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Basic Soccer Skills

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  • 0:02 Playing Soccer
  • 0:50 Using Your Feet:…
  • 2:13 Trapping & Heading the Ball
  • 3:08 Tackling & Throw-Ins
  • 4:12 Goalkeeping
  • 5:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Thomas Higginbotham

Tom has taught math / science at secondary & post-secondary, and a K-12 school administrator. He has a B.S. in Biology and a PhD in Curriculum & Instruction.

Successful soccer players must master a number of basic skills, including dribbling, kicking, and trapping the ball. In this lesson, you'll learn how to effectively control and move a soccer ball around the field, as well as the techniques involved in defending the goal.

Playing Soccer

Perhaps you watch soccer, perhaps you play it, but if you're unaware of the skills needed to play this very popular sport, this lesson will clarify just what it takes to play the game mindfully, although it can take a long time to get to be a skilled player.

For instance, kids playing soccer often pick up the ball with their hands. This action underscores the degree to which using our feet, legs, chest and head might be used to control a ball runs counter to our physical instincts of using our hands. Still, watching some of soccer's greats make the ball dip, curve and spin with stupefying precision demonstrates the possibility of exacting great control over a soccer ball through mastery of some basic soccer skills.

Using Your Feet: Dribbling & Kicking

When dribbling, the insides, outsides, insteps and soles of feet can be used to control the ball and navigate past other players. Slightly bent knees allow a player to spring quickly in any direction, which can help fool opponents about the player's and the ball's next direction.

Different kinds of kicks involve a balance between accuracy and power. In general, the most accurate part of the foot to use is the inside of the foot, while the most powerful is the hard bone at the top of the foot called the instep.

Shots on the goal can come from free kicks, off-the-dribble or volley shots. Striking the ball off-center creates a spin that causes the ball to curve or dip. For example, a strike to the right of and above center creates a top spin and side spin, which causes the ball to travel over defenders and then dip and curve left into the goal. The most powerful shots come from striking the ball with the hardest part of the foot, the instep.

Long-distance kicks are used in cross-field passes and goal kicks, among others. The most powerful kicks come from striking the ball with the hardest part of the foot, the instep.

Passes are generally not as powerful as many shots or long-distance kicks, since the passer wants the recipient to be able to control the ball upon receiving it. More accurate parts of the foot, the inside and outside, are commonly used to pass.

Trapping & Heading the Ball

There are a few ways to receive a ball that is coming your direction in soccer too. Two of the most common ways to receive a soccer ball is to trap the ball with your feet or to head the ball with, you guessed it, your head. Trapping the ball is one of the most important skills in soccer, since it allows ball control after receiving it. Trapping deadens the ball, absorbing its energy in much the same way a tennis net absorbs the energy of an errant tennis ball. Virtually every body part can be used to trap the ball.

Many goals come from headers. In general, heading the ball is a redirection of hard-struck balls. The flattest and hardest part of the head, the forehead, provides accuracy and power. A quick, powerful snap of the neck creates enough force to strike the ball. Players near the offensive goal should head the ball down towards the ground, which can make it more difficult for goalkeepers to defend.

Tackling & Throw-Ins

In comparison to football, tackles in soccer involve taking the ball away from an opponent. In the poke tackle, a defender waits for a chance to quickly poke the ball away from their opponent with their foot. In a block tackle the defender hooks their foot around the ball, either from the front or side, after which the tackler wins the ball, or the ball squirts away from both players. In block tackles, defenders should retain a low center of gravity and stay on their feet. In a sliding tackle, the defender slides towards the ball and stops both it and the attacker's momentum with the feet or another part of the body.

Throw-ins are used to restart a soccer game after the ball has crossed the touchline. The thrower stands behind the touchline and faces the field of play with both feet at least partially on the ground during and after the throw. Using both hands, the ball is brought from behind the head and released as it clears the top of the head. Powerful throw-ins can travel over half the width of the field, which can create dangerous scoring chances in the offensive half of the field.

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