Archive for the ‘inside-of-the-foot’ Category

2010 Soccer MVP: Inside-of-the-Foot … Receiving

February 10, 2010

Author’s Note: This post is one in series of posts that breaks down the 2010 Soccer MVP Tournament competition. Be sure to look at the final results to review how ‘Inside’ was crowned champion.

I believe that receiving, or controlling the ball, is the most important skill in soccer, bar none.

Every player possession starts with a ball either thrown or kicked to a player who then needs to control it in some fashion. Of the four feet surfaces that made the final round of this competition–inside, top (laces), outside, and bottom–‘Inside’ not only won the receiving discipline but it was capable of controlling 90% of all balls passed to a player.

Control

In baseball, the goal is to catch the baseball in the mitt. In football, the goal is to catch the football with the hands. Once these catches are completed, the player will either throw to first base or turn and run up field, respectively. In both cases, a successful catch does not really dictate a player’s next move.

Soccer is different. In soccer, how the ball is received always dictates a player’s next move. Since soccer is such a fluid sport with players constantly moving, it is preferable for a ball not to be received and come to rest in the same spot. Rather, the ideal method is for the first-touch (the first touch a player makes on the ball) to push or direct the ball away from the player receiving the ball. Where the ball is pushed or directed and how far away from the player the ball rolls depends solely on the first-touch skill of that player.

To test ‘Control’, various targets were placed in front of a player (black ovals in the image to the right). Then rolling passes were kicked at a player as well as to either side of a player at various speeds. The goal was to first-touch the passes as close to the intended targets as possible. Because of the structure of the inside-of-the-foot and the ability to cushion the passes, ‘Inside’ was the overwhelming winner. ‘Inside’ consistently settled the ball in each of the targets regardless of the speed of the pass or which foot received the ball. ‘Laces’ and ‘Bottom’ fared well when the target was under the feet but did poorly with the outer fringe targets. ‘Outside’ had better luck with the outer targets but was only able to push the ball in one direction.

Coverage

The ability for ‘Inside’ to control 90% of all passes was not a typo. Refer to the image on the right to understand how I arrived at this percentage.

  • In the image, the four surfaces are represented by various colored lines: green (Inside), yellow (Laces), purple (Outside), and light blue (Bottom). The geometric shapes on the vertical plane represent the areas-of-coverage that each foot surface can comfortably control when a rolling or bouncing ball was passed to a player. ‘Inside’ was clearly able to control more passes, especially passes that were thigh-high and away from the player. The other surfaces did OK when the ball was passed directly to a player.
  • The dark blue oval on the horizontal plane represents the area on the ground that was controlled by a player when the ball was passed high in the air. Remarkably, ‘Inside’ was able to control all of these high balls, even ones that were passes over a player’s head. ‘Inside’ achieved this control by applying a trapping technique whereby a player let the ball first hit the ground and then immediately covered (or trapped) it with the inside-of-the-foot. ‘Laces’ and ‘Outside’ were able to control the same high-ball passes as ‘Inside’. Both ‘Inside’ and ‘Outside’ were able to push the trapped ball away from where the ball landed. ‘Laces’ could only settle the ball in the same location that the ball was first controlled. ‘Bottom’ had a difficult time controlling these passes with any degree of success.
  • The red rectangle on the vertical plane represents the area that could not be controlled with the feet. These passes could only be received with the chest or head.

Conclusion

As you can see, ‘Inside’ is quite accomplished when it comes to receiving the soccer ball and easily won this discipline. Given the level of proficiency and the importance of receiving the ball under control, players and coaches should continuously work on and develop a strong ‘Inside’.

The other disciplines evaluated in this competition were: structure, dribbling, passing, shooting, popularity among professionals, and ease of learning.

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2010 Soccer MVP: Inside-of-the-Foot … Structure

February 8, 2010

Author’s Note: This post is one in a series of posts that breaks down the 2010 Soccer MVP Tournament competition. Be sure to look at the final results to review how ‘Inside’ was crowned champion.

The first discipline that the four main parts-of-the-feet were evaluated on was its structure. Specifically I looked at the flatness of the surface as well as the forgiveness level. The forgiveness level is how forgiving a surface is when the ball does not make contact with each surfaces’ respective sweet spots when trying to receive, pass, or shoot the ball. ‘Bottom’ was crowned the ‘Structure’ winner with ‘Inside’ coming in a close second (see table below).

