allow for a back swing, contact, and follow through. This could because they are leaning too much, they are moving to fast towards the ball, and not anticipating their plant moment, or just have too much upper body movement. Planting your weight for me means that you are freezing all parts of your body on that last step before making contact on the ball. That means that everything above your hips (your upper body) is frozen, and your plant foot toe doesn’t open up too much. We want to provide our swinging leg enough time to be able to complete the natural swinging motion.
2. Passing – The easiest way to describe excellent passing technique is kind of like playing mini-golf or putt-putt. During that time you use a putter to hit the ball and during that time you need to worry about the speed of your swing for the correct weight of the shot — a pendulum swing where you have all 3 parts of the swing, and the contact point is followed through towards the target. Passing is the exact same type of though process. The only difference is you have two feet you have to worry about, while only one is making contact with the ball. In this case, you always and I mean ALWAYS want to take a step towards the ball so that it allows you to stay balanced, allows you to create slight momentum, and allows your passing foot to have the pendulum swing because of your plant foot being even with the ball.
3. Receiving – A huge pet peeve of mine is watching players receive the ball with the inside of their foot and the shape of the foot is very ballerina like (toe down, heel up). If someone wants to have a better first touch, they must reverse that foot shape. Your heel should down and your toe should be slightly up. Your foot gets bigger as it goes towards your ankle, which means there is more surface area in that part. If your toe is facing down and your heel is up, then that means when your foot makes contact on the ball, it is not hitting the crucial surface area that can help cushion and control the ball. If your heel was towards the ground and toe was up, now you have the ability to use the natural surface area, and cushion the ball as needed. If you’re watching a session or a game, and your player receives it but the ball constantly pops up, then you know your player is not receiving the ball in a way that allows for ultimate control opportunity.
4. General Play – A constant theme that I have noticed is a lot of players lean way too much when they are moving, and its affecting their balance. When a player is balanced, their body is comfortable, and when a player’s body is comfortable, more often than not they do things technically correct. Where as, if you are leaning when you receive, shoot, pass, or tackle, what a lot of players don’t notice is their body weight moves away from the ball before the action on the ball happens. This needs to be reversed; have your body weight follow the action on the ball. For example, if you’re leaning to your left before you receive the ball to go left there is a good chance that your first touch isn’t going to be as good as it can be. Reason being, when you lean you become off-balance so instead of being able to complete another action afterwards, your body is going to have to spend an extra second or two rebalancing in order to complete the next pass. My ultimate advice – Stand up tall when you complete soccer actions (dribbling, shooting, passing, tackling, etc.). The more balanced your body is, the better chance you have of completing soccer actions more consistently.
5. Finishing – Watching a lot of soccer throughout our club, I’ve noticed a constant theme throughout: we struggle to finish our opportunities more often than I would like to admit. However, I believe there is one thing that players must start doing and its more of a mental switch. I am convinced that players often think too much about defenders and the goalkeeper in these scenarios. Instead, start thinking about picking a spot on the goal. When you pick a spot, its the only thing that your brain will think about, regardless of where the goal is or where the defensive pressure is coming from. Confident players just go and do, instead of worrying. When the defenders and goalkeepers are in your head, you start to semi-worry about putting it out of their reach. Instead of thinking this way, pick a spot in the goal so you start thinking about scoring instead of worrying about who is preventing you from scoring.