The first three things that should be taught young soccer players are dribbling, shooting and kicking (kicking using the laces and NOT their toe) and proper 1 v 1 defending. If I pass a ball near a kid, they must be able to run to it, control it, turn and go the way they want to and score it with shoelace instep drive (without opposition) with near 100% reliability before they are ready for passing. Very few kids are ready to learn passing at U6 but it should be taught passing at U8. (See Passing - How and When to Teach)
We highly recommend that coaches force the use of the weaker foot as EARLY as possible so kids can kick the ball with both feet!!!! If you want to grow really good soccer players at age 8, 9 or 10, you must force the use of left feet at ages 4, 5, 6… about 80% of my U10 competitive team can use BOTH feet, and the three coaches kids are the best at it, because all of them forced their kids to use their left foot EARLY in their soccer life.
Hit the Coach™ and Chase the Kid Ball Tag will teach kids to naturally dribble with both feet, and occasionally they may kick the ball with both feet, but kids need more work with their weaker foot. Kicking the ball with the weaker (non-preferred) foot must be forced - they must be directly taught how to do it and made to it over and over again at a young age. They will not choose to do it, because it is harder than their preferred foot.
The way to teach kids a shoelace kick (also called an Instep Kick) is described below. Also, watch the Coach Doug Shooting and Kicking Video. It is CRITICAL to teach each player how to make correctly make a shoelace kick at the earliest possible age so they don't get in the habit of kicking with their toe.
Make the players place their non-kicking foot next to the ball with their bodies over the ball and with the toe of their kicking foot pointed DOWN towards the grass - the key is to have the non-kicking foot next to the ball instead of behind the ball. You may have to kneel beside them and correctly position their feet. You MUST show them one on one. Watch the Coach Doug Shooting and Kicking Video
When they play running and shooting games, correct them if you see them kicking with their toe. Make a BIG deal out of how good it is to kick with the shoelaces by praising and rewarding players who do it correctly. This is a good way to use the motivational patches that SoccerHelp sells because this can be hard to teach (because it is unnatural) and it is VERY important.
A Great Way to Learn Basic Form and to Practice Kicking with Both Feet, We recommend using the 1-2-Kick practice method where you put out a line of 5 balls in front of a pop-up goal and the kid first kicks them one at a time using one foot while the coach or parent calls out "1, 2, kick" The kid will go down the line of balls shooting all five in a row, and they must kick the ball on your cadence. Every time you say "kick", they should be kicking it. First do 5 balls with the right foot and then 5 more balls with the left foot. This goes fast - this is shown at the end of theCoach Doug Shooting and Kicking Video at minute 1:27 (To see it, put your pointer on the video and then drag the timeline to minute 1:27 to see a 3 year old doing shoelace kicks with both feet - he kicks a ball every 3 seconds - five balls in 15 seconds.)
1-2-Kickteaches them to shoot the ball quicker and to not think too much about it, just to do it, and to do it fast.
CHECKLIST of 12 Things to Remember and Teach to the Extent Possible About Shooting & Teaching a Laces Kick --
Consistency is the Key - That means to practice correct technique until it is ingrained (motor memory). The key is REPETITIONS at game speed. This is why 1-2-Kick is a great way to teach the basic technique - lots of repetitions, fast. And this is why it is best to teach the correct technique at an early age - the earlier the better - then the correct way will be the only way the player knows and you won't have to try to break bad habits.
Approach the ball from an angle that is opposite from the foot you are kicking with (i.e., shift to the left if you are kicking with the right foot or right if you are kicking with the left foot). This is like American field goal kickers do. This is important because if they approach the ball straight on they can smash their toe into the ground. This also adds to the power. See this in the 2 videos Intermediate Shooting and Determination to Score and Shooting: Power and Its Use.
Take Short, Quick Steps as you Approach the ball, NOT long steps - This is CRITICAL so you can adjust to correctly kick the ball. Coaches - teach this.
Be Relaxed and DON'T Try to Kick the Ball Hard - This concept is similar to hitting a golf ball or a baseball. "It's not how hard you swing, it is technique". This is a quote from Mia Hamm, one of the best shooters ever. When players are learning, especially encourage them to focus on technique, not power.
The Plant Foot (the non-kicking foot) should be Beside the ball, NOT behind the ball. That causes the toe to point down, the body is over the ball, and it stops toe kicks. Watch the Coach Doug Shooting and Kicking Video to see this.
A Short, Compact Swing is Best - a short, compact swing has much less room for error, accuracy will be improved, and the shot gets away quicker, which is important when under pressure - this is what Mia Hamm recommends in Intermediate Shooting and Determination to Score. Ignore the comment on the Anson Dorrance video about a long swing - that is only for older, advanced players and only for long distance shots.
Point the Toe Down and Keep the Ankle Locked - Everyone agrees on this.
Foot Follows thru STRAIGHT to the Target and Keep Eyes on the Ball, NOT the Goal - Keep the Eyes on the ball and have the Foot follow STRAIGHT ahead toward the target. If the follow thru is high, the ball will go up and over the goal. DON'T lift the head early or if will mess up the follow thru and the shot mechanics - this is important. Watch the videos Intermediate Shooting and Determination to Score and Shooting: Power and Its Use
Shoulder Position Before and At Time of the Contact - The shoulder on the same side of the body as the non-kicking foot should be pointing somewhat toward the goal before the shot & the shoulders will "square up" to the goal as the kicking foot follows through. The shoulders should be more like 30 or 45 degrees toward the goal than 90 degrees. (This rotation creates power).
Strike the ball halfway up and shoot low - Unless the shot must go over a defender, a low shot close to the ground is preferred because it is more difficult for the goalkeeper to block. That means to keep the follow through low and to extend it like the foot is on a string going to the goal.
Coach Doug has also found a New Way to Correct Toe Kicking that seems to work- a starting place to teach them how to connect with the laces -- If I am teaching how to do a shoelace kick with the right foot:
I have a player lie down with their left hip on the ground and their right leg on top
I place a ball in front of their foot and tell them to "point their toe" (If they were standing up, the toe would be pointed straight down).
Then they kick with shoelaces while lying down and get that good deep boom sound of a shoelace kick,
Then I have them stand up and do it.
Then while standing back up a step from the ball, take a step, put their non-kicking foot beside the ball and do it.
Basically, all players should be taught to kick with right and left foot properly from the very beginning, but this is really a dream, because pretty much ALL players come to me from ALL previous coaches not knowing how to correctly kick a ball. It is very annoying. By age 9 or 10 if they are still toe kicking they cannot make my club team.
Note to Coaches - if you have good ideas about how to teach this, contact us thru the Contact Us email at the bottom of this page.
Coach Doug and David at SoccerHelp (Note from David - at the time this was written, Coach Doug was living in Europe and coached a U8 team and a U10 Select Team. I trust Doug's judgment - he is truly a great coach and always looking for better ways to teach his players.)