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Soccer for Juniors: A Guide for Players, Parents and Coaches

Soccer for Juniors: A Guide for Players, Parents and Coaches

by Robert Pollock

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"The best introduction to playing and coaching the game now in print, Soccer for Juniors delivers nonstop advice and instruction in an easy-to-read style. Everything the novice coach and player needs to get started, all in one book." —Joe Provey, editor of Soccer Jr. magazine This excellent, comprehensive guide provides players, parents, and coaches with


"The best introduction to playing and coaching the game now in print, Soccer for Juniors delivers nonstop advice and instruction in an easy-to-read style. Everything the novice coach and player needs to get started, all in one book." —Joe Provey, editor of Soccer Jr. magazine This excellent, comprehensive guide provides players, parents, and coaches with everything they need to know about the U.S. variations of the world's most popular sport. Beginning with an introduction to the game and how to watch it, this brand-new edition of Soccer for Juniors explains how young athletes can test their soccer skills and determine their potential. It outlines practice drills in trapping, passing, heading, dribbling, and kicking that prepare the beginning player for more advanced skills such as the chip shot, the back-heel kick, and the volley. All are explained through photographs and diagrams that demonstrate both the right and wrong way of performing these moves. Soccer for Juniors is also an invaluable source of information about the tactics that make youth soccer one of the most exciting sports to watch, the best way to set up drills for tryouts and practices, the right equipment and diet for young players, and much more. Visit us online at www.mgr.com.

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Publication date:
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Revised Edition
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5.52(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.44(d)

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Soccer for Juniors - CH 3 - Advanced Skills

[Figures are not included in this sample chapter]

Soccer for Juniors

- 3 -

Advanced Skills


When young people have been playing soccer for at least a season, they shouldbe able to perform the basic forms of kicking--that is, the instep kick and the insideand outside foot kicks. And if they have ability and ambition, they should have developedother ways of kicking from experience.

Now is the time, however, when they must learn to use the various other kickingtechniques correctly.

The Chip Shot

The purpose of the chip shot is to put the ball in the air, in a specific direction,over a short range. It is used mainly for passing and for placing the ball in thegoal area so a forward can collect it and make a shot.

When the kick is made, the supporting foot should be slightly back of the centerof the ball (for the instep kick, it is alongside the ball), and the kicking footshould strike the ball well below its middle line. (If the field is damp, the footmay even take a piece of turf out of the ground.) The kick is made with a stabbingaction, so that there is no follow-through. The whole process will make the ballrise and give it a backspin, so that it will tend to stay put when it lands insteadof rolling away.

The chip shot works best when t he ball is motionless or is coming toward a playeras she goes to make the kick. If the ball is moving away when the kick is attempted,it will be very difficult to produce backspin and the result will be an undisciplinedlong pass.

Figure 51. Chipping the ball. The supporting leg is back of center of the ball. The kicking foot strikes the ball well below its middle in a stabbing action. There should be no follow-through. The ball will then rise with backspin.

The Volley

The volley involves kicking the ball while it is in the air. A half-volley occurswhen the ball is struck just as it hits the ground. The side- volley, sometimes calleda roundhouse kick, is the most effective and is usually made by a player in a forwardposition taking a shot at goal.

The principle to keep in mind is that the higher the ball when it is struck, theless the power behind the foot. To compensate for this without losing his speed,the player should lean sideways, away from the ball. To generate the most power,the kicking foot must swing from the knee. Timing is vital, since if the kick ismade too early, the ball will go sailing way over the goal.

Figure 52. The standard roundhouse volley. The body should lean away from the ball in order to generate as much power as possible. The power comes from the knee and below. The ball is on its way to the goalmouth.

A variation of the roundhouse volley is the scissors kick. The principles arethe same except that the nonkicking leg sweeps forward in the air before theball arrives, in a snapping, scissors action. This generates terrific power to thekicking leg.< /P>

The Bicycle Kick

The most famous exponent of the bicycle kick was, of course, the great Pelé.But even he rarely scored goals from it. Difficult to perform, it has a couple ofdrawbacks. First, players land on their backs after making the kick. Second, anyyoung player who makes a bicycle kick in a crowded goal area will almost certainlybe called for high kicking, which constitutes dangerous play.

