I am often asked for advice on how to strike a ball properly, especially to hit the ball over a long distance, or to shoot it really hard.
Here is a progression that I like to do with practically any aged player. I have recently used variations of this with a group of U-10 players as well as with the U-16 National Team.
Being able to drive a ball over distance, so that the ball reaches its destination with pace and accuracy is a skill that is necessary to compete at the higher levels. There is nothing like seeing a ball “crashing” in to the back of the net, or a pass being made to a wide open player that is waiting 50 – 60 yards away from the play.
So, listed below is a progression to follow to teach you the fundamentals of this skill.
Emphasis is placed on getting the proper “surface” of your foot involved in the process… the “laces”. Once a player establishes the proper “feel” for the ball with this part of his or her foot, then the rest is just a matter of practice and developing strength and timing. This comes from hours of work, alone with the ball.
Start way back with the basics….
Take off your shoe and sock. Sit on the floor, with both feet on the floor… knees inside your arms…start by kicking the ball out of your hands (like a punt).
But, just do it lightly so that the ball only goes up about 2 feet or so.
Make sure that your toe is pointed and that you keep your ankle “locked”. Strike the ball with the “laces” part of the foot. If your ball goes up without any spin…or with a little “top” spin… then you are doing it correctly. If the ball comes back towards your face…then try again. Keep doing this over and over…it will develop a good feel for what it is like to hit the ball with your laces. After you have managed that…try hitting the ball twice with the foot. But, make sure that there is still a proper spin…ankle locked…toe pointed.
When you get good control it is time to stand up.
Now, do the same thing… kick the ball out of your hands (like a punt) but have the ball only go up in the air about 6-7 feet high. Look for the ball going up with no spin again. Keep your foot in that good position. Your knee needs to be slightly bent as well. Kick the ball straight up in the air. Again, you are just trying to get a good feel for the ball. The ball’s spin tells you if you are doing it correctly.
Then, try to do it with a bounce between each kick. But, still only have the ball go up about 6-7 feet high. It is important that you do this with control instead of power. This is almost like juggling, but let the ball bounce each time. Then, can you do two touches…(each one going up without backspin) between each bounce?
Now…progress where you are letting the ball bounce on the ground, then kick it to a friend or against some wall. Still with bare feet! Make sure that you strike the ball when it is on the way down. Hit it with your “laces”. Toe pointed, ankle locked. Now, the ball should have “top spin”…and should not go higher than your head. Keep working on this for MANY times. See if you can now work on accuracy and some power. Again, you should be getting a real feel for the ball with your laces.
After you do this…it is time to put your shoes back on and try from the ground again. See if there is any improvement… there should be. You should have a real feel for the ball by now!
One warning…this takes time!!! Some players that I have worked with on this need a whole season to work things out. Practice correctly!!! It is more important to “practice perfectly” than to kill yourself working frantically and too hard. Take your time.
My last suggestion is to watch high level games. Watch how the real good players strike the ball. Watch them, then try to copy them!