My my My my
The Technical Side:
Series on Warming up:
Ball Handling:
Team Work:
        How to deal with a Ball Hog


Goal Keepers-Warming Up

This Article from the USYSA
by George M. Lasher

Goalkeeper Warm Up
After the foot skill and pass/receive drills that the entire team does have the goal keepers warm up with drills like these:

Bounce and Catch

1. Have them hold a ball in their hands high over their heads, bounce it down to the ground and then catch it waist high. The catch should emphasize the classic "W" shape, thumbs together, other four fingers angled out at 45 degrees.

2. Keepers should be moving around and changing directions during this drill.

3. Don't let them just drop the ball and catch it. Emphasize the over the head throw down towards the ground.

A progression of this drill is to have them walk around, bounce the ball, lift their leg over the ball and re-catch it always emphasizing the "W" catch. Do it ten times with the right leg, then ten times with the left, then alternate legs. A second progression of this warm-up is to have them hammer the ball out of their left hand with their right hand and then re-catch it with the "W". This is tougher because the keeper must quickly position their hands after releasing the ball.

Ball Between the Legs

Keepers stand with legs shoulder width apart. Bend over at the waist and pass a ball back and forth between their legs. Initially start out with the hands stationary, i.e. right hand in back, left in front. Ball moves quickly, through the legs, from hand to hand, first rolling on the ground, then off the ground.

After they have the hang of this they pass the ball between their legs in a figure 8. In this case the hands are switching positions from front to rear. Again start this drill with the ball remaining in contact with the ground and then progress to the ball in the air between the legs.

This exercise improves hand eye coordination and stretches the back and leg muscles.

A third and more difficult component of this exercise is to have the player lie on their back and scissor their legs up and down while threading the ball through their legs.

This works the leg and stomach muscles while improving their hand eye coordination.

Ball Bounce Between Legs

Have the players bounce the ball from the front through their legs and then re-catch it behind their backs. Both hands are used to serve the ball and catch the ball. Return the ball between the legs from the back to the front.

Ball Roll Down the Back

Have the keepers place the ball on the back of their necks. Let the ball roll down their back. They then catch it at the small of their back with two hands. Return the ball to the front and start again. Once players get the hang of it they can begin walking around rolling the ball and catching it.

The above two warm ups are good for letting the keepers get the feel of the ball in their hands even when it is not directly in their sight. The more they catch the ball in practice, the more comfortable they will be in a game.

Front to Back Switching Hands

I couldn't think of a better name for this drill. Basically the player bends at the waist with the ball between their legs. The right hand covers the ball from the front, the left hand from the back. Player releases the ball and switches hands not letting the ball fall and touch the ground. This drill is good for quickness and touch. Have the players count how many times that they can do this in a timed period and then challenge them to do one more, and then one more, and then one more, etc., etc., etc.

Sit Ups

Keeper lies on her back with arms extended over the head, a ball in her hands. Keeper executes a sit-up keeping the ball in her hands and extending her arms out in front of her. A player strikes the ball in her hands with their instep. This drill builds hand strength, abdominal strength and anaerobic condition.

A variation on this drill is to have the player throw the ball to you as they sit up and for you to chest pass it back to them at the top of the motion. This also builds hand strength, hand-eye coordination and quickness.

Shuffle and Roll

This is a drill to increase side to side quickness. Have the player bounce the ball hard on the ground. They then side to side shuffle under the path of the ball. If the ball goes high enough they might get two side to side shuffles in before the ball's momentum is lost. If not, then the second movement should be a side roll under the falling ball.

One Hand Catch

This next warm up involves two people, either both keepers or a keeper and a coach.

Simply have the players stand 5 to 8 yards apart and toss the ball to each other. The catch is to be made one handed and returned the same way.

Progress by having the weaker hand use. Then run a pattern where first the left is used then the right. Finally if you have three or more in the drill add a second ball to increase the difficulty.

This teaches the player to soften the blow of the ball against the hands. It also works finger strength and hand-eye coordination.

Kneeling Catch (Railroad Tracks)

This is a drill to teach the keepers proper arm position when gathering in a low ball (scoop) or a shot below their waist.

Proper arm position can be described as both arms forming "railroad tracks" That is the arms are parallel, the elbows are tucked in, the hands are palm up with the pinky and sides touching. The hands form a slight cupping position.

Have the player kneel in front of you with the arms and hands as described above. Start the drill by softly throwing the ball into her hands. Emphasize form! Gradually increase the speed of the throw. Make sure that you hit the arms, and not their head! The player should follow the ball into their arms with their eyes. The elbows must stay together or the ball will force its way through and be dropped. There must be a slight cushioning motion or the ball will hit and pop out.

High Ball Warm-up

This warm up also involves two people, preferably both keepers. One player bounces the ball so it will go over the head of his partner. Partner jumps for the ball and yells "Keeper", catching the ball over head in a "W".

Make sure that the catcher brings their knee up to protect their midsection. After the catch the catcher becomes the server for his partner. If a coach is warming up the only keeper have the player roll the ball back to the coach just the way they would serve it to a full back in a game situation.

Add a third player to create a distraction for the catcher. This player can lightly tap or push the catcher while he is in the act of catching the ball. This simulates some of the contact the keeper will get in the goal area.

