I don't care if you are 8 or 38 years old, a funny thing happens when we place a soccer ball on the grass in front of a goal. Something in our mind seems to snap and we try to strike the ball as hard as we can.
Most of us, however, don't realize this actually slows down the soccer ball's speed.
While creating Blast The Ball and Soccer U we had the pleasure of capturing literally hundreds of hours of soccer players and thousands of soccer kicks. This research showed some interesting results. Trying to kick a soccer ball harder often slowed down the speed of the ball.
Why you ask?
Well let's start with another sport that will help us understand.
Talk to the "long drive" golf champs and you will find a common thought among them. Swing at 80 percent of your top force. Now, why would a golf ball go farther at 80 percent versus 100 percent? It comes down to the speed of the club head, which is the last part of several body parts involved.
Swinging--or kicking--at 100 percent of force often causes us to tense up many of the muscles involved in the full multifunction process of the motion. Think of this as a "whipping" motion. Staying slightly loose during the kick allows our foot to be at the end of an accelerating chain of events. Tighten up any of those events and you slow it down.
Try throwing a baseball with a totally stiff arm. The ball travels about half the speed. Keeping a loose arm with a whipping motion increases the speed greatly. The same applies to the soccer kick.
A couple of key points to a stronger, longer and faster soccer kick:
- Relax. Allow your entire body to go limp. Shake it out. Let your head, neck legs and every part of your body relax. The only part of your body that will have tension is your ankle.
- Large last stride (loading). Make your last stride a long "forward hopping" load. Your heel should come close to your behind.
- Allow your knee to come through first. This is known as "storing the load". Your lower leg will form a V shape. Keep that V shape as long as possible and at the last minute let it extend in a whipping motion through the ball.
- Kick with the big toe knuckle. Approach the ball from a slight angle. The largest bone in your foot is the first metatarsal, which is just above the big toe knuckle. This translates into force or energy at impact.
- Break the pane. Pretend that the ball is sitting in front of a large pane of glass. You want to break the pane with your body, not just your leg or foot. This means that your forward momentum should continue through the shot. This will also cause you to land on your shooting foot, not your plant foot.
- Watch your foot contact the ball. If you can see your foot strike the ball, you are kicking properly. Doing this also keeps your body in a slightly bent over position. Straightening up will kill some of the power release.
To prove this point to younger players you should have them start very close to the soccer goal. Have them move back little by little without changing their kicking effort. When you see them forcing their shot, have them move back very close and feel the loose shot again a few times. Then have them move back out to a far point and use the same close kick. Both of you will be amazed.
On a final note, I suggest you videotape the player kicking. You can even use digital cameras that have a video recorder. Try and set the frames per second as high as you can. This will allow you to slow the kick down to a frame-by-frame view. When we shot Blast The Ball, many of the cameras were set on 3000 frames per second. This allowed us to see EVERY detail of the kick. Younger players will be amazed at the footage and trust me, if you tell them they are doing something wrong they will disagree. Show them the video and they will understand.
Coach V is the founder and developer of the Blast The Ball soccer training system and the SoccerU training series. He currently works with all levels of players including youth, collegiate and professionals.