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
A great player should be able to perform this in GAME PLAY
Multiple Surfaces and Touches
LeftFoot recognizes over TEN types of Touches:
Sliding Touch: the ability to maintain contact with the ball for a longer period of time with the inside of the foot or inside of the big toe; it is sometimes referred to as a "drag."
Rolling Touch: the ability to roll the sole/arch of the foot laterally across the ball; it's sometimes referred to as a "slap."
Tapping Touch: the ability to tap the ball forward with any part of the foot.
Poke Touch: the ability to poke the ball forward; it is typically done with the big toe.
Cut, Chop or Slice Touch: the ability to chop the foot to the side of the ball; related to cutting at speed, usually the first change of direction to be taught: inside cut or outside of the foot cut.
Flick touch: the ability to lift the ball with the front of the foot; this is applied to chipping or lifting the ball.
Stop or Cap Touch: While not necessarily taught at LFC, the ability to stop the ball under the front part of the foot is considered a type of touch, being able to differentiate the applicable power of the touch is important for specific hesitation moves.
Players are encouraged to combine types of touch to create new solutions; typical combination touches are:
Slide and Tap: often called an inside/outside move or "Stanley Matthews" where the player slides the ball toward the inside of the body, and taps it with the outside of that same foot past the defender.
Roll & Tap: Players roll the ball to the inside of the body, and then tap it across their body with the opposite foot.
Skip Touch: Players cap and slide the ball across their body.
Combinations are endless and instrumental in allowing players to creatively apply new solutions to the obstacles they face in game play.
How many surfaces does the player use in the video?
How a player touches the ball creates a variety of spins, resistance, or power in their dribbling skills, and also in their receiving and striking abilities. For instance, being able to apply a sliding touch on the ball will be instrumental for a player to be able to bend the ball later. So keeping the foot in contact with the ball for a longer period of time will create the foundation of technique that can be used as skills progress.
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 accurate and spot on?
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 that 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, pass the ball in the air and 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 Division I quality player.
- 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 a creative solution to the problem facing them on the field. Soccer speed is multi-directional—a fast player in soccer knows how to cut at speed, change direction, goes one way-- then another, fakes, bobs, weaves, jumps, pushes, stops, pulls, and even dives! You need power and repetition to develop speed and the mental game is just the same.
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 while appreciating their limitations.
Ability to Balance Task and Ego Oriented Goals.
Great players can focus on practicing the same skill hundreds, even thousands of times focusing on the nuances of their practice, their body, and the skill. But they can also turn on the mental switch and take over the game, sore the final goal, dominate the defensive game, make the winning pass, and go in hard for a tackle. Yet it’s the combination of the player who has the mental confidence and the technical superiority that finishes on top. Tons of players want to get better, but only a few can dedicate themselves to the finer details on a daily basis to actually get better.
- They can throw all of their focus into the small details necessary to get better, refining their skills, becoming technically superior, yet...they have the ability to see and contribute to the big picture, making the team, winning the game, reaching the championship,
and they know how and when to flip the switch.
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. A player with vision is more valuable than the clunky defender at the next level. An a player that sees how others can get involved and then stays 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 possible solutions of those that are around them and involve them.
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