Expert section: Mate Kontra – I’ve played soccer at a very high level all my life. Throughout my time playing, I’ve been coached by ex-pro, D1, and Academy level coaches, currently playing at the MLS-Next level as a wingback in California. A significant aspect of what separated me from my competition is my ability to analyze my gameplay. Today, I will show you how you could do the same.
Playing soccer at a high level requires all players to be technical, or have great technique on the ball.
Making fast decisions or performing them is impossible without first having the ability to do so.
So there is no doubt about it, becoming a technical player is inevitable if there are aspirations of playing at a higher level.
It’s no mistake that professionals have the best technique when it comes to soccer, but how does one become so great on the ball?
In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide to mastering different techniques on the ball.
It is important to follow the article in chronological order, as each skill builds on the previous one to elevate your learning curve.
Each skill is picked by an experienced soccer player, currently playing at the MLS-Next level in California.
So without further due, let’s get into the article!
Related article: How to Analyze Soccer Games Like an MLS-Next Player
The 3 Steps to Becoming a Technical Soccer Player
So how does one magically become technical at soccer?
First, it’s important to know that patience is a key component, as it will not happen overnight.
To be considered a technical player, there is very little room for mistakes when handling the ball in a match.
So for a player to have great technique on the ball, they must master the basics of soccer.
Core skills such as the first touch or passing must be trained repetitively to avoid making any mistakes on the ball.
Well, where do you start?
Don’t worry, the guide is organized so that each step is a prerequisite for the following one.
We will start with the easy techniques to have a foundation for the more advanced skills that are necessary to become a technical player.
This will reduce the time it takes to master each skill and ensure that the necessary skills to perform well in a match are prioritized.
Step #1: Master the Ground Reception
Ground reception is arguably the most important skill to master in soccer.
Since passes are most commonly performed on the ground during a soccer game, players must know how to receive the ball flawlessly.
They can set themselves up for their next move, increasing the speed of play.
Or, players have to focus on controlling the ball instead of the next decision, dragging their team down.
Lucky for you, the ground reception can be mastered very quickly.
How to Perform the Ground Reception
The ground reception technique has a few core principles that need to be followed to execute it properly.
Firstly, the point of contact is the inside of the foot, halfway between the heel and the big toe.
The ball should be struck exactly in the center to prevent it from lifting in the air or chopping into the ground.
Next, the moment the foot touches the ball, the ankle has to be locked or stiffened to avoid any ankle injuries.
Now, the more difficult part.
To prevent the ball from bouncing too far away, it has to be cushioned to stop close to the feet.
By letting the foot move back and absorbing the impact, the ball will stay close after bouncing off the foot.
If the reception was done correctly, the ball should be less than a yard away from the foot when it stops rolling.
If the ball is too far when it stops rolling, try to cushion the ball more.
Lastly, if the ball is under the foot after the reception, try stiffening the ankle more.
Best Ways to Practice Ground Reception
The best way to master the ground reception is with the use of a partner.
Keep passing the ball to each other, each time focusing on receiving the ball on the ground at the correct distance.
Using a partner is great because it ensures that the ball accurately arrives at the feet every time.
This eliminates any distractions and allows players to isolate training the ground reception.
The best alternative to a partner is the use of a wall.
Bouncing the ball back from a wall provides a realistic simulation of a pass that comes from a partner.
It is still very accurate and allows players to control the weight of the bounce by hitting the ball with the correct amount of power.
This provides players with a game-realistic training environment to practice ground receptions, seamlessly translating their skills to the field.
Additionally, it takes less amount of time for the wall to return the ball compared to a partner, increasing the efficiency of the training.
When there is no partner or wall available, the next best option is a rebounder.
A rebounder serves the same purpose as a wall, to bounce the ball back.
It provides a quality bounce that is similar to a pass performed by a player so it is still an excellent tool to practice ground receptions.
Step #2: Master The Aerial First Touch
The Aerial first touch is another core skill that must be mastered to become a technical player.
Pairing it with the mastery of ground receptions allows players to receive the ball in any given scenario.
Helping players focus on their next action to speed up the play and become more unpredictable.
Furthermore, it opens the door for aerial passes to quickly move the ball to different areas of the field, benefitting the team.
Aerial receptions can be practiced in three main ways.
Regular Juggling, Partner Juggling, and Wall Juggling.
Juggling is the best way to start practicing aerial touch because it’s the least complex exercise to do so.
It consists of repetitively kicking the ball into the air without letting it touch the ground.
At first, the ball should be bounced on the toes until 50 juggles can be done consistently, without dropping the ball.
Then, the thighs can be introduced to widen the skillset of cushioning the ball in the air.
Using this exercise, players can take hundreds of touches on the ball within minutes, making it a very effective exercise to master aerial touches.
Additionally, juggling is a great exercise for beginners.
Since the ball only travels vertically, it teaches basic ball coordination needed to control the ball in the air.
Not to mention the fact that only a ball is needed to perform this exercise.
So even players who do not own much training gear yet can use this exercise to practice whenever they want to.
Though juggling is not the most game-realistic exercise out of the three, it’s a crucial exercise that provides a solid foundation for aerial receptions.
The partner juggling exercise takes the previous exercise a step further.
Here, the ball is juggled between two players and the aim is to keep passing the ball in the air as many times as possible without dropping it.
The reason that this exercise is more beneficial than the previous one, is because it introduces lateral movement to the ball.
Whereas the previous exercise only included vertical movement, in this exercise players must also calculate horizontal movement on the ball.
