At the youth level, most players have a really tough time controlling the ball out of the air, especially when the ball descends from great heights such as a goalie punt. Many players are scared and I don\’t blame them. Players are often taught is to head these balls. That is the worst thing a player could do for several reasons:
- Soccer balls may not be properly inflated. Over-inflated and under-inflated balls can really hurt when they are not headed properly. Over time, who knows what long-term damage could result.
- While coaches probably teach their players the correct way to head a ball–always using the forehead and not the top of the head–rarely do players practice heading extremely high balls. Usually any game-simulated heading exercises come from corners or free kicks where the trajectory of the ball is not nearly as steep.
- Players rarely have any control of where the ball ends up after heading the ball.
- High balls are very difficult to judge. For an outfielder in baseball, it takes many years to learn the fundamentals of catching a routine pop-up. Same thing in soccer with high balls.
Since many coaches don\’t practice controlling high balls, the offensive team should take full advantage of this, especially when going with the wind. This is how to do it.
- Have your goalie punt the ball as high as possible straight down the middle of the field. The higher the kick, the more the wind will carry the ball.
- At least one forward should always assume that the defense is going to miss the ball. This happens more often than not in youth soccer. Playing the miss will result in many one-on-ones with the goalie.
- Consider putting in the goal the player who has the strongest leg but who may not necessarily be your best goalie especially when down a few goals and when going with the wind. With the wind to the goalie\’s back, you will be able to take advantage of her long punts.
This is very easy to defend against:
- After seeing that the long, high punts are a problem, have your last one or two defenders play further back than usual. It is always better if the first bounce is in front of the defender, not in back.
- By playing a defender back, it will be easier for her to run up on the ball, if necessary, to control it.
- Controlling these types of kicks should be done with the feet, not the head or even the chest. If properly taught, it is very easy to control the ball with the feet even from great heights. It is just a matter of practice.