Kicking is a fundamental movement skill behind a good number of sports and activities. From rugby and soccer to karate and kung fu, plenty of sports are based on kicking or employ kicking extensively. However, each employs a different technique according to the demands of the activity.
In recognition of soccer’s vast popularity across the globe, and its number one rank as a participation sport among Canadian youth, the following presents the basic technique for kicking a soccer ball. If you can teach your children to kick or “strike” a soccer ball with confidence, they will have the ability to jump into just about any soccer game they encounter at school, at the park, or even at the beach, and that’s fun.
Basic mechanics of kicking in soccer
There are two principle techniques for kicking a soccer ball: one is with the laces – not the toes – the other is with the inside of the foot. (There are at least a half dozen more, but these are the basics.) You can shoot on goal using either technique, and you can also pass to a teammate with either method, but generally the laces are used for shooting with power and the inside of the foot is used for passing with variable weight over different distances.
Here is how to strike the ball with the laces for power:
- Place the soccer ball on the ground and take two or three steps back.
- Are you kicking with your right foot? Take one big step to the left.
- Are you kicking with your left foot? Take one big step to the right.
- Look at your target (e.g. the goal) and create a mental picture of the ball going there.
- Drop your head, look at the ball, and step quickly towards it.
- Plant your non-kicking foot beside the ball, about 10-15 cm away.
- Make sure your non-kicking foot is pointing at your target (e.g. the goal).
- Keep your head down and your eyes on the ball as you start to swing your kicking leg.
- Keep the toes of your kicking foot pointed down, and make contact with laces, not the toes.
- Power and accuracy comes by making good contact with middle of the ballwhile keeping balance on your non-kicking leg.
- Make sure your arms are raised slightly like “airplane wings” for balance.
- Follow through with your kicking leg so that it swings across the front of the body.
How to teach kids the basics
As always, the best approach to teaching children a skill such as kicking is simply to play a lot of kicking games with them. This allows them to explore the basics of kicking as they slowly develop their skill and coordination over time.
If you are teaching preschoolers to kick a soccer ball, don’t give them too much verbal instruction. They don’t have the capacity yet to translate your words into movement. You can tell them to kick with their laces, and you can demonstrate for them, but then you should simply emphasize play and repetition.
With older kids, you can provide a little more instruction as outlined above, but again, emphasize play and repetition.
Two games to practice soccer kicking
For preschoolers, the best way to get them excited about kicking is to create a small goal against a wall or fence, and then make yourself the goalkeeper. Challenge them to score against you with a “correct” laces kick and you will see them eagerly engage in practicing correct shooting technique. Roll the ball slowly back to them after each shot and encourage them to stop and control the ball with the side of their foot slightly raised off the ground.
If they get overly excited and start kicking with their toes, stop play for a moment and remind them: “No toes! Laces only!”
You can play the same game with older kids, but you will likely need more space to play. Unless you have an especially big backyard, think about going to a local school or soccer field to practice shooting with a real goal frame.
Another game is simply trying to kick the ball over your opponent. This activity is suited to older kids ages 7-12 years who already have some experience kicking a soccer ball. Again, you will need to visit a real soccer field or go to a school to have enough space to play. The instructions are simple: stand about 10-20 metres apart in the middle of the field and try to kick the ball over your partner. Partners use their hands to catch any balls that don’t fly high enough.
Once your child shows confidence in the basic laces kick, consider practicing the basic side foot passing technique. You can also practice soccer dribbling to prepare for playing a pickup soccer game with family and friends!