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do you kick a soccer ball the right way?
Curing the toe kick in youth players.
By Coach V
How many times have we
heard it shouted from both the coaches and the parents? “Kick
with your laces, not your toe.” Sounds like an easy request, but
you must understand you are trying to change the evolution of a
child. This is why so many struggle with this seemingly simply
While many think this is a problem for very young soccer
players, 5 – 9 years old, we have seen this problem frequently
in the 13 – 16 year olds as well. One of the benefits of our
research while creating Blast The Ball™ is we were able to work
with players at all levels from all over the world. The “not so
shocking” findings to us may surprise you. There are soccer
players at the most advanced levels of play that can’t perform
all the different types of kicks correctly. If they can, they
often can’t perform them with both feet. Understanding the EXACT
and correct form is essential for the development of advancing
Curing the toe kick is often the first step. It really is quite
easy to understand if you take the time to study the
progression, the cause and the cure. We spent 18 months studying
every phase of the soccer kick from 6 year olds all the way to
professional players. Once we captured this “evolution” on video
and slowed it down, it became quite evident why we kick with toe
and the steps to cure it.
First understand how we first start to kick a ball. Very young
players really don’t go into a “kicking mode”. They are simply
running at the ball and when they think they are close, or their
foot makes contact with the ball, they “push” their leg through
the shot. They are simply trying to force the leg forward so it
moves the ball. During this stage there is no “forethought” to
the soccer kick. (This could be called the ‘collision’ stage.)
Kicking the ball is simply an afterthought that combines with
the running gate of the player.
As players mature they learn that the harder they “push through”
the shot, the farther the ball goes. This seems great in their
eyes, but it starts a habit that is hard to cure. Some even
“push through” so hard they fall onto the ground after a shot.
Next realize another reason for a toe kick. It is the natural
foot position. When we run or walk our foot changes position. At
the end of our stride our toe is naturally facing down because
we have just finished “pushing off” the ball of our foot or toe
area. As our foot comes forward in a walking or running stride
the toe naturally returns to the forward pointing position. Have
someone walk across the floor. Concentrate on their foot
position at the end or back of their stride and then watch as it
comes forward. The toe naturally starts to swing forward and
Then ask them to walk or jog with their toe pointed down as long
as possible. The result is a child or adult “high stepping”
across the floor like a Clydesdale horse.
The problem is that this “unnatural position” is really what we
are asking them to do when we tell them to kick with their
Here is a little test you can do for yourself. (Only adults are
allowed to do this.)
Kick like a toe kicker. Yes, we said kick wrong. Let your foot
swing through naturally just like it was a walking or jogging
stride. Your foot stays very close to the ground.
Now, WITHOUT CHANGING ANYTHING ELSE, point your toe to the
ground and swing your leg through again.
If you did this properly you are now cursing me. You are
grabbing your foot because your toe struck the ground as you
came through and you severely strained the muscles on the top of
your foot. Don’t worry. There will be some minor swelling and
you will limp for the next 4 days, but hey, if we ask our kids
to do this, why shouldn’t we try it?
So how do we start to teach this “unnatural” movement?
We created Blast The Ball™ video and research program because
much of this is hard to describe in writing. We will give it our
1- Have patience. This unnatural movement or change takes time.
You will practice it and it will look good. Then, come game
time, the child will revert back to the movement that is
instinctive. Eventually the new kick will become a muscle memory
2- Start by having the child step closer to the ball. Most youth
players step their plant foot well behind the ball. This causes
the ball to be struck on the “upward swing” and naturally kicked
by the toe. Having them step next to or even slightly past the
ball forces the ball to be further back in the swing circle.
3- Practice loading the leg. We have an entire section devoted
to the “soccer hop” on Blast The Ball™. It is the slight hop or
large stride just before kicking a soccer ball. Just as in any
sport such as baseball, golf, tennis etc, when you are going to
come forward to hit a ball, you must first load or have a
backswing. The entire leg will come back and with “power
shooters” you will notice the load or backswing is so large that
the sole of the foot almost touches their “behind”. Now instead
of a “push” we are preparing to release and kick.
4- Shorten the kicking leg. No not by surgery, but by
maintaining the “V” position of the leg all the way through the
swing. When our leg is in the backswing and just starting to
come forward, there is a strong “V” position. We want players to
maintain this “V” all the way through the shot. Stand up with
both feet close together. Raise the kicking hip slightly, and
then bend the knee slightly. You must do both. You will notice
that if you hold this position you can point your toe down and
swing your leg back and forth. Your toe will not hit the ground.
While the shape and size of the “V” will change through the
kick, it should never totally disappear. (No locking straight
5- Start with an angle approach. We teach the many different
styles of correct kicking. One is the straight kick which has no
angle approach or “wrap around” leg swing. With the straight
kick, the ball IS struck with the laces. However, the angle kick
has an angled approach and the leg will slightly swing across
and around to our front. This angle arch also allows the toe to
be pointed slightly “outward” requiring less “shorting” of the
leg and less chance or the dreaded “toe stub”. When working with
young players, the angle kick is taught first.
6- Learn the part of the foot. When we use the angle kick, we
really are NOT kicking with the “laces”. We are kicking the ball
with the “first metatarsal”. In simple terms that is the bone
just above the “knuckle” of the big toe. This is the largest
bone in the foot and when the ankle is locked, creates a huge
amount of impact force.
7- Learn to strike the ball just left of center. (For right
footed kickers.) This applies to the angle kick because we are
approaching the ball from an angle. Striking the ball in the
center will cause the impact to be more of a “glancing blow” and
create a huge amount of side spin.
One of the most important points of working with young players
is to start them off in slow motion. A child only wants to do
one thing, KICK A BALL HARD. Forcing them to kick slowly and
gently is EXTREMELY hard. I recommend you start this exercise
against a wall. If you put them 6 feet away from a wall, they
will have a fear of the ball bouncing back and hitting them.
This will force them to kick softer. Also, if they kick too hard
they have to go chase the ball. DO NOT start this process 18
yards out from a soccer goal. Their overpowering instinct to
kick it hard into the net will force them to focus on power.
Plan on this process taking 6 – 12 months depending on the
child’s age. Have them practice the movements several times a
week. Eventually it will become the instinct rather than the
unnatural. Have patience and keep practicing.