Rolling Drills

This first drill starts with the keeper in a sitting position. The keeper has a partner who will serve the ball. The keeper rolls to the right as their partner serves the ball on the ground.

The keeper traps the ball on the ground using both hands. Keeper returns ball to server and rolls to a sitting position again in one motion. Server then rolls ball to the left and the drill is repeated.

After 5 rolls right and 5 rolls left switch keeper and server. This can be an exhausting drill when done at high tempo

Coaching Points

1. Hands still form the "W".

2. Top leg bends toward the stomach to protect this area and to provide the impetus, when re-extended, to come back to the original position

3. Keeper's body should be slightly curved away from the goal so that the ball cannot simply glance off them and go in


The next progression is to serve the ball in the air as the keeper rolls right and left. The catch is therefore made in the air and the keeper must cushion the ball as they hit the ground.

The next progression is to have the keeper move slightly forward each time they make a roll. The server backs up an appropriate amount with each roll so that they maintain the distance between keeper and server.

The next progression is to start this drill from the knees and repeat as above and the final progression is to do this drill from a standing position.

Dribble and Scoop

Have the team dribble in an enclosed area. On a signal from the coach, every player leaves their ball and gets another. The keeper has to scoop the ball and clutch it to their chest.

Make sure no one kicks the keeper. Have the players just place their foot on top of the ball to "claim" it.

Do not allow diving for the ball.

Maker sure the keeper is keeping on his toes, knees flexed.

A common mistake that you should look for in a keeper is slowing down to scoop the ball. The keeper should explode through he ball and after scooping veer to a side, just like they would do in a game situation with an attacker bearing down on them.

Explosive Scoop, Quick Roll Return

Have a player shoot a ground ball in to the keeper. Keeper explodes towards the ball and scoops it to his chest. He continues on and returns a roll pass to either the same player who shot it or to a third player who has gone wide.

This simulates both the explosive step towards the ball we want the keepers to employ and the quick, on the ground counter-attack which is more conducive to possession play than just punting the ball away.

It is also a good conditioning drill.After the foot skill and pass/receive drills that the entire team does have the goal keepers warm up with drills like these:

By George M. Lasher

Article contributed by US Youth Soccer

Training Tips

Training Tips with Sasha Victorine

This Article from the USYSA
by Alex Deegan
Training tips with Sasha Victorine

The Los Angeles Galaxy's Sasha Victorine was a first round MLS draft pick in 2000 out of UCLA. He also starred for the United States in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The following is an interview conducted by Janice Trecker.

Please describe your position:

My position is basically center forward in the system we play, and my job is mainly to hold the ball and to be a target; also to get behind the defense and to stretch them out and make space for our midfielders.

Some forwards wait around for someone to get them the ball, that’s not your game, is it?

No, running is a big thing that I do. It’s something I can bring to the team. The more I run, the more the defense has to move and run and that creates holes. There’s a difference between just running around and running purposefully.

How do you learn where and when to run? Can that be taught?

That’s the hardest thing to teach; it’s basically just knowing the game positionally. You learn that when the ball is in a certain area you move. Sometimes making a run isn’t to get the ball for yourself, but to open up space. It comes from watching a lot of games.

How should a player watch a game?

If you’re a forward, you try to find a player in a similar position and watch. The best players find a way to create space even when they are marked. The big thing good forwards do well is to find ways to get open. And two, to find a move or two that will get you behind people. Get a couple of moves and practice them daily. Watch how forwards combine and move the ball.

Do you have a favorite training tip for young players?

I think the biggest training advice is that when training is over, it’s not necessarily over for you. If something needs work that didn’t get covered in training, the best players grab a coach or a couple of other players and stay to practice whatever needs work.

Could you describe a weakness you overcame in your own game and how you went about correcting it?

My biggest weakness is quickness, I’m still working on that, and I try to compensate by reacting quicker. My speed is good over long distance, but I‘m not so fast over the first few yards, so I have to find a way to react quickly. As a forward, you `cheat’, you try to anticipate where the ball is going.

Could you suggest a good skill drill for younger players?

The biggest thing most players need is to work at whatever skill they are practicing at speed. For example, pass while dribbling at speed. You see players taking time to trap, to look up, to pass - by that time, spaces close down. At the higher levels, everything needs to be done fast.

Is there a particular defense which you find hard to attack?

There is no one defense that’s harder to get behind than others. It’s maybe certain games, if you’re tired, or if your legs are tired, then it’s hard to get behind people. If a defense is well organized, they will be hard to get behind. Our job as forwards is to make them disorganized.

Who is the player you most like to watch?

I like to watch (France and Real Madrid midfielder) Zinedine Zidane: he’s just a good player in all aspects. He’s flashy, but he’s still oriented to playing for his team and trying to make the team better.

I suppose the temptation for forwards is to concentrate just on scoring?

It’s a different mentality. You can be the hero [or not], but it takes, mentally, not worrying about the response from the sidelines. You can hurt yourself by worrying about what other people are saying about you. The key is believing in yourself, believing that you’re a good player and that you can do whatever you set your mind to do.