The kick is generally made from a high ball that is either bouncing or has comeoff a player's head. As the ball comes down, the player throws his nonkicking leginto the air along with the body, snaps that leg back, and then with great forcehits the ball with the other leg. The action is a simultaneous one-two crossing ofthe legs in the air.

Figure 53. Going for the bicycle kick. The eyes should be zeroed in on the ball as it comes down from above. The kick will be made with the toe (in the Pelé fashion).

Figure 54. Coming down from the bicycle kick. The kick has been made. The arms are already out to take the shock of the fall; as the player continues to fall, the body should be straightened. While this is not exactly an elegant part of the maneuver, it's necessary, as caution should be used when taking this kick.

This is the only kick in soccer that should be taken with the toe--something Pelépreferred to do--but many players use the instep. It is all a question of techniqueand which type of foot contact works best for the player.

The Back-Heel Kick

As its name implies, this kick is made with the back of the heel, which shouldstrike the ball directly in its center w ith a sharp, forceful action. Obviously,the kicker has to be certain before making the kick that there is someone from hisown team behind him before he makes the kick. The waiting player should call outfor the ball.

Properly executed, the back-heel can be used as a variation of the back-wall pass.It can also be used in an indirect free-kick situation. The player makes the kickand then quickly gets out of the way while a colleague takes a shot.

A further variation is to draw the ball back with the sole of the shoe, makinggood use of the cleats. It is almost impossible to get any power into the move, soit can only be made over a very short range. Since the move is made as if the playerwere stepping over the ball, it is a useful feint when dribbling.

Figure 55. The back-heel kick. The ball should be struck firmly and sharply in its center. This is an excellent kick to use for a back pass--provided there is a colleague waiting to receive the ball.

Figure 56. Using the cleats to pull the ball backward. Little power can begenerated here, but the kick is of value as a feint move in avoiding a player orin dribbling.

The Curve or Swerve

Being able to deliberately swerve the ball well will add a valuable skill to aplayer's kicking artillery. As will be seen later in the section on advanced freekicks, it can be a tremendous goal-scoring tactic.

The kick is made in two ways: as a high curve in the air or as a low curve arounda defending player. This means that the approach to the ball and striking area hasto vary to suit the intended outcome.

A player who is two-footed, that is, who can kick with equal force using eit herfoot, will obviously be able to make the kick with the foot of her choice. But themajority of players will elect to use their dominant foot.

The high curve can be put to good effect on corner kicks. By this time an experiencedplayer should know how to make a ball rise by leaning back slightly and strikingthe ball below its center. If the angle of approach is widened and the ball is struckon the outer left-hand side, it will swerve--in the air--left to right. Kicked onthe outer right-hand side, it will swerve right to left (see Figure 57).

From this can be seen the difficulty facing one-footed kickers when they try tomake a high curving shot in the opposite direction of their foot dominance (for example,a left-footed kicker trying to curve the ball high and to the left--that is, havingto kick the ball on the outer right-hand side). They have to approach and kick atthe ball against their natural balance, which feels awkward. This is why it was advisedin the section on corner kicks for dominant-foot kickers to shift from one side ofthe wing to the other to produce an in-swinging ball.

All of which is another very good reason for players to develop two-footed kickingability.

Swerving the ball low over the ground to curve it around a defender is easierto do left and right for single-dominance kickers. The reason is that the best approachis virtually in a straight line. Doing this will help keep the knee over the ballso its trajectory will be low (see Figure 59).

Again, the ball is struck with a powerful short kick, either on the left- or right-handside, depending on which way the kicker wishes to swerve the ball. When a left-footedkicker is hitting the ball on the right s ide, his foot will tend to come across theface of the ball. Increasing the angle of approach will increase the curve.

In both the high and the low swerve, the foot should follow through in the directionof the curve, and, of course, the player's eye must be on the ball at all times.

