Posts Tagged ‘David Beckham’

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

February 18, 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. What do you call this part of the foot? Please vote.

Personally, I am a big fan of the pass. It probably stems from having played midfield most of my life where controlling the game and distributing the ball were this position’s primary purpose. When I watch games today, I prefer seeing a nice assist rather than a nice goal.

When passes are made correctly, they look easy and effortless. They are anything but. Passing requires a player to first control a ball that is passed to him/her. Once the ball has been successfully controlled, he/she must know if and where to pass it. This requires playing with the head up (in an up position) in order to see all the players and be able to judge the speed and direction teammates are moving. Most importantly, it requires maturity, confidence, and knowledge of the game. While it is never too early to introduce and teach passing, it is a discipline that won’t become refined and polished until a player is older or has played for many years.

The passing discipline was divided into two categories: accuracy and types. For both categories, ‘Inside’ was the clear winner. ‘Types’ refers to the number of different types of passes that can be made with a surface.


Accuracy

The structure of the inside-of-the-foot is built for accurate passing. The flatter the surface, the more accurate the pass. There is a reason why a tennis racket, a ping pong paddle, and a putter are flat. Imagine trying to hit a tennis ball back over the net using a baseball bat. Or how about putting with the rounded, back end of the putter (see image to the right). In both instances, the required task would become more difficult.

Another factor which contributed to ‘Inside’ having the highest levels of accuracy is the swinging motion of the leg when the ball is passed. When striking the ball with the ankle sweet spot of the inside of the foot (larger red spot in the image to the right), the leg swing should be in a straight plane. It is very much like a golf putt. Ideally, the leg swings straight back and then swings straight through the ball. The straighter the overall swing, the more accurate passes a player will make (green arrow in the image below).

Typically, when passing the ball with the front sweet spot of the inside-of-the-foot (smaller red spot in the image above), the laces, or the outside-of-the-foot, the plane of the swing is more angled. Passes with these surfaces are similar to full iron or wood/metal shots in golf. This angled stroke plane introduces more variables to the swing and, therefore, a higher probability for inaccurate passes (red arrow in the image above).

The top-of-the-foot was the next most accurate surface. To make an accurate pass, the ball had to be struck with the foot’s sweet spot (red spot in the image to the right). Unlike with the ‘Inside’, a pass with the laces required more of an arcing back swing which took away some of the accuracy. An ‘Outside’ pass has a similar arcing swing but this surface is also striking the ball with a convex surface, making it more difficult to control a pass. Passes with the bottom-of-the-foot were accurate but the distances achieved with this surface were short. It came in last place.

Types

Being able to accurately pass a ball to a teammate in a straight line is invaluable. But being limited to only this type of pass is not ideal either. Oftentimes, a defender will stand between a passer and receiver. Except for the bottom-of-the-foot, a player can pass the ball over a defender using other surfaces of the foot. There are times, however, when this may not be possible, especially when the defender is close to the passer. This is where ‘Inside’ has a distinct advantage over the other surfaces.

When the front sweet spot on the inside-of-the-foot is used to pass a ball, it will cause the ball to curve or spin. The technique can be used to curve a pass around a defender. This makes ‘Inside’ the only surface which gives a player 2 distinct options when passing the ball. Most indirect free kicks are kicked with the inside-of-the-foot to deposit the ball precisely to the receiver’s foot or head. David ‘Bend It Like’ Beckman is world-renowned for his precision free kicks and passes.

Conclusions

The ‘passing’ discipline results were not close. In terms of passing accuracy and the different types of passes that can be made, ‘Inside’ was the easy winner.

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

Advertisements

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!

Parents: Don’t Over-Promote your Child

October 21, 2009

Coaches, has this ever happened to you? An adult you’ve never seen before approaches you at practice, engages in small talk and then asks if you are looking for players. This adult then proceeds to tell you how good his son or daughter is, how they can play any position, etc.

When I coached, I had this happen to me several times. The first time it happened, I got really excited. I already started thinking where I was going to place this superstar. It turns out the place was not as good as advertised. In fact, the opposite was true. He was not very good and did not make the team. The second time this happened, I tempered my enthusiasm quite a bit. Good thing I did as the player’s abilities did not live up to the parents’ billing.

One definition of the word ‘bunk’ is: n. empty talk; nonsense. A new definition I have for the word ‘bunk’ is: v. over-promote and exaggerate one’s personal or another person’s true abilities.

For several reasons, I strongly recommend that parents don’t engage in this type of conversation with a coach.

  • Most parents are unable to objectively evaluate their child’s athletic ability. In all likelihood, your son is not going to be the next David Beckham.
  • An inexperienced coach is expecting the next David Beckham. When David Beckham does not show up, the let-down will be greater given the unfulfilled high expectations. You always want the coach to be pleasantly surprised, not disappointed.
  • As a coach, I may now be concerned that I will have to deal with a parent who may not be satisfied unless his son is seen as the superstar and plays a big part on the team. Do I really want to deal with this potential headache?

My advice is to always let your child’s playing ability do the talking. Don’t set any unrealistic expectations or unattainable benchmarks for your child. Simply tell a coach you have a child who you would like him or her to evaluate. That should be it.

Don’t bunk!

Parents: Do Not Reinforce Poor Play

October 5, 2009

As a coach, referee, and fan, I am always surprised to hear some of the things that can come out of parents’ mouths during games. So much so, that there will multiple posts devoted to soccer parents. Don’t get me wrong. A vast majority of parents are very encouraging and well-behaved during games. In addition, I recognize that I am no saint. I have not always been the ideal coach or fan. And if you ask my youngest, he would say that I’m a bad soccer parent because I will tell him to hustle and on occasion ‘coach’ him just a bit. However, I know I am getting better so I do feel like a can share my thoughts with you without being considered too big of a hypocrite.

As a coach and as someone who wants to improve soccer in the United States, there is nothing that drives me crazier than parents reinforcing poor play. The biggest example of this is the long ball.

U.S. parents are obsessed with the long ball. When a player kicks the ball 40-50 yards down field, you will hear a chorus of ‘ooooohs’ and ‘aaaaahs’ coming from the sidelines. It does not matter where the ball goes. The player will still get lauded for his/her ‘tremendous’ kick. Naturally, players hear and like this reaction. So any opportunity they get …. BOOM! … there goes the ball accompanied by the parents’ approval.

What parents are reinforcing is a type of soccer called ‘kick ball’. In kick ball, players just kick the ball as hard as they can. It may go in the right direction–towards the opponent’s goal–but rarely will it go to one of the player’s teammates. If you get both teams playing like this, it by no means ‘a beautiful game’.

Soccer is all about the first-touch and ball control. The better first-touch (on the ball) a player has and the more control he/she has over the ball, the better the player, the better the team, and the more beautiful the game becomes.

So what can parents do? A lot. But for the purpose of this post, reinforce a good first touch and good ball control. Ooh and aah when a player makes a good stop. Do the same when a player makes a good pass to a teammate. When a team starts to string together several nice passes in a row, start an ‘ole!’ cheer after each pass, as bullfighting spectators do when the matador eludes a bull’s charge. This will get the players’ attention.

Remember, the first-touch and ball control are skills that take a long time to develop and can never be mastered. David Beckham and Cristiano Renaldo will be the first to tell you that their first-touch and ball control can be better. Anything that parents can do to encourage this behavior, the better.

It is still OK to ooh and aah the long ball if it is done with purpose and precision. A 30-yard shot on goal is worthy of such recognition. So, too, are long punts that result in a scoring opportunity.