Think about the times you have received the ball in a tight space, knowing you needed to get the shot off. Shooting in tight spaces brings so many different challenges. Sometimes it requires you getting any part of your foot or leg on the ball to score. One thing I often say is “ugly goals count too”. Players like to hear this because they know that it’s impossible to deal with every ball. It’s important to know that many of your chances won’t be ideal. Sometimes you have to rush the shot, so don’t worry about how pretty it looks. Don’t be afraid to miss.
Shooting in tight spaces is very common, especially for strikers.
Plus one on the defensive side
A defensive unit should plan to have 1 extra player to outnumber the attack. If you see more attacking players than defending players in or around the 18 yard box that’s a big break down.
Example: If a team has 3 forwards + a midfielder that are all pushed up, the defense needs to have 5 players back to make sure they have plus one.
Turning while shooting in tight spaces
One thing coaches at the higher level look for is players who can play facing both directions.
Most good forwards can play facing the goal, but the great forwards can also play with their back to the goal.
Then you have some players who can play with their back to goal, but are not as good facing the goal.
Speedy players are usually stronger going to goal, while slower stronger players are better at holding the ball.
Let’s not let size be an excuse though. You can think of a player like Aguero who is very short, but can play strong with his back to goal. He can also beat you off the dribble or with a one touch finish.
Players who can turn while shooting in tight spaces are rare and deadly in the box.
Dutch legend, Dennis Bergkamp scored ONE of the GREATEST GOALS EVER
Shooting off the dribble in tight spaces
On the men’s side I first think of Messi, while on the women’s side I think of Rose Lavelle. These are two players who can score off the dribble and often times off balance. One difference of the two is Messi can change his speed, while Rose seems to always be going full speed with the ball.
There are many styles that work great.
Think about the different ways you can dribble.
Going to goal, across goal, at speed, weak foot, strong foot, while fresh, while tired. These things make a difference in each situation. It’s important to practice them all. First practice slower to get it right and then practice at speed or under pressure/game like.
Last, remember that you can’t always wait for the perfect shot. Oftentimes you’ll have to shoot before you want to, but it’s needed and you will score like this. Once you learn to get your shot off under pressure, off balance and earlier than you want, you’ll score more goals and win more game.
Shooting across goal off balance
Shooting in tight spaces and off balance can happen many different ways.
Maybe it’s from getting pushed from the defender or maybe it’s moving a different direction from where you’re shooting.
One thing for sure, shooting in tight spaces is usually awkward and difficult.
How to practice on your own
One way to improve is to put yourself in these challenging situations.
This video drill below is great for players to learn to shoot across goal.
This exercise will also help with crossing. Even though it’s not actually crossing the ball, the way you kick is the same. In doing this, you’re getting good at both shooting and crossing.
Dealing with crosses
If you watch pro soccer you will see that most goals are scored from crosses coming in from just inside the 18 yard box.
In most youth soccer, you’ll see more crosses from far out only because they lack the experience, knowledge and composure. Higher level players know that they will get more chances, so they don’t panic and try to cross everything that comes to them.
The hard part about dealing with crosses is the technical part. Even for players who are put in the situation week after week will admit that finishing a 1 time volley is tough. This is why you see the best goals of the World Cup is usually a volley.
Side volleys usually result from a ball crossed in and a player having to deal with it quickly. This results in shooting in tight spaces and in different scenarios.
How to practice side volleys
Best ways to become good at dealing with crosses is put yourself in this type of situation.
The challenge is this is tough to do solo. One way to do this solo is to practice in a racquetball court or somewhere with multiple walls. This way you can shoot/pass at one wall and then as the ball comes back at you, shoot/pass at the other wall.
How the greats anticipate deflections
You know as well as I do that with sports come with deflections. This means either lucky or unlucky situations that nobody saw coming, but you have to anticipate. A lot of this comes with hope, good body language and knowing where to be.
You can see the difference in body language when watching the best forwards in the world. You see the killer instinct that gives them the edge.
Knowing where to be also makes the difference from average to good. Between the six yard box and the pk spot is where most goals are scored. This means you better be ready with lots of hope and anticipation.
Have complete confidence in your scoring ability. Many players deep down are hoping the ball doesn’t come to them in certain situations.
To have a strong mindset in soccer is to be willing to take risk and know that it’s okay to make mistakes.
High repetition finishing drills
The antidote to lack of confidence in front of the goal is high repetition drills.
The drills need to be easy so that the player becomes so confident that they know they are going to score.
Most youth and college players still have that doubt because most of them never get proper high rep finishing training. It’s not a fault to any coaches or players. This is just a hard skill to practice and even with much practice, it’s still hard.
Another antidote to lack of confidence is teaching your feet how to control the ball better by training at home.
Join me in my online training where you will motivated to practice at home, taking your game to a new level. In 3 months this program will turn you into a new player.
Redirecting the volley to pass and shoot
In my personal training sessions I will lightly toss balls from 5 – 10 yards away for the player to volley on goal. With this comes different techniques and working with both feet.
The top 2 techniques to work on with the side volley is across the body and close the gate/closest foot.
Both are with the inside of the foot. If you can become good with both feet and both techniques, you’ll solve lots of problems on the field.
While it’s great to score goals, these drills will also help with your passing skills.
Side volleys – inside vs laces
After working with redirecting the volley with the inside of the foot, laces is what I would work on next.
Though a side volley with the laces is beautiful and powerful, it’s for most players more difficult. Another reason I would first focus on getting good with the inside is because you’ll use the inside of the feet more.
Some players are naturally better using the laces, resulting in it being more uncomfortable to use the insides.
How soccer players benefit from using walls
One of the best things a soccer player can do is find a wall!
It doesn’t matter how it looks, every wall is different. I used to go the nearest school from my house and use the gym wall.
School gymnasium walls are great because they are so much higher, which helps keep you from kicking your ball on the roof.
Tennis court walls are great if you can find one.
Proper ball striking is by far one of the hardest things for most youth players. Even up to HS and some college, players don’t know how to strike the ball clean. Then some do know how, but it doesn’t mean they are good at it. First players need to know how and second they need to practice it over and over.
Pictured below is one of my trainees, Brett Wilson; D1 college player practicing on the tennis court. We use courts when the fields are too wet from rain.
Hungry players find a way to train.
Your wall might be found at your house. If mom allows, try these places: Fireplace, stairs/steps, couch, rebounders. I saw a video of a kid who turned over a round table and used it to kick against. Use your imagination.
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