Again, kicking well is the most important element in soccer. Balance, approach,striking the ball in the right place, and finishing with explosive power are theprinciples that go into making a player who is able to consistently make a powershot, a smoothly executed pass, a cross from the wing, or a goal.

Figure 57. The angle of approach to kick a high swerving ball. This technique can be used to take corner kicks. The kicker is going to use the right foot.

Figure 58. The ball is struck on the outer right-hand side and below its center. The body is leaning back slightly away from the ball, which will help provide lift. The ball will curve away from the goal, taken from the right-hand corner flag.

Figure 59. Approaching the ball in a straight line will tend to keep its flight low. Note that the knee is well over the top of the ball. This kick will make the ball travel in a low trajectory.

Figure 60. The broad part of the instep should strike the ball in whichever side the player chooses to produce the curve. Here the foot hits the right-hand side, which will make the ball curve away to the left.

Figure 61. Here the ball is struck on its left side. It will obviously curve away to the right.

Figure 62. Curving the ball. The ball will curve or not curve depending on where on its surface it is struck. Kicked as marked in position A, it will obviously curve right to left; position C, left to right. In the center, position B, it will go straight ahead. However, the approach, and again the place it is struck, will also affect its trajectory. Striking low--below an imaginary middle line--will make it rise; striking along the middle line will keep it down.


Players who have learned to trap, to bring a moving ball under control, will quicklyrealize that after making the trap, they have to do something with the ball--eitherpass it or move with it--or have it taken away from them.

The trap is only part of a move; very quickly players must also decide what theywill try to do with the ball when they get it. This means learning more than thefundamental ways of trapping.

The prettiest-looking trap, but one that can take hours of practicing to master,is to "catch" the ball between the top of the soccer shoe and the lowerfront calf. Used to control a high ball, it gives players the opportunity to movetheir body and change direction while they still have possession.

As the ball comes down, the weight should be on the supporting leg and the armsaway from the body to provide balance. The trapping foot should be angled upwardand the leg bent at the knee. The body will be leaning backward slightly. Then, ridinglike a punch, the raised leg is lowered to absorb the impact of the ball while atthe same time catching it in the "cup" made by the angled top of the footand the lower part of the leg. The player can swivel, still keeping the ball in thecup, and move quickly away from close defenders.

Learning this trap will teach a player how to ride with the ball (that is, howto use the body to take the power out of it to cushion its impact). If a nongivingsurface is presented, the ball will just bounce off it, out of control.

Riding the ball is also essential for the thigh trap, which is used to controla ball coming toward a player a few feet off the ground--not high enough to be takenon the chest and too low to control with the foot. The ball is trapped by eitherthe front or the side of the thigh. If the ball strikes the inner part of the raisedthigh, the bent leg should move backward to absorb the impact. If it strikes thefront of the thigh, the thigh should simultaneously be lowered, thus cushioning theball so that it drops to the ground in front of the player.

There are times when players want the ball to bounce away from them because theyare already moving forward to meet it. They can take it on either the chest, thefront of the thigh, or, if they are really good, the outside of a raised foot. Whichevermethod is adopted, players should know exactly what will happen to the ball--howit will ricochet off the surface presented.

Trapping is another technique that can be practiced on a soccer backboard. Twoplayers face the board; one of them starts off by kicking the ball at the board.The object is for the other player to use the body--foot, chest, thigh, even buttocks--tobring the rebounding ball under control and then to pass it back to the board.

The better players become at trapping and moving, the more valuable they willbe to the team. Trapping is a marvelous way of getting to know the ball and making aa friend of it, as Pelé used to say. With continual practice, the body and mindwill start working smoothly together with confidence and improved ability, in thesame way an expert juggler develops a rapport with twisting, airborne clubs.

Figure 63. The first move in an effort to "catch" the ball in the space created between the top of the shoe and the front of the calf. The foot goes up to meet the high-dropping ball.

Figure 64. As the ball is caught, the leg is lowered to absorb the impact of the ball.

Figure 65. Now the ball is grounded and the player can move while retaining control of the ball. The entire action should be done in one fluid motion.


