Basic Skills and Drills
There are three important points for good ball control:
1. The first touch should protect the ball from challenging players and not give them a chance to regain possession.
2. The ball should be played into available space to allow for the next touch.
3. The ball should be played so that the team‟s movement or momentum is continued. A poor first-touch will risk taking the momentum out of play and increase the possibility of losing possession. Some players make the mistake of stopping the movement of the ball and not concentrating on getting it out of their feet. The first touch should ensure that a time wasting second touch is not needed to get the ball ready to pass or shoot. The different body surfaces often used in controlling the ball are the foot (sole, inside, outside, instep), thigh, chest, stomach and head. Generally, the part of the body used should preferably be large, flat and able to take the weight of the incoming pass.
The key coaching points for general ball control are:
- Keep the head steady and watch the ball carefully to judge its flight and speed.
- Move feet quickly so the body is in front of the ball.
- Choose the right technique and body surface to control the ball (for example, the foot).
- Relax the body part.
- Cushion the force of the ball by pulling back the body part being used to control the ball.
- Pretend the body part is a pillow or something soft. The ball should not go very far after it contacts the body.
- Maintain eye contact with ball until fully controlled.
Another important aspect of ball control is the ability to run with the ball. The key coaching points are:
- Use short steps.
- Push the ball forward gently with the inside or the outside of the foot. Alternate feet.
- Keep the ball close and in front.
- Use peripheral vision (that is, the ‘corner’ of the eye) to look at the ball while watching the direction being traveled. As skill increases, look less a at the ball.
- Monitor speed based on ability to keep the ball close.
Successful passing is the key to good teamwork. Teaching the technique of passing is actually quite straightforward but it is not always easy to spot and remedy the mistakes that children make. The key coaching points are:
- Use inside of the foot (the instep).
- The non-striking foot should be pointing in the direction of the intended target.
- The striking leg makes a swinging motion similar to a putter in golf.
- The striking ankle must be locked.
- Stay relaxed. Don‟t be like a robot.
- Look up to find your target but remember to look at the ball as you strike it. That is the only way the player can strike the ball correctly.
- Foot follows through in direction of target.
- Move afterwards – don’t stand there admiring your pass!
The Push Pass
The push pass is used to pass the ball over short distances. The key coaching points are:
- Plant the non-kicking foot beside ball.
- The kicking foot should be pointing sideways with the inside of the foot facing the ball.
- Push the ball towards target.
Inside of the Foot Pass
This is the method used for passing the ball over longer distances, or in situations where the pass requires some extra power. The key coaching points are:
- Non-kicking foot next to the ball.
- Contact ball in the middle.
- Use the inside of the foot.
- Follow through so your kicking foot goes to your target.
- Use a firm kick so it gets to your target.
These are some common mistakes and how to correct them:
- If the ball is off target, but rolling well – the player has not pointed her non-striking foot at the target.
- If the ball spins off the foot – the ankle was not locked when striking the ball.
- If the ball goes in the air – the player has struck the ball below the centreline of the ball and it will rise. Striking the ball above the centreline will ensure that it rolls on the ground.
- If the pass lacks power or the player falls down after passing – the player tried to swing her or his leg ACROSS the body instead of on a line with the hips and shoulders.
To score goals, players need to be able to use both power and placement. The key coaching points are:
- Keep the head down and eyes on the ball – look up to pick out the target, but then look back at the ball to shoot.
- Plant non-striking foot alongside (not in front of) the ball.
- Strike the middle of the ball so it doesn’t rise.
- Keep the knee of the kicking leg over the ball.
- Approach the ball slightly from the side.
- Follow through, don’t jerk back when striking the ball (loses power).
Kicking for Distance
Especially in defence, the long kick is important for clearing the ball. The key coaching points are:
- Non-kicking foot next to the ball.
- Contact ball below the middle of the ball.
- Contact ball with instep of foot.
- Follow through.
- Kick hard!
Heading is an inevitable part of football, both in attack and defence, but can be dangerous for smaller children (see warning below). If teaching heading, as a general rule, defensive headers should go high, wide and far, while offensive headers should be aimed towards the ground (as ground balls are harder for keepers to handle). Defenders usually will aim for the bottom half of the ball while attackers usually will aim for the top half. Initially, of course, it is most important to teach the correct technique (and the courage to use it), so it is not too important where the ball goes. The key coaching points are:
- Put feet in a balanced, athletic, ready position with knees bent and weight centered evenly.
- Keep the neck stiff and lean back.
- Keep eyes OPEN, and watch the ball until contact!
- Keep mouth CLOSED to avoid injury!
- Move head forward towards the ball and contact the ball with the forehead area between hairline and eyebrows.
- Arms should reach forward as the ball is coming and pull backwards as the head moves forward.
- Follow through to the target area.
- If you hit the ball on its bottom half, the ball will go up.
- If you hit the ball on its upper half, the ball will go down.
Warning – There could be the risk of injury to the spine from the excess compacting effect of heading the ball. Heading skills can be left for intensive development until the early teens(it is recommended for children above 12 years old) – particularly as the skill of heading is something older players can cope with better than a non-discerning youngster. Heading the ball is an inevitable part of any soccer match, so for this reason it is important to show players how to head the ball correctly. Just don’t do it too much!
The Throw In
When the ball goes out of play, it must be put back into play by a ‘throw in’. The key coaching points of the ‘throw in’ are:
- Face target, feet shoulder width apart (or one in front of the other as long as they both remain on the ground when the ball is released).
- Grip ball firmly with two hands.
- Lean back and bring the ball over the head.
