Posts Tagged ‘eye-foot coordination’

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.

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2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Corner Kicks

August 19, 2009

Some of the most beautiful goals are scored from corner kicks. Who doesn’t enjoy a beautiful header or one-time volley into the back of the end? However, rarely will you see such a goal at the youth level. Most players are afraid to head the ball and many don’t have the eye-foot coordination to take a ball directly out of the air. Also at this age, very few goalies are assertive enough or have the hand-eye coordination to catch a ball in a congested area.

The trick to scoring more goals from corner kicks is to have all corner kicks be in-swingers … bend-it-like-Beckham kicks. Looking at the opponents goal from the field, an in-swinger is created when a right-foot kicker takes the kick from the left-corner spot or a left-foot kicker takes the kick from the right-corner spot. The kick is taken with the inside-of-the-foot with the toe pointed in an ‘up’ position. When done properly, a kick can bend or curve significantly. A ball that appears to be heading for the 6-yard line can quickly bend toward the goal. This kick will typically hit a few players and land on the ground in front of the goal just waiting for an opportunistic forward to kick the ball into the goal.

To implement this strategy:

  • Choose a right- and left-footed player capable of putting some bend of the ball and who can reach the far post on a corner kick.
  • When taking the kick ask the kicker to to put as much bend on the ball as possible and have her aim for the far post. In fact, challenge them to score.
  • Place one forward on the goal between the goalie and the near post. The mere presence of this player will make the entire defense nervous.
  • From the top of the penalty box, have several players crash the goal. The run should begin as soon the the kicker approaches the ball … but not sooner. By starting at the top of the penalty area, a player is running on to the ball. Also, if the corner is poor and heading for the penalty spot and not the goal, the players can stop their run on goal and still receive the ball in front of them.
  • Keep at least 1 offensive player at the top of the penalty box. Many times, a ball will only be cleared to the top of the box, just waiting for someone to score on the rebound.
  • The more chaotic the the penalty area is on a corner and the closer the ball lands near the goal, the more goals will be scored.

The laws state that there is no offside on a corner kick and that a goal can be scored directly from a corner kick without having to touch another player–either offensive or defensive.

Defensive Strategy

Corners are very difficult to defend. If given a choice between given up a throw-in or a corner, always choose a throw-in. However, corners are avoidable. These tricks should help reduce the number of goals you give up per game:

  • Keep your goalie on the line at all times.
  • Place a defender on the near post facing the kicker. Make sure the defender is holding onto the post so they know where they are and the ball won’t slip between the player and the post. When the ball passes over this player, he/she slip into the goal while still holding onto the post. A player on the far post is optional but recommended if the other team has strong kicker.
  • Place 2 additional defenders on the goal line. These players should not be afraid of heading the ball. If it means bringing your forwards back, do so.
  • Place a defender half-way between the corner flag and the near post. They will be able to pick off a poor corner and be in position to quickly attack a short corner.
  • Keep a defender at the top of the penalty area for any lose balls. If there is an offensive player there as well, the defender needs to be between the offensive player and the goal.
  • When clearing a ball from the goal mouth, always kick the ball to the touch lines, never up the middle.
  • The more defenders in the penalty area, the better.