Since the ball has lateral movement in real matches as well, this exercise is more game-realistic than simple juggling.
It teaches players more advanced ball coordination to learn the ability to accurately read the trajectory of the ball in the air.
Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I highly recommend using this exercise.
I used it countless times with teammates and friends to train or warm up my touch on the ball.
It’s very fun and beneficial for player development at the same time.
Wall juggling is also a great exercise that serves the same purpose as partner juggling.
The difference is that a wall is used instead of another player.
In my opinion, wall juggling can be better than partner juggling when performed with focus and intensity.
Juggling with a wall requires players to strike the ball firmly to ensure that it has enough power to bounce back in the air.
This causes the ball to move faster in the air, making it more difficult to read and cushion the ball.
So, I found it advantageous to use wall juggling to train aerial receptions because it’s more challenging.
Step #3: Master Different Passing Techniques
Passing is the second most performed skill in soccer, behind ball receptions.
It is arguably even more important to be able to pass the ball than to receive it, as long as players can pass with one touch.
Since soccer is a team sport, it’s crucial to be able to pass the ball under any circumstances.
Every situation in soccer is different so players need to have several techniques ready in their arsenal.
The three techniques we will be focusing on are the short pass, the ping, and the cross.
The Short Pass
The most common passing technique performed in a soccer match is the short pass.
It is performed with the inside of the foot, striking the center of the ball.
Similar to the ground reception, locking the ankle is necessary to have solid contact with the ball.
Additionally, it ensures that the ball does not chop into or lift off the ground when struck in the center.
This provides a quality pass to teammates that firmly skims across the playing surface without any bounces.
The best way to train this skill is with a wall.
A wall provides quality bounces on the ground faster than a partner could, creating a more efficient way to practice.
Additionally, performing passes with the wrong technique will cause bounces to lift off the ground, making the exercise unforgiving.
This can motivate players to concentrate on their technique more during training.
From my experience, using a wall can be frustrating at times because of its unforgiving nature.
However, similar to the wall juggling exercise, I think that using a wall is more effective than a partner.
It forces players to concentrate on using the proper technique to strike the ball and perform quality passes, making practice more effective.
Contrary to short passes, the ping technique is used to pass the ball to teammates who are farther away.
This technique applies backspin to the ball while lifting it in the air, creating a straight and predictable trajectory for the teammate who receives the ball.
It is used to pass to teammates commonly due to its predictability in the air.
To properly perform this passing technique, players must point their striking foot down and lock their ankles.
Then drive their foot through the ball, striking it with their laces roughly one inch below the center of the ball.
The lower contact point lifts the ball in the air and causes it to spin backward, which forces the ball to fly completely straight.
To practice this passing technique, a partner is required.
Players must position themselves at least 30 yards away from each other, repeatedly passing the ball back and forth.
It is also possible to use a wall to practice this technique, however, it’s challenging to find one with enough space to do so.
The crossing technique is used less often than the previous passing techniques, however, it’s one of the most important skills to set teammates up for a goal.
Quality crosses can gift teammates goals in critical positions, that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
Crosses are generally performed by curving the ball, otherwise known as whipping the ball, in front of a teammate to easily put the ball into the net.
By striking the ball with the front area of the inside of the foot, it creates a side spin on the ball that gives it a curving trajectory.
Similar to the ping technique, crosses are aerial passes.
So, the ball has to be struck below the center to lift it into the air.
The cross is most commonly performed with a decent amount of power, but sometimes chip crosses are also appropriate.
These crosses have less power and focus more on accuracy to increase the chances of scoring.
The best way I can recommend that players practice it is either with the use of a goal with a partner.
Both will be positioned in the same place, at the penalty marker in the 18-yard box.
To use a goal, turn it 90 degrees so that whichever side the cross is practiced from, the open side of the net faces that way.
Then, players must cross the ball and aim to hit the same area of the goal consecutively.
This ensures that they can replicate an accurate cross in a match.
Alternatively, crossing it accurately to a partner is just as effective as the use of a goal.
The first step of becoming a technical soccer player is to master the ground reception.
This is the most commonly used skill in soccer to control the ball on the ground.
So players must master this skill if they want to have great overall technical abilities.
Using a wall can be a great tool to practice receiving the ball, as it can replicate passes well and walls are easily accessible by most people.
Next, the aerial touch must also be trained to ensure that players can receive the ball in any given circumstance in a match.
Juggling is the best start to mastering the aerial touch, especially for beginners.
It teaches basic ball coordination that can be used to control any ball moving vertically.
More advanced exercises include partner juggling and wall juggling, which introduce lateral movement to the ball which makes it more challenging to control.
Last but not least, mastering the three core passing techniques is one of the most important aspects of becoming a technical player.
Soccer is a team game that requires players to have excellent passing skills.
Since every situation is different in soccer, different types of passing techniques must be mastered.
The three techniques include the short pass, the ping, and the cross.
Image Attribution & Licensing
Featured Image: ‘Excellent Juggler Showing Off His Skills’ by oneinchpunchphotos (Licensed via EnvatoElements)
#1: ‘Taking Notes While Analyzing Information’ by ConvertKit (Licensed via Unsplash)
#2: ‘Freestyler Eager to Practice’ by oneinchpunchphotos (Licensed via EnvatoElements)
#3: ‘Soccer Player Setting Up for a Shot’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)
#4: ‘Soccer Player Juggling the Ball’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)
#5: ‘Soccer Player Using Grip Socks Performing a Short Pass’ by Nathan Rogers (Licensed via Unsplash)
#6: ‘Soccer Players Celebrating After a Match’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)