What Soccer Skills Should Forwards Practice? Beginners Guide

Expert section: Mate Kontra – I’ve played soccer at a very high level all my life. I’ve been coached by ex-pro, D1, and Academy level coaches, currently playing at the MLS-Next level as a wingback in California. Today, I will share which skills you need to practice as a beginner playing a forward position. 

Soccer Photo

Undoubtedly, forwards in soccer have one of the most challenging jobs on the pitch. 

Forwards have to learn countless skills and styles, but there are specific skills that make them more effective than others. 

But as a beginner, you may need clarification on these skills and how to learn them. 

And considering the minimal time spent on the field, it can be quite overwhelming to figure out the answer. 

But don’t worry!

In today’s article, we will discuss the core skills that a beginner forward should practice to be an effective player on the pitch. 

Whether scoring goals, assisting teammates, or progressing the attack, we included it all! 

So let’s get into it!

Related article: What Are the Best Ways to Practice Soccer at Home?

Elite Freestyler Practicing Soccer Skills
‘Elite Freestyler Practicing Soccer Skills’ by Ivan Siarbolin (Licensed via Pexels)

The Five Core Skills Beginner Forwards Need to Practice

As we said previously, there are countless skills that forwards can learn to become great at their position. 

However, when it comes to effectiveness, it all boils down to the fundamentals. 

And as a beginner, fundamental skills are the most important to master anyways!

As for which skills are considered fundamental and why you should practice them, here is the complete guide!

In each section, where we explain specific skills that beginner forwards should learn, we include several points that will help you excel;

  • What is the skill, and how is it used? 
  • Why should players practice it? (Benefits)
  • How to practice the skill? (Simple ways to practice)

So without any further ado, let’s get into the guide!

#1: Touch (Ball Reception)

The first skill forwards must learn is the touch or ball reception. 

Touch is the skill that refers to how well a player can receive and control the ball. 

During a match, players use their touch to receive a pass from a player or control a clearance by the opposition. 

Players with a great touch can control the ball in any situation with only one touch, hence the name “touch.”

It is absolutely vital for forwards to master this skill because the success of their next moves depends on this skill. 

They can choose to pass, shoot, or dribble the ball, but their success depends on how well they can control the ball as fast as possible. 

How is it beneficial?

So how is mastering the touch beneficial for forwards?

In context, forwards are constantly busy fending off opposing defenders, who must stop them by all means.  

When forwards receive the ball, fierce defenders immediately attack them to take the ball. 

And the most effective way they can do that is by allowing forwards the least time and space possible.  

So forwards must act quickly to keep the ball against defenders. 

If they can control the ball in a split second, they have more time to evaluate their situation, ultimately leading to a better, more beneficial decision for their team. 

Overall, forwards benefit from an excellent first touch because it allows them to make better decisions and increase their team’s scoring chances. 

How to practice the touch?

The best way beginner forwards can practice their touch is to learn how to juggle the ball with all parts of their feet and body. 

For complete beginners, the best start is learning how to kick the ball vertically in the air. 

Start by dropping the ball from shoulder height above your feet. 

As the ball gets closer to your feet, kick it right in the center at the bottom so that it flies straight back up to your hands. 

Strike the ball using the laces of your shoes, and lock your ankles on impact with the ball.

After each kick, alternate feet to learn the skill with both sides. 

Once you have mastered kicking the ball straight in the air, the next progression is kicking it consecutively with alternating feet. 

After the first kick, let the ball drop back down so you can kick it up again with the other foot. 

This creates two consecutive kicks in the air, which means completing two juggles. 

After mastering this progression, learning to juggle the ball continuously takes little time. 

Be sure to implement different body parts to master the touch. 

Georgetown Soccer Players Practicing Their Touch With Juggling
‘Georgetown Soccer Players Practicing Their Touch With Juggling’ (#2 Unsplash – Jeffrey F Lin)

#2: Finishing

In short, finishing is the skill of scoring the ball during a goal-scoring opportunity. 

This skill is one of the most position-specific skills that forwards can learn. 

After all, their entire job description revolves around scoring, so putting the ball past the keeper is a crucial skill. 

It may be evident by now, but finishing is used in games to ‘finish the play’ or, in other words, to score. 

How is it beneficial? 

Having the ability to put the ball into the net is one of the most beneficial skills forwards can have, and here is why:

Soccer is one of the most unpredictable sports in the world because there are so few chances to score during a match. 

One team can dominate another for 90 minutes but lose because they missed the couple of chances they had to score. 

So the benefit of having excellent finishing skills increases the chances of winning exponentially. 

Forwards who can finish the ball in the net only need a couple of chances to comfortably win the game for their team because they can score in just about any situation. 

On the contrary, forwards who don’t have fantastic finishing skills can get several scoring opportunities throughout a match and still miss all of them. 

How to Practice Finishing? 

So if finishing is essential for a forward, how can they improve? 

