Phenomenal FootSkills: Creative on the Ball
Watching Marta or Messi move and make the ball move is pure pleasure. The finesse, touch, skill, and diversity of touch allows them to play the ball on the ground, flick it in the air, and scurry through and around defenders with ease. A great player thus needs to be creative and be allowed to explore and practice. Skilled players experiment with multiple surfaces of touch, multiple directional changes, and different ways of touching the ball on the ground, in the air, and with both feet.
A player should be allowed to explore and experiment to learn:
- multiple surfaces of touch
- multiple changes of direction
- different ways to handle the ball not only on the ground, but in the air
- how to comfortably and effectively use both feet
Deadly Ball Striking: the ability to strike and serve the ball with accuracy and power.
I’ve worked with more than 500 players in my past sixteen years of coaching and ANYONE can kick a ball, but few players can receive passes, put the ball where they want it, and then do all of that under pressure. Ball striking is more than just service and shooting. It is about the technical qualities related to the release of the ball, how you prepare your body to shoot, how you position your plant foot, and how you respond during, before, and after you strike the ball in gameplay. At LFC, we identify five technically specific strikes on the ball.
We don’t just kick the ball, we strike it with purpose, direction, and with one or two touches within a one step approach.
Can the player drive a ball?
Anyone can kick a ball and move it from point A to point B, but more there's a more complex, technical skill to striking a ball in order to fulfill the Great Player Model.
By swinging your leg in the general direction of a ball and kicking it, it will inevitably travel. The challenge for most players is to intentionally drive a ball to a specific spot. Placing a driven ball low and in the corner of the goal is the ultimate shot, and less than 1% of players can do that consistently.
So if we want to create great players, shouldn’t our task be to teach our students how to strike a driven ball that is accurately placed?
What about driving a ball from a corner kick? What about shooting off the dribble? Or driving a ball from the defense straight toward a forward’s foot? As one of the 7 Aspects of Great Players, driving a ball is more than scoring goals.
Dominant in the Air
Winning headers, volleying the ball, receiving the ball, flicking it, and controlling it in the air is a rare quality in players. Find a player who is comfortable striking the ball after flicking it in the air with the outside of the foot. Find a player that can do all of that under pressure. Identify a player that can receive, volley, and pass the ball in the air; someone who is comfortable heading the ball in multiple directions under pressure and in traffic (up, down, re-directional side to side), and I’ll show you a player with Division I potential.
Now, can they do this consistently UNDER PRESSURE?
Can a player utilize all twelve surfaces of their body while juggling? It doesn't matter if they can stay on their thighs for 1,000 juggles. Can they use their whole body?
- Inside/Outside/Top of the Foot
- Both Thighs
- Both Shoulders
- Chest & Head
Soccer isn't played as a 45 yard sprint in one direction.
Great players not only run fast, they think fast. They are actively thinking and computing thousands of problems and solutions that are not just the right solution, but the most creative solution to obstacles they face in gameplay. Soccer speed is multi-directional—a fast player in soccer knows how to cut at speed, change direction, goes one way and then another, fake, bob, weave, jump, push, stop, pull, and even dive! You need power and repetition to develop speed, and the mental game is the same way.
Great players make mistakes, move on, and get back into the competition as fast as possible.
They have the ability to overcome boredom in their practice, face adversity with courage, and laugh at themselves when testing their limitations. All the while appreciating their strengths and weaknesses as a growing player.
Combine Vision and Movement On and Off the Ball
Great players are effective off the ball and can see not only the current play, but the next move and possibilities. Great players see everything within a range of vision; from the subtle foot placement of the oncoming defender to the player running into space on the far-side of the field, they know where everyone is and where the next move should go. A player with vision is more valuable than the clunky defender at the next level. A player who sees how others can get involved, and then dedicate their focus to stay involved––even when they do not have the ball––creates thousands of possible combinations with their teammates. Most players only see their own problems in front of them rather than the problems their teammates face; great players need to know how they can contribute to not only their own success, but the success of their teammates.
A great player can and will:
- See the next move and possible solutions to get there
- Stay involved even when they don't have possession of the ball
- Involve other players
- Make others around them better