Article contributed by US Youth Soccer

Goal Keepers - Penalty Kicks

This Article from the USYSA
by Alex Deegan
Keeper's Box - Penalty Kicks

Alex Deegan

The World Cup spotlights the Penalty Kick at the game's highest level. Goalkeepers, as a result, are forced into the global forefront. No one expects the Keepers to save a penalty kick, but when they do, quite simply, they are the hero. For example, the Brazilian goalkeeper, Claudio Tafferel, made two tremendous saves in the fourth and fifth rounds of Brazil's World Cup semifinal encounter with Holland to help Brazil advance to the final. Result: Tafferel is instantly a national hero.

How did this happen? There is a method for saving penalty kicks. Keepers can help make their own fortune or luck. All too often people think the keeper just guessed correctly. It is more than a guess. It is an educated guess! Keepers must look for the clues that the shooter provides, but ultimately a keeper must look for the last clue the striker gives and react accordingly. The keepers' approach to each penalty kick should be the same: READ THE LAST CLUE. Simply put, at the last moment, the shooters' body language will (most of the time) tip off where they intend to shoot.

What to look for:

1. Watch the Hips! Right before the kick is taken, watch what the shooters' hips tell you at the point of contact. If the shooter opens his hips and shoots the ball with the inside of his right foot, more times than not, the shooter will place the ball to the keeper's left. On the other hand, if the shooter's hips come around the ball and strikes the ball with his laces, they will place the ball to the keeper's right. Hips are often the last clue the shooter gives the keeper. This clue should be studied to give a keeper the best possible chance to save a penalty kick.

2. Watch the run. Sometimes the run up to the ball will give away the shooter's intentions. Use this only as a guide: When a right footed shooter approaches from the goalkeeper's right, the natural inclination is to place the ball to the goalkeeper's left (a situation where the hips open up) because it is generally more difficult to shoot the ball across the body.

3. Watch the shooting foot. Deception is a shooter's tool. Hips may open, but the foot might come around the ball. What the run and hips intend can be reversed by a skillful foot. Using the inside of the foot usually means pushing the shot with open hips and the laces usually mean curling the ball with closed hips.

4. Watch the plant foot. Often the plant foot will point in the direction that the shooter intends to go. Also, it's position in front or back of the ball can indicate whether the ball is going high or low.

How to make the save:

Don't move too early! The rules now allow a keeper to move before the kick is taken. Use this to your advantage, but don't cheat. If a keeper moves too soon, the shooter will most likely put the ball in the other corner. SO BE PATIENT - wait until there is enough information to make an educated guess as to where the shooter is going, then MAKE THE SAVE.

Get your attitude right. Try not to be the keeper that loses his cool with the referee. Instead accept the decision because realistically, regardless of whether or not the referee blew the call, the referee will not change their minds. Get focused on the shot, your role. Start thinking about you, and what you need to do to make the save. Get yourself ready. Then step to the line with confidence and make the save. Avoid the cheap intimidation tricks and delaying tactics. They might work at younger levels, but they probably won't work as the players get better. Step up like you expect to make the save. Give yourself the chance to be the hero, not the keeper that gets patted on the back and told "nice try, you almost had it."

This is not an exact science. Instinct and feel for the shooter help a keeper's decision and ability to read where the shooter intends to go. Clues help make this decision more accurate! Obviously, some penalty kicks will score, but by studying the shooter's clues and making an educated guess, a keeper can give themselves a chance to be like Tafferel. Good luck!

Alex Deegan plays professionally for the Richmond Kickers in the A League.

Article contributed by US Youth Soccer

Finishing One vs. One's

This Article from the USYSA
Direct Kick

When a player, and not necessarily a striker, breaks through the defense and takes on the keeper in a one vs. one situation, there are three key components in finishing:

1) The Dribble -- It's critical that the player dribble at speed, but under control. If he slows down, a defender may catch him. If he goes too fast or has a touch that is too far, the keeper may prevent a shot from being taken.

2) The Shot -- Timing and location are essential. The shot should be taken as close to the goalie as possible, that is not too far away or too close -- a guideline would be a shot 6-8 yards from the keeper. The shot should be low as the keeper will have difficulty getting down to a shot from such a short distance. Be sure the shot is on goal, so if the attempt is unsuccessful, it is due to a point-blank save by the keeper.

3) Composure - The finisher needs to remain focused and in control. Often players panic and the effort they make is off-balance. Advise the player to look up at about 10 yards from the keeper, then look down, concentrate, and slot the ball low and towards a corner.

Exercise #1

The coach or training partner rolls or tosses a ball five yards from the top corner of the penalty box in front of the player who must go at full speed to finish a shot by the count of three. The shooters rotate to each of the three positions. If possible, have a second keeper to rotate after three shots. Start from different angles to the goal.

Exercise #2

Similar set-up to the first exercise, but this time a defender will be added for pressure. Start the defender 5 yards behind the shooter. The shooter needs to remain composed with his first touch and confident with his shot.

Exercise #3

The server is 40 yards from goal and can change his positioning slightly each repetition to alter the service. The ball is played to a target player, with a defender behind him adding mild pressure. Two flank players run off the service for the target player to lay off a pass with his first touch. For the first few repetitions, the defender remains with the target player. Then progress as the defender moves off to defend the flank player as the target player lays off the pass. The key is a good pass from the target player, a controlled first touch by the flank player, and a quick, accurate shot.

