Don’t be Afraid to Shoot with Your Off Foot
Soccer players, especially youth players, have a tendency to only shoot with their dominant striking foot. The reasons are obvious; players have much more confidence with their better foot and feel they will probably be more likely to score than if they hack away with their other foot. But the result is often pandemonium in front of the opposing goal, when a player has just milliseconds of an opening to strike the ball with their off-foot, but then decides to re-orient their body in order to use their favored foot. After a full second of adjustment, their shot is well blocked by the goalie who had time to come over and prepare for the save.
See, soccer is often a game that is decided in rapid moments and opportunities like the one described above. This is the sole reason why coaches need to urge their players to practice with their less dominant foot and for players to be confident in using that foot for crucial game moments.
If you are standing at the six-yard box and the ball is bouncing around after a corner, and you see a chance to give the ball a whack towards goal, take it! Nothing is more excruciating to watch in a youth soccer game than seeing these kids scramble around when someone needs to just give the ball a hit.
And perhaps the player will not even want to use their less dominant foo for the remainder of the match, as they are vastly superior with their other foot. That’s OK, but players need to realize that in vital moments, they need to be able to strike the ball with their off-foot.
When you force players to try and practice a bit with their less dominant foot, it will give them the confidence to not necessarily become an ambidextrous trick maestro, but at least be reasonably capable of making contact with the ball.
Unfortunately, this is a lesson that most players can only learn the hard way, exactly as I described it above. People are such creatures of habit that they will see the ball lying, delicately poised for striking, and think, “Oh gee, I had better use my right foot for this shot because I’ve never taken a shot with my left”. As the slow motion replay ensues and milliseconds trickle by, his or her opportunity is wasted.
Perhaps a good method to teach this lesson to your team would be to actually play out these situations and bounce the ball in front of an empty goal and require the players to simply score with their off-foot. The kids will enjoy it because it’s a chance to see the ball hit the net, and they will be taught a crucial skill that will eventually help them out in a real game.
So next time you watch a player on your youth soccer team ruin a golden chance to score with their less dominant foot, take heed and get kids playing with their off-foot so the chance doesn’t go wasted again.