Virtually anyone can take a throw-in. All that is needed is for a player to pickthe ball up, follow the rules, and throw it to a teammate. Why, then, is it so oftenmisplayed? Probably because it is so easy to do. Yet the proper throw-in can be thefirst step a team takes toward learning about the use and creation of space. Notethat there is no offside infringement if a player receives the ball from a throw-in.

When taking a throw-in, the opponents have a numerical advantage on the open field,so it is important to create space by movement, cunning, and deception. The mostimportant factor is to practice, over and over again, the various predesigned ploysthat will be used on the field of play. It is amazing how frequently the same tacticskeep on working, even in the same game after the opponents have seen them severaltimes.

First of all, the throw-in is taken with the whole bo dy, not just the arms. Thelegs support the torso as it moves forward in a whiplash action, the arms sweepingup and forward, the fingers well splayed out behind the ball. The arms must followthrough to give direction and added power.

While speed is often the most important factor in making a throw, it is not alwayspossible (for example, the ball has rolled well out of play, giving the defense timeto set up). This is when a little playacting can be brought into action.

For example, suppose it seems that two players are trying to decide who will takethe throw. Meanwhile, their colleagues on the field are in constant movement. Allof this tends to promote a lack of attention in the defense. Suddenly one of theplayers at the line makes a quick throw into an open space--one that an attackeris moving toward. The player is unmarked and is away on the second stage of an attackingmaneuver. For such an apparently spontaneous tactic to work, rehearsal is vital.

A more prosaic but nevertheless very effective ploy is the return pass. It shouldbe made with some speed; otherwise, the player on the field making the pass willvery quickly be marked by a defender. The player on the line throws the ball eitherto the head or the feet of his colleague on the field. That player heads or passesthe ball directly back to the thrower, who can then either move off down the wingor chip the ball into the center.

Figure 66. Taking the ball, or trapping it, on the inside of the thigh. The thigh should move back slightly to absorb the impact of the ball; otherwise, the ball will bounce off the leg and away from the player.

Figure 67. Trapping the ball on the top o f the thigh. The thigh should be lowered as the ball hits it so as to take away the power of the ball. It will then drop down to the feet.

Figure 68. Again, taking the ball on the top of the thigh. This time, though, the player will not drop the thigh to absorb the shock but will allow the ball to bounce off it in a continuing forward motion.

Figure 69. The playacting throw-in, taken when there is time to set up the play. A1 and A2 appear to be arguing about who will take the throw. A3 and A4 keep dancing around, all of which diverts the attention of defensive players D1 and D2. Suddenly A1 makes the throw into a space into which A3 runs, thus collecting the ball and heading toward the goal.

Figure 70. The return throw-in. A1 quickly throws to A2, who returns the ball with either the head or the foot. A1 then chips the ball to A3, who is way out alone in an unmarked space. Being unmarked, A3 can move directly toward the goal area.

Again, the essential element is practice. Surprisingly, players find it difficultto make accurate throws to the head or feet of other players. Obviously, the drillfor them is to practice in pairs. They should vary the distance between themselvesas they work at the skill.

Occasionally there will be a player who is capable of making very long throws.It is worthwhile for such a player to make a special effort to increase this ability.The way to do it is to use a medicine ball rather than a soccer ball. The extra weightwill build muscles, and when the player goes to throw the lighter soccer ball, theeffect may be dramatic.

The long throw has many uses. The obvious one, for players who have the ability,is to throw over the heads of any defensive players who are close in. Generally,a run-up to the touch line is part of the throw. Again, practice will show how longa run-up is required. The most important element in the run-up to a long throw isthat the thrower adhere to the rules governing the throw-in.

The throw should be made in one long curve. It should not bounce.

It is the cumulative effect of the little things in soccer that makes for goodteams and exciting, well-played games. The throw-in is an important element in themakeup of a well-drilled and successful team.

Meet the Author

ROBERT POLLOCK has played soccer in England, Germany, and the United States. He has written several nationally syndicated articles about the sport for the San Francisco Examiner.

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