I remember as a youngster my coaches showing me different ways to kick a ball. I remember my first select team my coach taking me to the side after practice. He showed me how to chip, which was so hard at first. But after weeks of practice I picked it up and learned the proper way to kick a soccer ball. Then I remember the next season I grew taller and my foot grew longer. I had a size 12 shoe at age 12. All of a sudden I couldn’t chip the ball or do several other things very well. I was clumsy for a year or so due to the sudden growth. This goes with many kids at different ages. How we do something matters and kicking a ball in soccer matter a whole lot. So learning how is important at a young age, along with practicing at home.
Proper mechanics matter more than power
Before you go out and start using all these tips to kick the soccer ball harder, make sure you are hitting it the right way. More important than just kicking a ball is how we do it. Your opposite arm needs to be out away from your body, both knees bent. If you’re kicking with your right, your body should be leaning a little bit to the left. Leaning will allow you to have balance and for your foot to be at a better angle. Then you need to plant at the right spot. Not too close to your foot and not too far away. Not too far out in front and not under you. Wait, and what about lean back or forward and get both feet of the ground landing on your shooting foot. This all matters more than trying to get the ball hard.
What most select players are thinking before the kick
Remember I have been teaching private lessons for a living going on 11 years. I don’t know one coach who puts in more hours than me, when it comes to technical training. It’s all I do! When I ask kids [ages 11-15+] how they are about to ‘kick’ the ball, they say “I don’t know, I’m just going to hit it“. It’s one thing if these kids are 8-10 years old, but these are 12-14+ year old kids who have pretty good club coaches. It’s just that soccer is deep and there is so much to learn. If you don’t work on your own, outside of team practice you just won’t get the technique to set in. You will be a player that just kicks the ball, instead of knowing how you are going to kick.
Inside ‘push pass’ is used most
So for this you want to connect with the inside of the foot, where your toe will be pointed more up than down. Just below the top shoelace hole is a bone on your foot that feels like the edge of a marble. This is the “sweet spot”. If you connect under that then the ball hits the muscle of your foot, which means you will lose the crisp pop you want. Make sure you keep the inside of your foot following through towards the target, even after you connect. The foot naturally wants to close, like it’s used to when you walk.
Laces for backspin or no spin
Besides the push pass, this is what coaches want you to learn first. The thing is, some players I believe naturally learn or do better bending the ball with the inside of the foot. Depending on the situation in a game there is usually 1 or 2 better ways to kick the ball. Being stationary compared to dribbling or running with the ball is different. When striking with the top of the foot [laces] you want the ball to go straight towards where you hips and shoulders are facing. Also you need to have both knees bent at little. The more you have your plant leg bent, the more you can get under the ball to it up high.
Striking with the laces is 1 main skill you really want to get right! Check this video below and notice how my student [Brett] gets both feet off the ground. Also notice how the player lands on his kicking foot. This is not the only way to hit it with the laces, but it is a good one I recommend. After you strike through make sure your hips and shoulders stay at the target.
Growth spurts mess with your game
Imagine you built a robot that you have worked so hard for. All the gears turn how they are supposed to and everything is just the perfect size. Well imagine the leg of your robot grew and now can’t make the smooth kick because its not working like you built it. You have to go back and fix things so they work again. This is how kicking a soccer ball is when you are growing. Every year kids across the world are having to relearn how to kick the ball. Or they go through times, where they just weren’t as smooth.
Bending the ball
Bending the ball can get just as much power as striking with the laces. Most youth players even in high school don’t learn this well enough in my opinion. My youth coach [Alvin Alexander] introduced it to me at team practice and I took advantage working on it in my backyard. You have to work with the ball on your own! Typically bending with the inside of the laces you don’t get both feet off the ground, but you can for more power. If hitting a dead ball [freekick] do this. As you go to strike the ball your toes are down, but as you strike through bring your toes up. This is totally different and weird for the muscles, because the toes are used to staying up the whole time with the push pass or staying down with the laces.
Bending with the outside you can get both feet off the ground, but many times you don’t. Your toe can stay down the whole time while striking or it can come up. If you want power keep your toe down, but if you want some extra spin and less power let the toe go up. It all depends on if you want power or not, or if it’s a light pass around someone or how much time you have to release the ball. Brazilian legend, Roberto Carlos who would bend free kicks with the outside of the laces. If you YouTube “best freekick ever” Roberto Carlos highlight will pop up. A game Brazil vs Italy is when he scored it and it will forever go down as the greatest free-kick in my opinion. The best part was the ball was traveling towards a ball boy on the side of the goal, right before it bent in the goal.
Chipping for short distance & height
One of the hardest skills in soccer is by far the chip! There are players I have trained, who are high school or even college players who can’t chip a proper ball. The ones that can do it, will admit that chipping with their weaker foot is so difficult. knowing the proper way to kick a soccer ball is not easy. All these different techniques to learn and teach makes it very hard for a coach to teach a full team. This is the reason you need to get private or small group training.
When & why you get both feet off the ground when kicking
By far one of the best techniques you can learn is how to get both feet off the ground. One thing I want to make sure is you don’t have to get both feet off the ground on every kick. I have heard coaches in clinics or practices tell players they have to get both feet off the ground. The main time you want to get both feet off the ground is when you are dribbling or running forward. Your momentum will carry you as you strike it, which will allow more body weight. This means you get more power.
If you are stationary it will be hard to do this and sometimes wouldn’t make sense. Bending the ball with the inside, you wouldn’t usually get both feet off the ground. Look at a video of David Beckham and you’ll see what I mean. Bending with the outside of the foot would allow you to do this, but again only in certain situation.
The reason getting both feet off the ground when you kick is simply to give you more power. Think about it… If you kick the ball and only allow your kicking foot to get behind it you only have the weight of your one leg. But if you get both feet off the ground it allows you to get all of your body weight behind the ball. More body weight behind the ball means more power.
How to get put into position to shoot
Two main things, one is develop ball control that makes sense and will help you in different situations. Then you also want to know how to make it hard for the defenders who are trying to keep an eye out on you. So when the defender is marking you without the ball, make it hard for them to see you. If you’re a forward and the ball is on the other side of the field, go behind the defender every now and then. Not all the time, but at least 4-5 times a game do this. Even if you go off-sides for a moment, as long as you get back on early enough you won’t be called. This makes it stressful for defenders, which is what you want.
Make sure you warm-up before kicking long
One thing you will see players doing wrong at every level is shooting or hitting long balls before they are warmed up. Doing this will irritate the hip-flexor, quad, knee and back. Kicking a soccer ball honestly takes a lot from the body. Even for me a grown man, retired pro there have and still are times where I kick a ball and feel pain in the hip or knee. But only when I don’t warm up good or if I hit a lot of balls in one day or a week.
Remind yourself or your players over and over
Just like kids forget to turn the lights off in their room, they forget what part of the foot to use when kicking. They also forget what part of the field most goals are scored. These are 2 of the most important things a soccer player can know. At the same time kids are learning so much, not only in sports, but at home and in school. Together we need to help each other and so for parents and coaches that means reminding. For players it also means reminding, just reminding yourself. Think about what you learn and repeat it after. This helps you remember all you are learning. Enjoy yourself and keep up the hard work!