Here’s an interesting fact. Soccer attracts more participants missing a lower limb than any other sport. It must do. How many times do we hear the phrase: ‘He hasn’t got a left foot,’ stated wearily from the side-lines? It is a vicious circle. Watch very young children kick a ball and they will instinctively use either foot. We are talking here about toddlers, two-year olds who have yet to develop discrimination against their weaker side. As coaches or parents, one of the greatest gifts we can give our soccer made kid is to encourage them to be two footed. Thus, the importance of soccer shooting drills and strategies.
For this rare but essential player, the game opens up. They are harder to defend against, and so find themselves with more time on the pitch; options to pass and shoot double; they become a nightmare for full backs with their ability to dribble both ways and cross with either foot.
The process of favouring one foot over another starts young. Unless the child suffers from a medical condition it is likely that a mixture of genetic and environmental factors create the left footed Ozils, the right footed Maradonas and the two footed Ronaldos. In fact, the sentence above is a little distorted. Even two footed players still generally favour one over another, but not enough to damage their game.
As young children, it is normal to favour one foot. Watch a toddler climb and they will tend to favour a first step from a particular side. This dominance is then reinforced by parental praise. Since the ‘stronger’ foot will marginally out perform the weaker foot, it will receive more praise. Over time, the stronger foot then gets additional practice, and so strengthens while the weaker foot is used ever less regularly, and so atrophies as a goal scoring tool.
However, the situation can be addressed. Partly, at least. Here are some drills to get our young players dribbling and shooting with both feet.
The importance of repetition in building up a weaker foot cannot be emphasised enough. After all, with say a group of Under tens, we are countering perhaps five years of one footed development. Set challenges the players can do out of training.
- Run up a flight of steps starting with the weaker foot;
- Complete fifty wall passes in the back yard every day using, of course, the weaker foot;
- Use a balloon for indoor shooting with a doorway as a goal (double doors, such as patio doors, are best). Again, only allow shots with the weaker foot.
There are many other similar drills we can encourage our youngsters to work on. But kids are kids. They like success, and they will get it more easily using their stronger foot. Therefore, the coach might need to put in place extra motivation.
- Have a fun ‘wrong foot’ penalty shoot-out;
- Practise corkscrew volleys (always good fun) using the weaker foot;
- Use a mannequin and get players to dribble at it, sidestep on the weaker side and shoot with the weaker foot.
- Hold wrong foot juggling competitions.
By adding a competitive element, with a prize (something small, like a certificate or a lollipop) and letting the kids know that the challenge will be coming up, they are more likely to put in the practice time.
Another issue with the weaker foot is that technique that comes easily with the stronger side feels awkward on the weaker foot, and as a result often lacks technical accuracy. Players should:
- Open the shoulder above the shooting foot; this automatically opens the hip to generate power;
- Place the non-kicking foot beside the ball;
- Get the head over the ball;
- Ensure arms are well spread for balance; the weaker arm leads, which also feels uncomfortable to begin with.
- Drive through the ball with the laces to generate power.
- The arms, shoulder and hips rotate in the direction the ball is hit.
For the stronger foot, these techniques come naturally, but have to be learned and practised with the weaker foot. For all of the drills to follow, even the first, the coach ensures that technique is accurate. It may be necessary to build up the component parts one at a time where the skill really does feel awkward to the player.
Like any other skill, the component parts will begin to feel more natural over time; the issue with children is that because shooting with the weaker side feels uncomfortable, and often ends up with a failure, they can be discouraged from trying.
Little games can be set up to encourage players, such as placing (non-breakable!) objects on a table and holding target practice or having a ‘wrong foot distance’ competition. We must ensure the players are well warmed up before trying this, however.
Developing Confidence – Open Goals
The easiest drill ever. The focus us is on repetition and simplicity. We want the players to gain confidence in their weaker foot, so we start with the task being as easy as realistically possible.
The ball is passed across the box and the striker runs onto the open goal to score with their weaker foot. The addition of a keeper helps to make the drill a little more realistic, but they should start on the near post, so they are slightly out of position as the pass comes across.
- Strike the ball with the inset for added accuracy;
- Pay special attention to body position; non kicking foot firmly planted, head over the kicking foot, arms spread for balance, body at forty-five degrees to the ball.
- As players become more confident, add a defender starting from behind them to add pressure.
Double Shooting Drill
(Note: in the diagrams, blue lines equal movement of players, red lines movement of the ball.)
This activity encourages quick reactions and encourages players to position quickly to shoot with both feet.
Player one makes a pass to the coach and receives a return pass. He or she runs onto this and shoots. Immediately, a second pass is received from a different angle to the other foot, and again a shot takes place. The drill then heads back in the other direction while the goalkeeper re sets. The drill works well with a large number of players as it is action packed.
- Pass firmly along the ground with the instep;
- Shoot across the keeper with both feet;
- Encourage players to focus on body position when shooting;
- Non-kicking foot firmly planted and angled towards the direction of the shot;
- Head and knee over the ball when shooting;
- Smooth follow through;
- Arms out and slightly rotating for balance.
- Introduce speed by encouraging first time shooting;
- Add pressure by adding a defender.
This is a fun warm up activity which also encourages the use of both feet. Players line up around five meters apart, each with a ball. At least eight players are needed to make the drill effective. The first player runs past each of their teammates, dipping the shoulder and accelerating past first one way, then the next, using alternate feet. Once the player has been passed, they turn and follow their teammate. After the last player has been passed, the dribbler becomes a new ‘mannequin’. It may be necessary for the coach to tell players when to turn and begin to ensure that gaps are maintained.
- Ensure both feet are used, dribbling slowly with the outside of the foot;
- Dip the shoulder one way, shift the ball the outside of the opposite foot, and accelerate after the ball.
- Encourage players to introduce a variety of additional skills, e.g. a step-over, in the gap between the ‘mannequin’ players.
Touch and Cross
Here, the player is encouraged to cross with their weaker foot. The ball is fed into a central player who lays it off wide. The original passer runs onto the ball, and crosses with their weaker foot to their teammate, who has run into a shooting position. The coach should emphasise a focus on technique rather than power. Encourage players to cross low initially, which is easier than lifting the ball.
- Arms for balance;
- Non kicking foot firmly planted, angled slightly towards the direction of cross;
- Strike with the instep for accuracy, leaning back if height is needed.
- Additional players can be added as technique improves, both offensive and defensive players.
The Importance of Practice
This cannot be emphasized enough. The coach can use short spells of ‘weaker foot only’ activity. This should not last for more than two- or three-minute intervals as the quality of play will drop, but over time players will become more confident.
- Only shots with a weaker foot, both in games and drills;
- Weaker foot passing, again in drills and matches;
- Juggling competitions where both feet can be used, but only weaker foot juggles count for points; this can be an individual or team activity.
This is all fairly obvious stuff, but that is its strength. Our young players will prosper more with simple, fun drills they understand and can work on in their own time rather than complex tactical set ups which are confusing and, through their complexity, often fall down.
Which is, of course, a statement which can be applied to most aspects of soccer!
Here’s a video of the greatest two footed players in history….
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