You’re a good dribbler, you have an accurate shot, your conditioning is top notch. You are a great team player and do whatever the coach asks of you. However, in games there are situations you fall short in certain areas. Perfecting these areas of skill will ultimately separate you as one of the better players. It is important to educate yourself in these areas so that you become a complete player. Below are some of the skills individual players perform very poorly. I have shared some tips on how you can improve in these areas.
1) Heading the ball: there are many different aspects to heading the ball depending on the situation in the game. I will write another blog detailing each of those out but for now here are some guidelines to follow. When heading the ball off of a goal kick you must be strong and not afraid to head the ball. Work on timing your jump to make contact with the ball at the highest possible point. Keep your elbows out protect yourself and create room. Also work on your vertical jump. Be strong at all costs and keep your eyes open so you do not injure yourself. Soccer players who become great at heading the ball take a big step forward in separating themselves from the competition.
2) Chesting the ball: there are different ways of chesting the ball and you’ll use them depending on the situation.
– Chest control: when the ball is coming high out of the air have a good stance, legs shoulder width apart, knees bent and arms out for balance. This will also create space for yourself from opponents. Lean back and cushion the ball on your chest. Do not let the ball hit hard or it could knock the wind out of you. Be fluid when receiving the ball.
– The key here is to get the ball on the ground at your feet under control as quickly as possible. A great way to do this is by collapsing your chest as you receive the ball. In one motion direct the ball downward to your feet.
– Chest pass: the chest is rarely used but can be effective in creating a play or keeping control of the ball. It is often used to pass the ball to a teammate who is on the run or quickly moving by. The idea is to keep the ball moving as quickly as possible. The ball must be coming at you at a decent pace. Re-direct the ball and twist your upper body with force to move the ball along in one motion. Do not attempt the chest pass for long passes. Only passes that are within 5-10 feet. You will surprise your opponents with this skill. It is also a great way to relieve the play from under pressure.
3) Receive the ball with one touch and turn all in one motion: a common mistake I see on the soccer field at all levels of play are players who fail to turn with the ball and receive all in one motion. Always, always, always turn with the ball and receive it with one touch! If you do the opposite it takes much longer, you are easier to defend and put under pressure. You’ll also fail to create more opportunities for yourself. Master the skill of turning with the ball in one motion when receiving it. Practice this simple exercise with a teammate. When you become good at it, you will buy yourself more time on the ball, give yourself opportunities to create a play and be fluid which essentially makes you a difficult player to stop.
4) Finishing when close to the net (don’t panic): even if you’re not a forward and rarely are in the situation of scoring when close to the net (inside in the 18 yard box) you must learn to become calm in these situations. You already know advance that scoring from close range will rarely happen (if not a forward) and if so, will happen under high pressure. Knowing this you must train yourself to be calm in these situations. Simple things you can do to improve your chances of scoring in these situations include:
- a. improve your touch on the ball so that you are not struggling to control it in front of the net.
- b. have your head up at all times to see what is around you.
- c. have good endurance so you are not tired and more likely to make errors
- d. control your breathing. Relaxed breathing will help you make smart decisions
By being calm you will see the game in “slower motion” which will help you make better decisions and score in those close to the net situations.
5) Lead your teammate with a pass: always lead your teammate with a pass. This helps in keeping the play fluid and constantly moving. It makes guarding your team more difficult. Just like passing the puck in hockey or the football in American football, you must lead your teammate with the pass.
6) Head-up: you would think keeping your head up is obvious like stopping at a stop sign but many soccer players fail to do this. Do not keep your head down and let it become a bad habit. Always have your head up and look around yourself whether you have the ball or not. You will become aware of the space around you and can plan 2-3 plays ahead for opportunities. Have a look at your opponents to see where they may leave openings for runs and passes. Seeing what is around can help you make better decisions in the game. Practice keeping your head up at all times.
There are many other skills to the game that are important. I listed some of them above and will write more on this topic I feel many players over look these important parts to the game.
Which skills do you think players often overlook?