- Transfer weight forward, quickly bring the arms forward and fully extend them at the point of release.
- Ball is released in front of head.
- Add a short run to generate momentum.
Children should not start specialising in any positions until they are a bit older. Therefore, teaching goalkeeping skills to smaller children is a great way to help them understand the game better. The key coaching points are:
- Start with the ready position – balance on the balls (or front) of the feet, bend comfortably at the knees while keeping as tall as possible, and have the hands relaxed through the fingertips.
- Hand positioning for high balls – the hands should form a supple web that surrounds the back side (closest to the goal) of the ball. Fingertips should be pointed up and palms facing forward. The thumbs of both hands are almost touching.
- Hand positioning for low balls – the hands should form a supple web that surrounds the back side (closest to the goal) of the ball. Fingers should be pointed down and palms facing forward. The little fingers of both hands are almost touching.
- Side-step quickly behind the line of the ball and try to get two hands behind the ball.
- Create barriers between the ball and the goal with the body, legs and hands and have as much of body behind the ball as possible.
- Concentrate until the ball is in the hands, relax at the point of contact and cushion the ball towards the body with hands.
- Attack the ball whenever possible.
In soccer, the term “tackling” is used to describe any effort to steal the soccer ball or knock it away from an opposing player. There are two types of tackling – block and slide tackling. Slide tackling can be dangerous, and is banned in this league. Block tackling is safer, and will be taught in this manual. It is important to point out that the player is tackling the ball itself and not the opponent. The key coaching points of block tackling are:
- Place the non-kicking foot alongside the ball.
- The ankle joint of the tackling foot must be firm and locked.
- The knees should be bent to lower the centre of gravity of the player.
- The head and upper body should be over the ball.
- The hands should be closed (make a fist). This will tighten the upper body.
- Contact is made with the inside of the foot.
- Contact on the ball should be made through the middle of the ball.
25 Key Skill-related Messages For Young Soccer Players
1. Always play fairly, according to the spirit and letter of the rules.
2. Stay calm under difficult conditions. It’s easy to maintain composure when things go right; when they don’t real athletes step forward and stand up to the test.
3. Support and encourage your teammates at all times. All of us make mistakes at times and they are not done on purpose. Encourage your teammates to be the best they can be.
4. Play as hard as you can in practice and in games. Never be beaten because of lack of effort. Even opponents who are bigger or more skilled than you can be beaten if you out-hustle them.
5. Show respect to your coaches, referees, and your opponents; win or lose.
6. Win, lose or tie; if you have given 100%, when you walk off the field you have nothing to regret and no reason to be ashamed.
7. Don’t be afraid to be a hero. YOU CAN DO IT!
8. A good soccer player must have conditioning, skills and tactical knowledge. A player must work on all three to be the best they can be.
9. When your team has the football, everyone is an attacker; when your opponent has the ball everyone is a defender.
10. No matter what position you are in, you are first a soccer player and you will have to be able to receive, shoot, pass, dribble, head, make space, etc., regardless of your position.
11. Do not just “kick” the ball unless it is in a dangerous position in front of your goal. Instead take a ” picture ” of the situation before you get the ball. In this way you can perceive the situation, determine the best solution, and act accordingly when the ball arrives. Develop Field Vision. Always send the ball to someplace or someone.
12. Always maintain your position. Don’t run following the movement of the ball. Know where you are on the field in relation to where the other players and positions are on the field.
13. Don’t run forward when your team has the ball unless you are willing to run back when the other team has the ball.
14. If you lose the ball, you should be the first person to defend. Giving immediate chase is the first rule of defence.
15. When changing from attack to defence, sprint to get between your opponent and the goal you are defending.
16. When defending close to your goal, the player closest to the ball should attack the ball. The other defenders should “mark” other opponents who could receive and shoot the ball. In “marking up” your opponent, you should position yourself between the ball and your opponent and prevent them from receiving the ball. A common error on defence is to have too many defenders move to the ball leaving opponents open to receive a pass and score an unopposed goal.
17. On the defensive side of the field, always move the ball toward the touchlines and away from the middle of the field. On the offensive side of the field move the ball toward the centre, where your teammates can take a good shot on goal. This is “centering” the ball.
18. Good ball handlers pass the ball before they get into trouble not after they are in trouble.
19. Make no small strikes on the ball. Whether clearing, passing or shooting MOVE the ball. Proper technique on striking the ball will enable even small players to effectively move the ball a good distance.
20. Take your shot! Don’t hesitate to fire a shot if you feel an opportunity. Shoot into the back of the net. Shoot where the keeper isn’t.
21. Don’t limit yourself to shots taken only near the goal line. Good opportunities for goals are hard shots taken further out from the goal. Keep your head down, strike and follow through the ball for the goal.
22. Most players are right-footed. At this level, when playing defence against an opponent with the ball especially watch and attack against the right foot.
23. When playing offence with possession of the ball, anticipate your defender attacking your right foot. Use your left foot. It is imperative that you develop your passing, dribbling, and shooting skills with both your left and right foot.
24. Always be aware of protecting possession of the ball. Resist “kicking” the ball directly into the shin guards of the defender in front of you. Passing or dribbling the ball laterally or even backwards can be a better choice if it maintains possession of the ball.
25. When on offence always “support” your teammate with the ball. Supporting your teammate means being in a position where they can pass the ball to you. Stay far enough away so the pass effectively neutralizes the defender. Stay close enough so they can make a good pass. If you are too far to make a good pass to your teammate, then you are too far for your teammmate to make a good pass to you, and you are not supporting.