In soccer, the ball can come at you any way. It can come to you on the ground, bouncing, to your chest, to your head, and etc. Deciding how you will receive the ball can be the difference between a goal and a miss. Being able to receive the ball on any part of ones body will automatically make the difference between a good player and a great player.
Many balls come to a player at their chest. It might be from a cross, goalie kick or simply a miss hit pass. Understanding how to stop it on your chest is more important than most players can ever realize. If the ball is not stopped properly it will either bounce far away from you or make it feel like a load of bricks just landed on you. Watch here as Lionel Messi perfectly demonstrates how to the chest to bring the ball down under control:
So how do you properly use your chest?
To better help us understand the different techniques involved in chesting the ball, we will assume it is simply being crossed from one player to another. As the ball approaches you in the air, position yourself to receive the ball directly on your chest. As it approaches you, open your arms make your shoulder broad and breathe in to expand your chest. By doing this, you create a very large area in which the ball may hit and still stick. The reason for expanding your chest and breathing in is to make your chest stronger – there will not be an impact that knocks the air out of you. Try it now, breath in as hard as you can and bring your shoulders forward – you will notice the area of your chest is increased, and there is a almost a cushion like surface created between your shoulders.
When the ball is just about to hit your chest, bring your shoulders up and pull your chest into your body. Retracting your chest decreases impact and increases control. Much like stopping a hockey puck, when the puck approaches your stick, you do not want to hold your stick in place and have the puck hit it, you want to pull your stick back just enough to eliminate the force and speed at which it is approaching. This also eliminates the possibility of the puck hitting your stick and flying off. And so, offsetting the flight of the ball and bringing the ball to a halting stop is the reason for drawing in your chest.
In the same time you begin to retract your chest, arch your back and lean back. Thus, one motion should include, retracting your chest, bring your shoulders out and leaning back will allow the ball to hit a flat surface. When the ball hits a flat surface, it has no where to go. If alternatively you make the mistake pf pushing your chest out when the ball is crossed to you, it is sure to bounce away from you and leave you gasping for air.
If executed correctly, the ball should pop straight up above your chest and then come down. Many are afraid of using their chest because it might hurt or they fear that the control will not be what they need it to be. Wrong! When you carry out the steps outlined, the ball has no where to go but stop directly in front of you. Watch this demonstration for a step-by-step process of chesting the ball:
Once you have become comfortable with chesting the ball, you can begin practicing different ways to control the ball with your chest. One of those ways is directing it in one way or another.
Directing the ball in one direct or another is a chief rule in soccer. When you stop the ball in front of you – whether with your feet, knee, chest or head – you slow the game down, make it easy for a defender to mark you and most importantly, increase the amount of touches you will need to set yourself up for a pass or shot. When the ball is crossed to your chest, instead of leaning back, as previously mentioned, use all the other same techniques, but snap your upper body left or right to push to ball in that direction accordingly.
This immediately gives you direction for your next decision and keeps you and your team moving. Again, when moving, the opponent will have a much more difficult time trying to catch you and get the ball.