Have fun scoring goals - you can do it!

Article contributed by US Youth Soccer

Finishing - Scoring Goals

This Article from the USYSA
By Direct Kick
Direct Kick

Nothing should be more a focus than cultivating goal scorers. Technical ability is important, but confidence and just feeling comfortable in the goal mouth are even bigger components to developing pure goal scorers. Any player can score in practice when uncontested. But can they can finish the "half chances" when the pressure of the match is at its peak? Many goal scoring chances are never attempted because players try to set up the shot with extra touches. Below are exercises to train and develop first time shots.

Exercise #1 - 3 vs 1

In the penalty box, three forwards play against one defender and one goalie. The ball is played in from outside the box (mix up the services from the outsides and from the center of the field) to one of the forwards. The forwards are limited to two touch passing and one touch shooting. They are also limited to just three passes (or less), to emphasize getting a shot off quickly. Advance to one touch passing if possible. The focus is quick decisions in the goal mouth (shoot or pass) where reflex and instinct must be emphasized.

Exercise #2 - 4 vs 2

Expand the area just outside the penalty box and add players to the mix, while keeping the same instructions. Again, the offensive players must think and play quickly. Plus they need to be on their toes, expecting the ball to come their way, then seizing opportunities to finish chances.

Exercise #3 - 4 vs 4 plus 2

Using a small field with big goals and keepers, two teams of four play with two all-time offensive players. Keep score as a goal scored with a first touch equals 3 points and a goal with two or more touches equals 1 point.

In all training sessions, encourage players to become better finishers with challenging exercises, celebrating first touch shots on goal, and positive motivation. Scoring goals isn?t easy - but it is extremely important and yes, very fun!

Article contributed by US Youth Soccer

Stretching Shoulder Muscles

To stretch the shoulder muscles try these stretches:


Move one arm across your body, almost as if you were going to take a backhand swing.
Grasp the elbow of the arm in motion with your other hand and gently pull the arm further across your body
Hold for a count of 10 and repeat three times with each arm.

Interlace your fingers above your head.
With the palms facing up, push your arms up and back gently.
Hold for 15 seconds.

With your arms overhead, hold the elbow of one arm with the hand of the other arm.
Gently pull your elbow behind your head, creating a stretch.
Hold for 15 seconds.

With your arms extended overhead, hold the outside of your left hand with your right hand.
Keeping your arms as straight and comfortable as possible, pull the left arm to the right side.
Hold this for 15 seconds on each side.

Stretching Back Muscles

To stretch the back muscles:

Lying on your back, raise one leg, and grabbing the leg right below the knee, slowly bring it up to your chest.
Keeping your other leg straight and your head on the ground, hold this position for a count of 10.
Repeat three times with each leg.

Stretching Groin Muscles

The groin stretch will improve flexibility and allow the legs a larger range of motion. To stretch the groin muscle, which is the muscle in the fold between the lower part of your body and your upper thigh:


Sit on the floor or ground.
Put the soles of your feet together, with your knees as close as possible to the ground and pointed outward.
Grasp your ankles and hold that position for a count of 10.
Relax and repeat three times.

Start in a sitting position with your legs spread apart. Place your hands on the insides of your legs, and try to reach the inside of your ankles.
Bend forward from the hips keeping your knees flat.
Hold until you feel tightness on the inside of your legs.
Relax, and repeat.

Stretching Hamstring Muscles

Stretching this muscle will help lessen the chance of knee injury.

To stretch the hamstring muscle, which is the long muscle that runs from the back of your knee to the buttocks:


Sit on the floor and place the leg you wish to stretch straight out in front of you.
Then bend the other leg alongside to make a triangle with your legs.
With a straight back, bend from your hips, and reach for the toe of your straight leg with both hands and hold for 20 seconds.
Do not bounce to try and reach your toe. It is OK not to reach it.

Stand facing a wall with one leg in front of the other. The front knee is bent, and the hands are on the wall. The back leg is straight with the heel flat on the floor.
Lean toward the front knee, keeping the back foot and heel flat. Hold for 6 to 10 seconds. Relax.
Repeat with the other leg.

Stretching Calf Muscles

To stretch the calf muscle, which is the muscle that runs on the back of the leg from the knee to the ankle:


Get in a push up position, but put one knee on the ground.
Put your weight on the toes of your other foot and then push the heel down until you feel a slight pull.
Hold that position for a count of 10.
Relax and repeat three times with each leg.

This stretch is used to strengthen the lower leg and ankle. Stand with your hands on your hips, or on the back of a chair for balance.
Spread your feet 6 to 12 inches apart and slowly raise your body up on the toes, lifting the heels.
Return to the starting position, and repeat 10 to 15 times.

Finishing Up Stretching

What's Next?

Now that you are stretched, you should do a general warm-up such as jogging lightly, or running in place for a few minutes. Remember, you don't want to use up all your energy before practice, or the game. There might be some people on your team that think warming up is a waste of time. If you have any doubts about warming up and stretching, just remember that all professional teams make their players warm up before practice and games. That's what keeps them healthy, and makes champions!

Finally, don't begin a training program without first consulting your parents or guardian and someone, such as a gym teacher, who is knowledgeable about training programs. This will guarantee that you start a program that is best for you!

