Soccer Updates

Improving Our Ability to Strike Balls Cleanly - Part 1

Authors: John Ellinger - US Youth Soccer

Last week we talked about the importance of striking balls cleanly with the various surfaces of the foot. How does the player improve their ability to bend balls, drive a ball over distance to a specific target and chip a ball to a teammate or over the opposing goalkeeper? Let's start with the mechanics of each of these technical skills.

The ability to bend a ball takes considerable practice time by the player. The player chooses whether they want to hit an in swinger or an out swinger (again banana or bender are other common terms for bending balls). If the player wants to hit an in swinger, they have to hit the ball with either the outside or inside of the kicking foot and strike either the inside or outside of the ball. For example, if the player is taking a corner kick from the right side (to the goalkeepers right side) of the opposing goal and they want to hit an in swinger towards the goal, they would strike the ball with the right foot using the inside/instep of the foot and strike the outside of the ball. If the player decides to use their left foot, they would strike the ball with the outside of their foot and again strike the outside of the ball. It is extremely important for all players to realize the importance of locking the ankle of the kicking foot. This is simple, but important action allows for the ball to move in the intended direction and required distance.

A simple exercise to practice bending balls is for two players, with one ball, to set up 20 yards apart from each other. Then, set up two sets of cones in the middle of this space five yards apart to the left and right of center. One player attempts to hit a bending ball through one set of cones to their partner. The second player now attempts to bend the ball back to their partner. At first, the player should not try and hit a bending ball with pace, just work on getting it to bend properly so it is bending back to the target. The players should practice hitting both in swinging balls and out swinging balls. The players should also use both feet. Remember to lock that ankle. Gradually, the players should increase the distance of attempted bender and the pace of the ball.

Striking the Ball Cleanly - Bender Exercise
Next week we will address striking balls over distance.

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