I played American football in high school and college. I was both a field goal kicker and punter. One trait often overlooked in kickers and punters is their creativity. There are only so many kicks and punts these players can practice before they either develop a dead leg or simply die of boredom. When I played, we needed to be creative to get through most practices. When I was not working on field goals or punts, I enjoyed playing catch. We would take turns being the quarterback and pass the ball to kicker/punter turned-receiver teammates running prearranged routes. We would also play catch by having the receiver run down field and instead of throwing the ball, we would punt the ball, The goal was to hit the receiver in stride.
A similar game can be played at a soccer practice. Here\’s how.
- Come up with a few pass routes. Some short and some long.
- Divide the team into 3 groups: left-sided receivers, right-sided receivers, and the quarterbacks (kickers).
- Have a receiver run one of the routes and have the quarterback pass the ball to the receiver in stride. Kick the ball off the ground so the receiver has to catch it. The ball should be stationary when kicked, like a free kick or corner.
- Make sure everyone gets a turn playing all three positions
Once the players begin to feel comfortable with this game, add some variations:
- Add new routes.
- Have the quarterbacks chip the ball high into the air or have them kick it \’on a line\’.
- Have the quarterbacks kick with their weaker foot.
- Instead of catching the ball, have the receivers control the ball with their feet.
- Add a defender so the pass needs to be more accurate.
This fun practice alternative is great for the quarterbacks. It gives them an opportunity to work on:
- Touch. Chip shots, regular kicks, or power passes all require different types of touches to be put on the ball. During a regular game, correct ball touches are important.
- Kicking into open space. Since the receiver is moving, the quarterback needs to pass to the spot where the player will be when he/she receives the ball. This should happen in a soccer game all the time.
The receivers benefit as well.
- It gives them an opportunity to receive and control the ball from unusual angles. This is a great exercise for the forwards.
- It reinforces the need to always be moving.
- Running the routes helps with fitness.
If playing \’catch\’ with a soccer ball is not a big hit, break out some footballs. While throwing and catching a football will not benefit the team much from a soccer perspective, it will still be a nice break from a regular soccer practice.