Let’s learn how to scan the field in soccer/football. First you need to know What it is, Why and When to do it and How to become great at it. From youth to college, most players ball watch. Meaning when they don’t have the ball, their eyes are a magnet to it [hindering awareness]. It’s very easy to follow the ball because you feel your job is finished for that moment. Instead, you want to stay focused on what’s around you by scanning. You’ll literally change the way you play forever.
What is scanning the field?
Scanning the field is when you don’t have the ball and look to see the players behind you.
Some coaches use the term “check your shoulder” which again is to briefly look behind you to see where your teammates are and the defenders.
Once you receive the ball you have a better idea where to pass or dribble.
Most of the time players scan the field is when their teammate have the ball.
Scan when you’re on defense too. Then when your team steals the ball you already know what to do.
Watch pro games on TV
Some of the best ways to learn the importance on why you should scan the field is by watching pro players like Xavi – video. It’s simply 2nd nature to them.
Lionel Messi scans the field every 3 seconds. When his teammates have the ball, he’s constantly looking behind and to the sides. Waiting for the right moment, he will check to or away to receive the ball. Learn what checking to and away means – blog post.
Why you want to scan the field
You want to scan the field to see who’s behind you to know who’s open.
Learn to find the numerical advantage. This way you can put your team in a better situation to keep the ball.
If you get the ball and don’t know what to do with it your chances of keeping possession are lower.
One of the most important and difficult things is to know what to do with the ball before you get it.
Training session forcing players to scan
There are a number of things you can do to practice… A lot of it depends on if it’s a private 1:1, small group or team session.
One thing I do with players in private lessons is have them scan while I ask them to locate certain things. Example: I’ll pass them the ball and have them either pass back to me or redirect a pass to a target. After they pass, I’ll ask them if they see a person walking, red car, trash can, flag or anything… I allow them 2 seconds to look and then pass another ball. This forces them to build good habits to scan.
With small groups and teams you can actually use players…
Check out the video below of a drill I recently made up.
When to scan “check your shoulder”
A good time to scan is 2-5 seconds before you think the ball is coming to you. But again, make it a habit to look around you the whole game. In this you can also communicate to your teammates where they can pass.
It’s not always about you getting the ball, but your team keeping possession.
Another good time to scan is after you pass the ball. Immediately look behind you. Make this a habit. The best players do it all the time.
“Keep your head on a swivel” meaning look all around you.
The #1 thing you need to do when learning
To become great at scanning the field you first have to set the habit. Learning is the hardest part. Once you know it become natural and you don’t have to remind yourself.
So the #1 thing you have to do when learning is REMIND YOURSELF every single practice. Especially in scrimmage or possession games. Then of course on game day you need to be thinking and reminding yourself.
It will eventually click and you’ll be playing at a higher level because of it.
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