Goal Keepers - Warming Up

Stretching for Success
by Bruce Brownlee

Would you like to improve your game, earn more playing time, and have fewer injuries?

If so, then make sure that you take time every day to work on improving your flexibility. You can increase your flexibility through static stretching and dynamic stretching (stretching with gentle movement.

Before each match, take time to stretch all your key muscle groups carefully before play.

After each match and training session, stretch muscles and move your joints to increase flexibility and range of motion. Include a proprioception exercise in each of your after-play stretching.

Over time, you will improve your flexibility and soccer speed, reduce injuries, and you will have better results in the first half of each match.

• Why is Stretching Important? •

At U11, injuries related to poor flexibility are not a major problem. However, increasing strength, flexibility, and proprioception up through U14 will help reduce your risk of injury starting at about U14. Common injuries in girls, which may come as a surprise to your coach, include MCL, ACL, tendonitis and inflammation behind the knee cap, pulled quads, and ankle ligament damage.

The number and severity of ligament, tendon, and muscle problems you may personally encounter from U14 to U16 can come as a great surprise. These seem to arrive during this time because of growth and muscle mass changes. Getting into serious stretching and regular proprioception training earlier might help reduce the number of injuries that you might have to endure in your soccer career, and allow you to play healthy in more games.

• What's Best, Static or Dynamic Stretching? •

• What's the difference? •

When you bend over to touch two hands to your socks, and hold this position without bouncing, you are doing static stretching.

If you swing your leg gently and smoothly in a realistic swinging and kicking motion with a slow and easy follow through, you are accomplishing dynamic stretching (stretching with movement).

Both static stretching and dynamic stretching can be helpful. As you stretch out, complete your warm up and static stretching before going into easy stretching with gentle and natural motion. Stretching with motion should not be violent or jerky.

• Can Stretching Be Fun? •

Yes! But you need variety and focus. When you are working by yourself, vary your warm-up and stretching routine to make it interesting. If you play for a competitive team, you may play 50 matches or more per year. This means 50 warm-ups, and 50 after-match stretching sessions, not to count all the stretching before and after training. How boring if each session is the same!

Vary the warm-up activity you use before stretching. Try tag games, ultimate Frisbee, keep away, and ball tag. Use rhythmic activities like running patterns in groups.

Focus mentally on the stretching, and feel and think through each stretch, checking for tightness or soreness. Make sure you know exactly how far you are extended or rotated, and make sure that you are performing the exercise correctly as instructed by your coach or ATC.

Take your time in stretching. Give a little extra time where you feel stiff or inflexible. Rushing through stretching does make it meaningless and boring, and doesn't help you gain flexibility.

• Stretch Before Matches and Training to Reduce Injuries •

Ask your coach or ATC (certified athletic trainer) to teach you how to stretch properly. Proper stretching requires warming up first, and requires much more than the little 8-second stretches that you see teams doing at matches. Warm up before stretching by jogging or playing running games. Allow at least 60 seconds for each static quad and hamstring stretch.

You will find that a vigorous warm-up and stretching routine, combined with touches on the ball and competitive exercises like 1v1 to goal, will increase your pulse rate, warm your core body temperature, and improve your first few touches on the ball in the game. If you are properly warmed up and stretched out, you will experience fewer match-related injuries, particularly muscle strains.

• Stretch after Play to Increase Flexibility •

After you have completed training or a match, take time to stretch out properly as part of your cool down. You will find that the additional stretching helps increase your flexibility.

If you are playing in a tournament and expect to play another match during the day, adding extra stretching time after the first match will help prevent you from being stiff, sore, and slow in the second match, and help prevent fatigue related muscle strains to quads and hamstrings.

Before your second match in a tournament, your coach should normally reduce the overall duration of the pre-match warm-up, but provide as much time for stretching as before the first match of the day. A little lower leg massage after the first match and before the second match will also provide fresher legs for you.

• What to Stretch •

Think bottom to top, feet to head. When you stretch, exercise stretches for

  • ankles
  • lower legs
  • hamstrings
  • quadriceps
  • hips, hip flexors, and gluteals
  • lower torso
  • upper back
  • neck
  • shoulders

Your coach or ATC should provide you with proper stretches and instruct you in how to use them most effectively. Accomplish static stretching before moving on to gentle stretching with movement.

• Finish with a Proprioception Exercise •

Proprioception refers to your sense of joint position. In several studies of adult male professional soccer players, proprioception training has been shown to reduce the incidence of ACL injuries. Proprioception training is also routinely used with women and youth players to prevent injuries or as part of rehabilitation. Make it part of your daily training from U12 forward.

After you complete stretching after a practice or match, take two minutes each day to complete a simple proprioception exercise to help improve your chances of avoiding knee and ankle ligament injuries. As a simple example of an exercise you can do on your own, try this.

Stand on flat and firm ground with one foot. Lift the other foot so that your shoe laces are behind the knee of your standing leg. Bend the knee of your standing leg slightly to a comfortable position that is easy to hold without any pain or discomfort. Extend your arms to your sides, close your eyes, and count to 60 while balancing on one foot.