Flatness

Imagine playing billiards with cushions (bumpers) that were not flat/straight. You would have little idea how the balls would ricochet off the cushions.  However, since they are straight, you will always know how a ball will behave coming off a bumper (unless the ball has spin or English on it).

The same principle carries over to soccer. The flatter the surface, the easier it is to control a soccer ball. A flat surface eliminates a lot of unpredictability in terms of how a ball will respond when it is received, passed, or shot.

With that in mind, ‘Bottom’ won the ‘Flatness’ secondary discipline, ‘Inside’ and ‘Laces’ tied for second, and ‘Outside’ came in last (for this discipline, I measured flatness of the foot with the shoe on.)

  • Despite the studs/cleats, the undercarriage of a shoe is flat across the entire length of the shoe (represented by the lime green line in image ‘A’).
  • The flat surface of the inside-of-the-foot extends the full length of the foot’s arch, from the ball of the foot in front to the heel in back (represented by the blue lines in images ‘A’ and ‘B’). Note that this surface is slightly concave (it is more pronounced in image ‘A’). As it turns out, a concave structure has a significant advantage in controlling a soccer ball. Concave shapes have a way of drawing a ball in for better control. Some examples of concave shapes that are very effective are the position of a football receiver’s or soccer goalie’s hands when catching or receiving a ball. The shape of a baseball glove is also concave. In my Loopball curriculum, I like to refer to the inside-of-the-foot as a glove, especially with younger players.
  • The top-of-the-foot is also relatively flat. While it appears to be slightly concave (represented by the purple line in image ‘C’), the top of the bare foot is relatively flat). ‘Inside’ and Laces’ tied for second because ‘Inside’ had a slightly longer surface area but ‘Laces’ was straighter.

  • The opposite is true for ‘Outside’. Its shape is more convex (as shown by the yellow lines in images ‘A’ and ‘B’). This makes controlling a ball much more difficult.

Forgiveness

Everyone has heard of hand-eye coordination. A vast majority of sports as well as simple daily activities require and develop this coordination. Soccer, on the other hand, requires good eye-foot coordination. Since this is a skill that is extremely difficult to develop and there is not much opportunity to develop this skill other than on a soccer field, there is much value when a surface has a lot natural ‘forgiveness’ built into its structure. Each foot surface has a natural sweet spot. I measured forgiveness by the additional area around the sweet spot where ball control can still be achieved with some degree of success.

In this discipline, ‘Bottom’ and ‘Inside’ tied for first. ‘Laces’ came in a respectable third and ‘Outside’ a distant fourth.

  • The sweet spot for the bottom-of-the-foot is in the front-center portion of the foot (dark red spot in ‘image ‘A’). Its forgiveness area radiates out to the edges of the foot and down to the heel (red transparent area in image ‘A’).
  • There is a protrusion of the talus (ankle) bone near the top of the arch (red spot in image ‘C’). That is the main sweet spot for the inside-of-the-foot (red transparent area in image ‘C’). The forgiveness area is not quite as large as the bottom area. However, ‘Inside’ has a secondary sweet in the front of the foot (smaller red spot in image ‘C’). This spot is namely used for passing or shooting the ball with a curve (like ‘Bend It Like Beckham’). By virtue of this second sweet spot, ‘Inside’ earned a tie for first place.
  • ‘Laces’ has a great sweet spot (red spot in image ‘B’) but its area of forgiveness is smaller.
  • The sweet spot for ‘Outside’ (red spot in image ‘D’ below) is in the front of the foot. The area of forgiveness is the smallest of all the surfaces.

Conclusion

The ‘Structure’ competition was close but ‘Bottom’ pulled out a narrow victory.

The other disciplines evaluated in this competition were: receiving, dribbling, passing, shooting, popularity among professionals, and ease of learning.

Inside-of-the-Foot Soccer Fan Club

February 5, 2010

Cristiano Renaldo and David Beckham have one. So too does Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga. Not to be outdone, Coca Cola, pizza, ice cream, and sour gummy worms have one as well. Even ‘The Weekend’ can be counted in this group. What do all these people and things have in common? They all have very popular Facebook pages.