The best way to maximize the scoring chances is to aim the shot low and to the corners, preferably hitting the side net inside the goal.

Goalkeepers have difficulty getting to the ground quickly, so shooting the ball low and as far from them as possible increases the probability of scoring. 

For the exercise, I recommend setting two cones, or other small objects, near each post inside the goal to create a small gap in the bottom corners of the net. 

For the most effective session, I recommend performing a short cone exercise of a transferable skill and then shooting the ball into the gaps.

Be sure to alternate between feet when shooting the ball and between the target corners. 

Soccer Player Uses Finishing Skills to Score
‘Soccer Player Uses Finishing Skills to Score’ (#3 Unsplash – Jeffrey F Lin)

#3: Heading

Heading in soccer refers to the skill of using the head to strike the ball. 

In a forward’s context, it requires them to use their head to score goals. 

As we said, finishing is one of a forward’s most important abilities. 

While players commonly use their feet to score, it’s very predictable, and teams are good at defending it. 

So heading is also often used to score goals. 

It is much more difficult to defend, and at beginning levels, defenders aren’t brave enough to challenge attackers in the air, which makes heading very effective. 

Even at higher levels, heading is one of the most effective ways to score. 

How is it beneficial? 

How can forwards benefit from being great at heading the ball? 

The main benefit of mastering this skill is that it provides a second way of creating scoring chances. 

Forwards will not only be able to attack using ground passes, but they can also use aerial passes to their advantage. 

A typical example of when heading abilities are handy is when opposing defenders use a low-block strategy. 

Defenders clog passing lanes in this situation, so attackers must rely on aerial passes to create scoring opportunities. 

Forwards with fantastic heading abilities can use this as another opportunity to score goals and win the game for their team. 

H4: How to practice heading? 

So how do you go about improving your reading skills? 

The best way for beginners to practice their heading is first to include it in their juggling practice. 

Instead of using their feet to juggle, players must use their heads to hit the ball in the air as many times as possible consecutively. 

This juggling exercise teaches essential coordination when striking the ball with the head and establishes proper technique with soft bounces. 

An easy progression is to have a partner toss the ball from various angles while having to header it toward a target or back to their hands. 

This routine is more advanced than the previous one because it requires more power than before.

However, I recommend doing a low volume of repetitions of this exercise. 

Too many repetitions can cause headaches or even a concussion, so perform this exercise in moderation. 

Georgetown Soccer Players Juggling the Ball
‘Georgetown Soccer Players Juggling the Ball’ (#4 Unsplash – Jeffrey F Lin)

#4: Dribbling

In the context of forwards, dribbling refers to the ability to keep the ball against defenders or beat defenders with the ball in possession. 

Dribbling can be one of the best skills to learn for an attacker to become an effective goalscorer. 

Wingers and strikers are often required to use their individualism to carry the attack forward, which requires excellent dribbling skills. 

This includes skill moves and the ability to manipulate the ball in any way so the opponents can’t take it. 

How is it beneficial? 

The most obvious benefit of having outstanding dribbling ability is that forwards can keep the ball in tight situations. 

Attackers are often closed down by defenders, which forces them to use their dribbling ability to keep possession. 

Keeping possession not only allows teammates to build the attack but also prevents opponents from creating a counterattack from a turnover. 

A capable attacker may not immediately impact the game, but they can certainly win games just by helping their teammates. 

How to practice dribbling? 

The easiest way to practice dribbling is with the use of cones

Since beginners don’t have great technique while dribbling the ball, cones can be helpful for learning dribbling techniques. 

I recommend performing a combination of line sequences and random sequences. 

First, set up several cones in a line with two feet of space between each cone. 

Essentially, beginners will use these cones as obstacles to dribble between the gaps to learn the correct technique with the insides and outsides of the foot. 

Perform as many repetitions as possible because muscle memory is essential for the next progression. 

So after getting the hang of good dribbling techniques and gaining a baseline level of muscle memory, it’s time to train dribbling reflexes and creativity. 

In this progression, players want to throw down as many cones as possible in a circle with a three-foot radius. 

Start with one or two feet of space between each cone and reduce the distance as your skills improve. 

This exercise aims to get from one side of the circle to the other in a random pattern between the cones. 

Players will be able to improvise even though the obstacles are stationary, even to improve reflex and creativity skills. 

If you’re interested in more detailed information about cones, please check out why cone exercises are important for your soccer development.

Soccer Player Dribbling Past Defender
‘Soccer Player Dribbling Past Defender’ (#5 Pexels – Lucas Andrade)

#5: Explosiveness

In the context of forwards, explosiveness refers to a player’s ability to quickly accelerate to a fast speed. 

Forwards generally use explosiveness to create space, which they can use to execute their decision or to get away from a defender. 

When creating space, the attackers aim to create an opportunity to pass or shoot the ball. 

Creating space with explosiveness can be used in any situation, whether being closed down by several defenders or dribbling into open space to find new passing options. 

