We’ve all been that soccer player who hits an amazing shot in practice and the whole team goes crazy. Your first response: “Just how I planned it.”
But was it? Did you really mean to place the ball there? You probably dreamed of scoring such a shot before, but you couldn’t reproduce the same shot in your next 10 attempts. Instead of relying on luck, you need to rely on skill. And like any skill, soccer shooting accuracy can be taught.
So you’ve admitted to yourself that your kick needs some work. What do you need to do to correct the issue?
First thing first, take a step back and check your mechanics. Most soccer players begin playing at a very early age. This is awesome for the sport. Unfortunately, most early youth leagues don’t have the personnel or resources to teach youth players proper kicking mechanics, typically relying on parents to do most of the coaching. This can lead players to develop bad tendencies and can hinder their growth in more advanced leagues. Many times, a player strikes the ball with perfect form in their head, only for the result to be anything but. But what do proper shooting mechanics look like?
For one, the position of your non-kicking leg (also known as your plant leg) can greatly impact your shooting accuracy. If you want to shoot the ball higher, position your plant foot slightly behind the ball. Opposite of that, to keep the ball lower, place your plant foot level with or slightly in front of the ball. It might take some toying around before you learn exactly how different foot positions affect the flight of the ball, but keeping these two simple factors in mind can make quick improvements in your shooting accuracy. The direction of your plant foot toe is another important factor in shooting accuracy. If you point your toe to the right, the shot will likely follow that path, and vice versa.
Where is your upper body at the time of the strike? First, check the angle of your torso. If it’s leaned back, that can cause the ball to sail over the crossbar. If you’re leaned over top of the ball, you’ll have a better chance of keeping it low. Your eyes should also be focused on the ball during your strike. Next, check the positioning of your shoulders and arms. Your arms should be slightly bent and held out so that you are able to keep your balance while on one leg. Allowing your arms and shoulder to get out of position can cause your body to change angles during your shooting motion, inhibiting accuracy.
Another important factor is remembering to lock your ankle! This is a pretty basic technique that is used to ensure that passes and shots are made quicker and more efficiently. When running, your ankle is moving around freely. When you kick the ball, locking your ankle will provide a solid kick and will allow you to move the ball faster and more accurately. For our purposes, locking your ankle simply means having it in a firm, efficient position and not allowing it to rotate or flop when you make contact with the ball. If you have a loose ankle while delivering a strike, you’ll create less force (so a less powerful shot) and can create unpredictable spin (so a less accurate shot).
The final tip is simply to be confident in your kick! I’ve watched a lot of players deliver poor shots simply because they’re hesitant and lacking confidence in their ability. Overthinking leads to poor mechanics and decision making. Pick your spot, set up accordingly and deliver the strike. The more you practice the above tips and find what does and doesn’t work for you, the more confident you’ll be with the ball at your feet.
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