2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Bombs Away


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.

Defensive Strategy

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.
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2 Responses to “2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Bombs Away”

  1. Gerry Montague Says:

    Alex –

    Normally I read your posts and fully agree, most of your ideas and observations are spot on. In this case, I have to respectfully disagree.

    Punting the ball has obvious tactical practicalities – clear your lines while playing over the top to stretch the opponent’s defenders. Most coaches are so anti-learning / pro-winning, they demand their goalkeepers punt the ball ALL the time in hopes of out-sprinting the opponent for one more goal. While the $.50 plastic trophy they get at the end of the season is great for their massive egos when they are the best kickball team in a youth soccer league, I think some points are being overlooked.

    If you watch young players in Europe or elsewhere around the world, they DO head punted balls. In most cases, it’s done because they grow up with the game, watch it all the time, and try to emulate what they see when they play. A second reason they head the ball is someone teaches it. Some coaches realizes a crappy plastic trophy won at U10 isn’t the FA Cup or the UEFA Champions League trophy and they are willing to lose games by trying to teach their players the right way to play games. All the kickball superstars are out of the soccer by 13 or 14, the players who had coaches with both knowledge and patience are still playing while continuing to learn and grow. Heading the ball takes guts, anyone who has played the game knows that, but teaching players not to head the ball is the equivalent of a baseball coach telling outfielders to let fly balls bounce so they don’t misjudge them and accidentally take it in the head. The best way to help a player get better and learn a new task – have a coach take the time to teach it.

    • Alex Kos Says:

      I hate teams and players that kickball. I wish no one ever did it but that is wishful thinking. Kickball stems from players not having the ability or confidence to control a ball. However, I don’t mind a goalkeeper punting the ball on occasion (especially with the wind) to try to catch the defenders napping. However, if you do it all time, then the defenders will adjust and there goes any advantage.

      As are far heading goes, I don’t think young players should be heading the ball that the goalkeeper has kicked. The kicks tend to come from a steep angle and come at greater speeds. No matter how good a player is, rarely will he/she control the direction the ball goes in on these types of kicks. For me, it is safer from a head-injury and ball-control standpoint to control the ball with the feet.

      I do agree that proper heading needs to be taught so players are prepared and use the correct mechanics. I just don’t think young players should be encouraged to use headers more than is absolutely necessary. On a beautiful cross, for sure. On a goal kick or punt, what is the point?

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