After winning soccer’s inaugural 2010 MVP (most valuable part) Tournament, I felt that the inside-of-the-foot (aka ‘Inside’) was also deserving of a Facebook page. Check out Inside’s Facebook fan page called, “Inside-of-the-Foot Soccer Fan Club“.

I have always known the important role that the inside-of-the-foot has in soccer. But even the final results of the 2010 MVP Tournament surprised me. Sadly, many young players and their coaches don’t understand its significance. My hope is that if I can get enough soccer players, trainers, coaches, fans, and soccer aficionados to join this club, we will be able to generate a groundswell of support for ‘Inside’ which will result in players and coaches having no choice but to recognize and accept the importance of the inside-of-the-foot. In doing so and then getting these young players more proficient with the inside-of-the-foot, we will be one step closer to achieving my goal of improving soccer in the United States.

To achieve this goal, I am asking for your help.

  • If you understand and agree with the importance of the inside-of-the-foot, please become a fan.
  • If you are unsure, read the many posts in this blog about this part of the foot. If I am able to convince you, please become a fan.
  • Whether or not you have joined the club, please forward this post and the Inside-of-the-Foot Soccer Fan Club link to all your soccer friends and acquaintances.
  • If you disagree with my belief, I would love to hear from you and learn the reasons why.

At the time of this posting, Renaldo’s Facebook page had 3,253,043 fans. Beckham’s page had 2,538,905 fans. My goal for ‘Inside-of-the-Foot’ is less ambitious … for now. My initial goal is to sign up 1,000 fans. Once this figure is reached, I’ll add a zero to the goal total and go from there.

Join the Club and tell your friends! Thank you!

2010 Soccer MVP: Inside-of-the-Foot

February 3, 2010

In the first annual Soccer MVP (most valuable part) Tournament, I am pleased to announce that the winner is … (drum roll please) … the INSIDE-OF-THE-FOOT (cheers and confetti please). The contest was not even close. ‘Inside’ won in a landslide.

The contestants for the inaugural tournament were:

  • Head
  • Chest
  • Thighs
  • The six surfaces of the foot

The head, chest, and thighs failed to make the finals. Many argued that ‘Head’, and more specifically the brain, should remain in the tournament because of its overall important function. However, when analyzing the head from a purely soccer standpoint, it along with ‘Chest’ and ‘Thighs’ were determined to play only a limited role in soccer. The same fate befell ‘Toe’ and ‘Heel’. While those parts of the foot are used on occasion, they are not used enough to be considered a potential MVP.

That left the following parts to battle it out for top prize:

  • Inside-of-the-foot (Inside)
  • Top-of-the-foot (Laces)
  • Outside-of-the-foot (Outside)
  • Bottom-of-the-foot (Bottom)

These parts were judged on the following 13 main and secondary disciplines:

Of these disciplines, ‘Inside’ was the clear winner with nine 1st-place finishes (see yellow cells in the table below). ‘Laces’ was declared the runner with its two 1st-place finishes even though ‘Bottom’ finished with three 1st-place finishes. In fact, ‘Bottom’ was relegated to last place because of its tournament-leading eight last-place finishes.

Follow-up posts will go into more detail in terms of how each discipline was played out. But based on the results, there are two points I would like to make now.

  • ‘Inside’ won all but two of the disciplines. Yet in many youth practices that I have observed and the many training DVDs I have watched, not enough emphasis is placed on this part of the foot. If soccer is to improve in the United States, our young players need to learn the importance of and be taught how to properly use the inside-of-the-foot.
  • Unless a player is abnormally bow-legged, learning to use the inside-of-the-foot is not easy or natural. It takes a tremendous amount of time, effort, and energy for a player just to feel comfortable using this part of the foot. The longer a youth player goes without learning how to use the inside-of-the-foot, the less likely he/she will be able to reach his/her full soccer-playing potential. Loopball is a great way to introduce and teach the importance of the inside-of-the-foot.

This will be the first of what I hope will be many MVP tournaments. In order to make next year’s event even better, I welcome all comments and feedback.

Author’s note: What do you call this part of the foot? Please vote.

Loopball™: Soccer Training Device that Works

December 26, 2009

As a youth soccer coach, my biggest surprise and a source of continuous frustration was the poor ball control (and poor first-touch) exhibited not just by my players but by nearly all players who I saw play. I remember thinking that this must just be a youth problem. As these player got older, they would certainly develop this skill, right? Much to my surprise, this was not the case. I found that a majority of high school varsity soccer players did not possess this critical and basic fundamental skill.