Each time you lose your balance, open your eyes and recover your balance. Put your lifted foot down to recover if needed, then resume your starting position and close your eyes again until you reach 60. Repeat this exercise with your other foot down.

As you balance, feel through your knee and ankle, and pay close attention to the position of your knee and ankle so that you can better balance.

As you progress, you may wish to purchase either an Airex balance pad or a wobble board, both useful for providing a challenging balance conditions. The balance pad is a little easier to use on both hard surfaces and at your playing field. As you try balancing on one leg on your balance pad, you will gain leg strength, better proprioception, and better balance.

If you are recovering from knee or ankle injuries, do not use a wobble board or balance pad until your sports medicine doctor, orthopedist, or ATC permits it and assists you.

by Bruce Brownlee,
Check out his excellent web site with tons of coaching and training tips at

Originally printed in the Sweet Soccer! Newsletter.

How To Deal With a Ball Hog

Most teams have at least one "ball hog". A ball hog can ruin team spirit and wreck the team's play. One thing that a ball hog won't do is pass the ball. When the hog has possession of the ball, he will dribble too much, and take lots of bad shots at the goal. When the other team spots a ball hog, they'll double team him as soon as he gets the ball, usually causing him to lose possession.

Sometimes it's difficult to know whether a player is a ball hog or if he just doesn't know how to play well under pressure. This kind of player will try to score, instead of passing to an open player. Some kids feel the way to handle a ball hog, is not to pass to him. This, however, soon wrecks the teams play. Talk to your coach and have him talk to the ball hog. During the game, forget about him, and play the way you normally would.

Proper Passing Techniques

This Article from the USYSA
Click here to see other Soccer Skills

Passing techniques
By April Kater and Robert "Butch" Lauffer
Following are several examples of passing techniques a player can utilize.

Push Pass: Kicking the soccer ball with the inside of the foot is the most accurate method of passing. It is also the easiest passing method a soccer player will learn. The approach of the player to the ball should always be in a straight line behind the ball, not at an angle, where a player can lose balance and accuracy.

The "push pass" should be used mainly over shorter distances because the majority of the power is coming only from the leg striking the ball and not from the entire body. Often players become too comfortable using the inside of the foot to push pass and try to serve balls over longer distances, on the ground, or even in the air, and they are unsuccessful.

Instep drive: Kicking "with the laces" is the most powerful method of passing a ball. When using the instep, a player is attempting to pass the ball over longer distances. Here, though, the most common mistakes at all levels come into play; toes not pointed down and/or ankle not locked. The approach should also be slightly angled, allowing the player a full backswing. In addition, the height of the kick will be determined by the player's moving the upper body forward, over the ball.

Defenders will often use the instep pass when bypassing the midfield to connect with their forwards. Midfielders will use the instep pass to change the point of attack with a long, powerful pass from one flank to the other. Forwards can use the instep drive when shooting on goal.

Lofted pass: The lofted pass is a skill used in many aspects of the game of soccer. Goalkeepers or defenders use it when taking goal kicks; defenders, on occasion, when clearing a ball out of a danger area. Attackers will use it when crossing a ball, and it also can be used when taking free kicks.

The priority is height; therefore, the player's body position should be leaning away and back from the ball. Also, the instep of the foot, "with the laces," should strike the ball through the bottom half, making it rise. The player should also hit through the middle of the ball to avoid pulling or slicing.

Chipping: Unlike other passing techniques, chipping the ball allows for little or no follow-through. The kicking action is a simple "jab" under the bottom half of the ballwitht he top of the kicking toe. This pass is advantageous over shorter distances because, like the push-pass, little power is generated from the body to the ball. Often, players will use a chip to get over or behind an opponent when other passing alternatives are not available.

© 2001 by April Kater and Robert "Butch" Lauffer

Proper Heading Techniques

This Article from the USYSA
Click here to see other Soccer Skills
Heading technique
by April Kater and Robert "Butch" Lauffer

The following are different heading methods to consider.

Standing position: The feet should be spaced apart, forming a good base, 8-10 inches wide. The feet should also be staggered, to provide balance when the upper body arches backwards as the ball arrives. The trunk of the body should snap forward to give power to the header as the forehead contacts the ball. Point of contact on the ball can vary depending on whether the player is attacking or defending.

When heading to score, the contact should be at the midline of the ball to keep it directed down and low. When defending, the contact should be made below the midline of the ball, with the upper body continuing forward in the snapping motion.

One-footed Take-off: The player should be sure that, when jumping off one leg, she chooses the leg most appropriate to the situation. Some players prefer jumping off of one leg over the other; therefore, a coach should make sure players are able to jump off of either leg successfully when attempting to head the ball. On takeoff, the knee and ankle of the takeoff leg should push upward and should arch backwards after the jump. The action of the non-takeoff leg should swing forward and high, bending at the hip and knee.

The upper body should be leaning forward at the point of takeoff and, when maximum height is reached, the body should arch backwards. The momentum of reaching back in a snapping motion propels the upper body forward, and the energy generated puts power behind the header. The head and neck should be tense as the forehead meets the ball. The player should end up landing on both feet.

To redirect ball: The player's jumping should be rotated towards the intended direction so that the surface of the forehead and the upper body are at the right angle to redirected the ball. In addition, when heading from a jump-and-turning action, it is best to jump with the leg that is closest to the ball. The opposite leg must then swing in the direction of the ball, in order to help rotate the trunk.

