Striking the Ball

By Bruce Brownlee

You will hear many suggestions from coaches about how to keep your shot under the bar. Some of these include:

  • knee over the ball
  • standing foot beside the ball
  • lean forward
  • get your chest over the ball
  • keep your head low

There are actually only three things you should focus on in learning to strike the ball at first,

  • foot geometry
  • hit the middle of the ball
  • knee snap

If you do both of these well, no more of your shots will go over the bar, and you will be able to put good pace on your shot. Of these, foot geometry is most important to help keep the shot low.

Foot Geometry
Foot Geometry.All "foot geometry" means is that your toe must be down and your heel up at any time when your foot is contact with the ball.

The point of contact is from the laces to the middle of the toes.

Your ankle must be locked, made like a fist, to hold this position as your foot strikes through the ball.

To hold foot geometry as you strike through the ball and follow through, it is helpful to lift your knee as part of the follow through.

Hit the Middle of the Ball
This idea is even easier. Strike the ball in the center, not top, not bottom, not left, not right.

To accomplish this, first look at the goal, decide where you will shoot, and then focus on the ball and keep your head steady so that you can watch your foot strike through the middle of the ball.

Knee Snap
A lot of kids and coaches at first try to swing their leg through the ball, from hip to toe. This does not put very much power on the ball because, no matter how hard you try, your entire leg does not swing very fast.

Power on your shot is generated by knee snap, from the knee down. This means that the speed with which you can straighten your leg determines how hard you can strike the ball.

When You Listen to Other Coaches
As you take training on striking the ball from other coaches, or watch videos about striking the ball, listen carefully. Try to figure out which coaching points will help with foot geometry, which will help you hit the middle of the ball, and which will help with knee snap.

Nearly all the coaching points listed above, like "lean forward" and "chest over the ball" are actually side effects of having proper foot geometry when contacting the ball. If you have proper foot geometry, it will not be possible to lean back or to have your standing foot far from the ball.

So, as you train, simplify the instructions you hear for basic striking down to just foot geometry and middle of the ball.

How to Practice at Home
Find a wall you can strike against. Go to the wall with your ball.

  • Push the ball gently with correct foot geometry. Let the ball roll gently to the wall.
  • Strike the ball gently, lifting your knee slightly as you follow through and the ball leaves your foot.
  • Back away from the ball and strike the ball firmly, making sure that you strike the ball with toe down and heel up, locking your ankle to ensure that it does not move as you strike the ball.

Practice at the Soccer Field
When you get to the soccer field, practice shooting against a Coerver wall if one is available. The flat surface of the net will catch the shot, and allow you to repeat many shots.

If no soccer wall is available, find a goal, and practice holding foot geometry, hitting the middle of the ball, and knee snap by shooting into the back of the goal or side netting from just a few feet away. You won't miss from this close, and the net will return your ball to allow you many repetitions. After each try, replay your shot mentally and think about corrections to make in your next try.

Bruce Brownlee coached boys soccer from 1978 to 1988 in Marietta, Georgia.  Coached girls teams from 1988 to 2003 for Tophat Soccer Club in Atlanta and AFC Lightning Soccer Club in Fayetteville, Georgia.  Served as a staff ODP recruiter and coach in 2002-2003.  Returned in 2010-2011 to help coach his granddaughter’s U11 team.  Won 4 state cup championships at Tophat.  Proud of his four children who played top-level club soccer and amateur and college soccer later. His site Soccer Coaching is a terrific resource for club and amateur soccer coaches.

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