Curing the Toe Poke in Youth Players

How many times have we heard it shouted from both the coaches and the parents? "Kick with your laces, not your toe!"

Sounds like an easy request, but you must understand you are trying to change the evolution of a child. This is why so many struggle with this seemingly simply task.

While many think this is a problem for very young soccer players, 5-9 years old, we have seen this problem frequently in the 13-16 year olds as well. One of the benefits of our research while creating Blast The Ball is we were able to work with players at all levels from all over the world. The not-so-shocking findings to us may surprise you.

There are soccer players at the most advanced levels of play that can't perform all the different types of kicks correctly. If they can, they often can't perform them with both feet. Understanding the EXACT and correct form is essential for the development of advancing players.

Curing the toe kick is often the first step. It really is quite easy to understand if you take the time to study the progression, the cause and the cure. We spent 18 months studying every phase of the soccer kick from 6 year olds all the way to professional players. Once we captured this "evolution" on video and slowed it down, it became quite evident why we kick with the toe and the steps to cure it.

First, understand how we first start to kick a ball. Very young players really don't go into a "kicking mode". They are simply running at the ball and when they think they are close, or their foot makes contact with the ball, they push their leg through the shot. They are simply trying to force the leg forward so it moves the ball. During this stage there is no "forethought" to the soccer kick. (This could be called the collision stage.) Kicking the ball is simply an afterthought that combines with the running gate of the player.

As players mature they learn that the harder they "push through" the shot, the farther the ball goes. This seems great in their eyes, but it starts a habit that is hard to cure. Some even "push through" so hard they fall onto the ground after a shot.

Next realize another reason for a toe kick. It is the natural foot position. When we run or walk, our foot changes position. At the end of our stride, our toe is naturally facing down because we have just finished "pushing off" the ball of our foot or toe area. As our foot comes forward in a walking or running stride the toe naturally returns to the forward pointing position.

Have someone walk across the floor. Concentrate on their foot position at the end or the back of their stride and then watch as it comes forward. The toe naturally starts to swing forward and upward.

Then ask them to walk or jog with their toe pointed down as long as possible. The result is a child or adult "high stepping" across the floor like a Clydesdale horse.

The problem is that this "unnatural position" is really what we are asking them to do when we tell them to kick with their laces.

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