Diving header: There are instances when a ball is served below head height, but still too high to successfully strike with the foot. As one foot pushes off the ground, the opposite leg kicks in an upward motion while the upper body leans forward and the arms are extended forward. The body is parallel to the ground as the forehead strikes the midline of the ball. Arms are still extended outward to help brace the landing as the body connects with the ground at roughly a 45-degree angle.

© 2001 by April Kater and Robert "Butch" Lauffer

Marcelo Balboa on Slide Tackling

This Article from the USYSA
By Marcelo Balboa
Click here to see other Soccer Skills

Marcelo Balboa, a long-time veteran of the United States National Team currently with the Colorado Rapids of MLS, offers his advice on slide-tackling.

1. Watch The Ball

When an attacker is running at you with the ball, it's difficult not to concentrate on his body movements. Doing so, however, could cost you a tackle.

More than a few flashy forwards have juked a defender out of his socks while only nominally touching the ball. Such situations, however, can be avoided by keeping your eyes on the ball. "If someone is trying to dribble by you and he's coming right at you, you've got to watch the ball," says Balboa. "No matter where the attacker's body moves -- he can go right, he can go left -- the ball always sits still."

2. Don't Tackle Unless It's Necessary

The best place for a defender to be is on his feet, not on the ground, and so one should resist the temptation to leap at an opponent's ankles any time the opportunity presents itself. It's better to contain the forward and prevent him from penetrating. You should also try to work with your fellow defenders to close off the attack without direct confrontation.

If you are the last line of defense -- as Balboa usually is -- it is particularly important to remain upright. If your slide-tackle fails, your opponent's path to the goal will be clear.

"Any time you dive in, there's a chance of you getting beat," Balboa says. "Even if you do dive in and get the ball, it can always bounce or deflect off the guy and get by you."

3. Wait For Your Opponent To Separate From The Ball

As long as your opponent has the ball at his feet, he's in control and a slide-tackle could be suicidal. Wait for him to knock it ahead two or three feet -- if you are fairly close by -- before diving at his feet.

"If you tackle when it's at his feet," Balboa says, "he can knock it away from you or dribble by you. When he separates from the ball, then you cut in front of him without tackling. And that's perfect because you can keep playing. If you need to tackle, wait for him to separate from the ball, then hook him."

Timing is the crucial ingredient, both for safety and effectiveness. But the quality of the timing is elusive.

"The most important thing is to get your timing down," says Balboa. "If you don't have the right timing, your opponent is going to run right by you, and you might end up with a card."

Developing timing requires constant practice, but because training sessions rarely emphasize tackling, games offer the best training ground.

"Kids always want to practice slide-tackling, but it is not really something you can do in practice," Balboa says. "The more you play, the better you'll get at it."

4. Be Decisive

Mentality is important, especially at the highest level where the difference between success and failure can be confidence. Players can't hesitate, or they'll be beaten.

"When you decide to go down, you have to go down," he says. "You can't think twice about it. If you go into a tackle halfway, you can get hurt. Decide 100 percent that you are going, then go."

Knowing when to go requires instinct built through experience, and it requires the ability to read the game.

5. Attack From An Angle

It is possible to slide-tackle an opponent from behind or from the front. But the risks -- fouls, cards, expulsion -- are great. The best tackles come from an angle. Coming in at a angle also allows the defender to strip an opponent from the ball without tackling.

While racing alongside an opponent, wait for him to separate from the ball. Then step into his path, between him and the ball.

"Step right into his line," says Balboa. "Now you've got the ball, and you can shield it. Chances are, he'll trip you or foul you because you've cut him off."

Tackling from behind, an inexact science which soccer officials are intent on banning, isn't recommended.

"For every clean tackle from behind, there are four bad ones," Balboa says. "You always seem to clip the guy, catch an ankle or something. You might get away with one clean tackle, but many times you are going to foul the guy, and you might seriously hurt him. That's why they are trying to stop it."

"If I'm tackling from behind, I'm screwed because I'm the sweeper. I try not to get myself in that situation."

Slide-tackling from the front, with both feet, is another matter, and one referees rarely smile upon.

"Straight-on, you're going to get the ball first, but obviously you're trying to hurt the guy if you're going in with both feet straight on. That's why referees don't like straight-on tackling. Even if you get the ball, they usually call a foul."

Shooting the Soccer Ball

The most important skill in soccer is shooting. You have to shoot to score goals, and you need to score goals to win. It's important to shoot accurately to improve your chances of scoring. The best places to aim are the corners, and wherever the goalie "isn't" standing.

Kicking with power is just as important as accuracy. Even if you kick accurately, a ball with no power is easy for the goalie to stop. If you can kick hard, but are not accurate, the ball will not go in the goal, or will be right at the goalie, which is also easier for him to stop. To be a good shooter, you need both power and accuracy.

The best way to learn kicking with power and accuracy is to start with a still ball. Gradually try doing it with a ball rolling slightly away from you. Finally, practice dribbling and shooting at the same time. A good way to practice accuracy is to shoot against a wall. Place a mark on the wall, either with chalk, or masking tape. Make sure it is large enough for you to see from a distance. Place the ball about ten feet away from the wall and kick at the target you made. Try this every day, about twenty kicks with each foot, until you can hit the target almost every time.