So I did something about it. I invented and patented a soccer training device called Loopball™. Loopball teaches and reinforces positively the art of stopping (and receiving) a soccer with the inside-of-the-foot. Most importantly,

  • Loopball works!
  • Loopball is FUN to use!

Visit the Loopball website to learn more about it.

There are many ways to improve soccer in the United States and a number of problems that need to be addressed. I am convinced that poor ball and a poor first-touch is the #1 problem in youth soccer today. What needs to happen is:

  • Players need to learn and understand the importance of ball control and the incredible power of the inside-of-the-foot.
  • Coaches and parents need to emphasize and reinforce the importance of ball control.
  • Proper form, mechanics, and technique need to be used and taught to control the ball with the inside-of-the-foot.

The Loopball training device and the companion Loopball curriculum will do this.

Stay tuned for many, many more posts on the subjects of Loopball, ball control, the first-touch, and inside-of-the-foot. Enjoy Loopball!

What Do You Call this Part of the Foot: Instep or Inside-of-the-Foot?

December 6, 2009

One of my favorite questions I ask youth players and coaches is, “What is the most important part of the foot in soccer?” While the answer should really be ‘all parts of the foot’ (refer to the ‘Are You Right or Left Footed?‘ post), you can tell by this post what my answer is. Based on the answers I get, young players typically split their votes equally between the bottom, top, outside, and inside of the foot. Older, more experienced players along with coaches tend to agree with me.

However, herein lies a problem. What do you call this part of the foot? For as long as I can remember, I always referred to it as the instep. I hear people refer to it as the inside-of-the-foot but referring to it as the ‘instep’ is so much simpler. However, a few years back I was told that the instep actually refers to the top the foot. I don’t know about you but I now find myself in a shoe and foot-naming quandary.

IOTF_or_Instep

So what do you call this part of the foot (highlighted in red)? Please share the name you use by answering the poll question. Below the poll are some videos that show that part of the foot in action. Be sure to ‘Share This’ poll with other soccer enthusiasts.

This following clip show Zlatan “Ibra” Ibrahimovic scoring a beautiful goal against Real Madrid with that part of the foot. The goal is scored at 2:00 of the video.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Shots On Goal

September 4, 2009
Ever wonder why it seems that so many shots on goal are shot directly at the goalie? Sure it could be that the goalie is in a good position. But I am of a different opinion. I believe the main reason is due to which part of the foot is used to strike the ball.

Oftentimes, the instep (also known as the top-of-the-foot or laces) is used to shoot on goal. The main reason to use the instep is to produce a more powerful shot. A strong shot is great but if it is shot directly at the goalie, what is the point? Players will often get frustrated at themselves when kick after kick goes directly to the goalkeeper; yet this keeps happening. What is going on?

Different Technique
I consider myself an expert when it comes to using and understanding the importance of the inside-of-the-foot. I invented a soccer training device called Loopball which teaches players to use the inside-of-the-foot. You will see many more posts in this blog about Loopball and the importance of the inside-of-the-foot. For the purposes of this post, I believe the problem lies in the fact that shots with the instep require much less thought than shots with the inside-of-the-foot. Instep shots require brute strength. Inside-of-the-foot shots require forethought and placement.

The direction a ball travels can normally be traced back to the position of the plant-foot toe. For shots on goal, this toe is usually pointed at the middle of the goal. When an instep kick is well struck, it will travel in the direction that this toe is pointing which is where the goalkeeper is likely to be standing. It is usually the poorly-struck instep kicks that stand a better chance of going in. The same logic can be applied to shots with the inside-of-the-foot, but because more forethought is given with this type of shot, the kicks don’t always head for the middle of the goal. Using the inside-of-the-foot requires the player to think which side of the goal to aim for and whether or not to curve the shot around the defenders or goalkeeper.

From long distance, I definitely recommend using an instep kick. But when the ball is closer to the goal, have your players use the inside-of-the-foot and have them think about the kick. You’ll also be surprised how much force this type of kick can generate when struck well. The top players in the world usually use the inside-of-the-foot to score goals, especially with free kicks. David ‘Bend-It-Like’ Beckham certainly does and he is quite successful.