Alternatively, players can use their explosiveness to get away from defenders to a more advantageous position. 

How is it beneficial? 

How is being explosive beneficial for forwards? 

Being an explosive player benefits forwards simply because it makes them faster than most players on the pitch. 

Players rarely get up to sprinting speed in the small spaces they operate, so acceleration is the main factor of speed in soccer. 

For example, many professional soccer teams just launch the ball forward to their explosive forwards, who cover only cover 20-30 yards to get to the ball.

It’s not nearly enough space to get up to sprint speed, so they’re just accelerating the whole time. 

The overall benefit is that explosiveness increases the chances of scoring by providing another effective method of creating scoring opportunities. 

How to train for explosiveness? 

The best way to train for explosiveness for beginners is to get comfortable with accelerating up to fast speeds. 

Though it may seem too simple to work, this is the most specific exercise that trains explosiveness.  

And considering the level of experience, it’s important to start light. 

Here is the exercise: 

Set up three cones in a line, spaced 10 yards from each other. 

Players will start from a standstill at one end of the line and gradually increase their speed every 10 yards until they reach the other end.

The last 10 yards should be near sprinting for players new to running and sprinting for those who have some experience.  

Run past the last cone, then gradually slow down and walk back to the starting cone. 

The walk doesn’t have to be fast; it should provide enough time for the body to recover from the run and perform the same exercise again. 

I recommend starting with little volume; 2 sets of 3 runs, with a break between sets. 

Remember not to over-exert yourself when performing this exercise, and rest between workouts until you fully recover (approximately 1-3 days or until the soreness goes away). 

Training progression:

Considering beginners’ experience level, this exercise should be light and more focused on conditioning the body first to increase fitness levels. 

It should take two or three weeks to reach a better fitness level for beginners.

Once the two sets of three runs are comfortable, reduce the distance to 20 yards, and increase the rate of acceleration so that the end speed is close to sprinting. 

Increase rest between repetitions and perform the same volume (2 sets of 3 runs). 

This is more specific to acceleration, focusing less on conditioning and more on the rate of acceleration. 

Explosive Soccer Player Beating His Opponent
‘Explosive Soccer Player Beating His Opponent’ (#6 Pexels – Phxtosene | Eneas)


Beginner soccer players playing the forward position have a lot on their plate. 

They’re expected to bring home the win for their team regardless of who the opponents are. 

To do so, forwards must be effective at their job, having the right skills and abilities to put the ball into the back of the net. 

Their touch is one of the most essential skills they must master to reliably control and keep possession of the ball in high-pressure situations. 

Whether receiving a ground pass or controlling an aerial ball, forwards rely on their touch to bring the ball down so the attack can progress. 

The best way beginners can practice their touch is to learn how to juggle a soccer ball. 

Finishing is also a vital skill forwards must master because their entire job description is about putting the ball in the opponent’s goal. 

Scoring goals is the only way to win games, so without a doubt, forwards must master the skill. 

The best way for beginners to practice finishing is to train shooting the ball low and into the corners of the goal. 

Heading is one of the most effective types of finishing that forwards must learn because it essentially doubles their chances of scoring. 

Many teams are more effective at stopping ground attacks than aerial attacks, which makes crosses an effective way to score goals. 

The best way for beginners to start practicing heading is to incorporate it into their juggling training by using their heads to juggle the ball. 

Dribbling is an instrumental skill forwards should learn because it helps them solve high-pressure situations and increases their chances of scoring. 

Forwards are on the pitch to take risks in order to score, which occasionally means using their individualistic skills to their advantage. 

When attackers have no passing options and they see open space, their task is to take advantage and score to seal the win. 

The best way beginners can learn dribbling techniques is by using cones, whether it is line sequences or random patterns that promote creativity.

Lastly, forwards must also be explosive to beat defenders or create space to make a move. 

Since players only sprint for short bursts in soccer, explosiveness is the primary element of speed. 

Explosive players can often beat defenders, so it’s necessary to score goals. 

The best way for beginners to train explosiveness is by setting up a 20-30 yard segment, in which they accelerate to fast running speeds as fast as possible. 

Image Attribution & Licensing

Featured Image: ‘Soccer Attacker Dribbling the Ball Past Defenders; by Leonardo Hidalgo (Licensed via Pexels)

#1: ‘Elite Freestyler Practicing Soccer Skills’ by Ivan Siarbolin (Licensed via Pexels)

#2: ‘Georgetown Soccer Players Practicing Their Touch With Juggling’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)

#3: ‘Soccer Player Uses Finishing Skills to Score’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)

#4: ‘Georgetown Soccer Players Juggling the Ball’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)

#5: ‘Soccer Player Dribbling Past Defender’ by Lucas Andrade (Licensed via Pexels)

#6: ‘Explosive Soccer Player Beating His Opponent’ by Phxtosene | Eneas (Licensed via Pexels)