As your accuracy improves, move to fifteen feet away, then twenty, and twenty five. Also it's important to learn how to kick a bouncing ball. Try throwing the ball at the target so that it bounces back to you and practice shooting the bouncing ball. Practice these skills, and you will soon become a great shooter!

Heading the Ball

An important skill every soccer player should learn is heading. Heading will let you stop the ball when the ball is high, either in the middle of the field, or when being shot at the goal. A good soccer player can even head the ball to change the direction of the ball, and to make a pass to a teammate.

Don't Head the ball like this. Please. Keep your eyes open, and remember: FOREHEAD.

To head the ball, keep your eyes open, and your mouth closed, and hit the ball with your forehead. Don't let the ball hit "you", rather "you" hit it! never head the ball if it is lower than your waist, you may get kicked by another player. Heading can be used to pass the ball to another player, or to hit it into the goal.

A good way to learn how to head a ball is to place a small piece of masking tape on the middle of your forehead. Take a light ball, such as a beach ball, throw it up in the air, and try to hit it with the masking tape spot. As you become better at it, and less afraid, try it with a slightly harder ball, such as a playground ball or a volleyball. Eventually you will be ready to try it with a regulation soccer ball.

You should ask your coach about heading in your league, and have him or her show you where to hit the ball with your forehead. It will hurt, and you could get injured, if you head the ball incorrectly.

Another way to practice heading is to hang a soccer ball from a tree with a rope or string. Make sure the ball is higher than your head, and practice jumping up to it and hitting it with your forehead. You can also have another player throwing balls into the air while you practice heading it to another player

Goalkeeping - A Short Guide

(don't miss the resources at the bottom of this article, for goalies who are determined to be the best!)

The goalie has a very unique position in soccer. The goalie usually plays within the goalie box, and is the only player on the team allowed to use his hands and arms to play the ball on the field. He may only use them within the penalty box. The goalie's job is to block the shots the other team makes, and prevent them from scoring a goal.

A good goalie inspires the defenders, and tells them where to position themselves on the field. The goalie must also be able to make quick decisions. Such as:

Where to position himself.
Whether or not to attempt to take the ball away from a player on the other team who has the ball.
Whether to play the ball, or leave it for another player on his team.
Catching the ball:

Catching the ball, without bobbling it, is a very important skill of goalkeeping. To be a good goalie, you must practice catching the ball in any situation. The first thing you should remember is to watch the ball at all times. Follow the ball's flight all the way to your hands. Catch the ball so your hands are slightly behind it. This will stop the ball from slipping from your fingers. It also helps to keep your fingers spread out when catching the ball. If your hands are too far apart, and are not behind the ball, the ball will slip through your hands and possibly into the goal.

As soon as you catch the ball, tighten your fingers up so you have a good grip on the ball, but keep your wrists relaxed. This will soften the impact of the ball so it won't bounce away. Whenever possible, try to get your body in front of the ball. That way, if you miss the ball, the ball will hit your body instead of going into the goal.

If the ball is shot chest high, catch the ball against your chest, then bring your arms around the ball to hold it securely. If the ball is bouncing up at you, lean forward over the ball and catch it, bringing the ball up to your chest. On ground balls, get quickly on one knee as you catch the ball, scooping it up with your hands to your chest.

Diving Save:

If the ball is shot to a corner of the goal, where you are unable to reach it, you need to dive and try to catch it, or deflect it so it doesn't go into the goal.

To dive after the ball, push your body off the ground, and face your body toward the ball, so your side is facing the ball. As your feet lift off the ground, fling your arms out toward the ball. Try to catch the ball while your arms are stretched out. As soon as you catch the ball, bring it into your chest. The ball and the forearm of your lower arm hit the ground first. As soon as you land, pull the ball into your chest.

This skill takes lots of practice. Start at first without the ball, and take little dives so you won't be afraid to hit the ground. As you get better, increase the distance, and try it with a ball. If you cannot reach the ball to catch it, use your fists to punch it away. When you land, use your arms to break your fall.

Getting rid of the ball:

You are allowed only four steps to put the ball back into play on the field (rules differ from league to league though). One way to get a good distance is to roll the ball out toward the edge of the penalty box, then run up and kick it. Since you are not holding the ball, the roll does not count as a step.

To throw the ball, put your hand under the ball, and then draw back your throwing arm, with your elbow slightly bent. As you throw your arm forward, turn towards your target, releasing the ball about a foot in front of your head.

To kick the ball, hold both hands under it, with your arms out in front of you about waist high. Keep your elbows slightly bent and take a step forward with your non-kicking leg. Swing your kicking foot up toward the ball, keep your toes pointed, move your hands out and drop the ball. You should kick the ball with your instep, trying to get it to go high and far. It takes a lot of practice to get the timing right, the distance and the accuracy, so don't be discouraged if you don't get it right away.

On a rolling ball, as the ball rolls to you, get ready to trap it. As soon as the sole of your foot makes contact with the ball, shift your weight slightly so you are wedging the ball between the sole of your foot and the ground. Don't put your foot directly on top of the ball, you may fall over it.