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How to Play Soccer - The Skills


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Playing soccer is a physically demanding game and requires a combination on tenacity, fitness, guile, mental toughness and skill.

Skill is the number one aspect that players, especially young players should focus on when learnin how to play soccer. Being technically proficient will ensure that you can play better soccer, and with a team of equally skilled players your team will be able to use other aspects of the game like tactics and fitness to better effect and improve your team even further.

The basic skills that are required for soccer player are

  • Ball Control
  • Dribbling
  • Passing
  • Shooting
  • Heading
  • Defending
  • Goalkeeping

Ball Control

Ball control is about the ability to receive the ball, from any angle or height and get the ball “under control" as quickly as possible. Typically this means getting the ball on the ground and in a position, ready for your next move. It is of little use getting the ball on the ground on your left side, if you wish to make a pass out to the right. All parts of the body can be used to get the ball under control, except for the hand and arms, and generally it is best to use the surface with the greatest body area to control the ball, so if using the feet to control the ball, you should get behind the ball and use the inside of the foot to cushion the ball, and direct the ball to the best position, ready for your next move, which may be to dribble or to pass.


Dribbling with ball is an exciting part of the game. Dribbling is running with the ball, and keeping the ball as close as is needed to make sure that the opposition cannot get the ball from you. So in a congested area where there are a lot of players, the ball must be kept very close, and a variety of fakes and feints must used to try and get more space and elude the defenders. In areas less crowded, the ball can be played further away from the body, allowing you to run faster into the oppositions territory.


There are a number of ways to pass the ball to a team mate, including using the inside of the foot, the instep or top of the foot, and the outside of the foot. However, passing using the inside of the foot (the push pass) is by far the most common method of passing the ball as it is the easiest and most accurate pass especially over short distances of 5 - 20 yards, and is the one that should be practiced the most.


A shot not taken is a shot missed. In other words players should shoot whenever they have a sight on goal and can make the distance. Shooting is all about kicking the ball where the goalkeeper isn't, and really any part of the foot can be used, however, there are a few guidelines. 1. Shoot towards the far post and 2. Shoot low. 3. Accuracy before power. The reasons are that these shots are harder for the keeper to save and if the shot is going wide it is possible for another team mate to slot home a wayward shot, also if the shot is on target, it has a chance to go in.


There are two types of headers, attacking and defensive. Attacking headers are like shots and should generally be aimed down to the ground, again allowing for a team mate or deflection to score a goal for a wayward header. Defensive headers on the other hand should be aimed high and either wide, or out of play to allow the other defenders to adjust to the attack and mark the opposition.


The first role of a defender is to ensure that the opposition cannot shoot, and this is generally by just getting in the way or tackling the attacker. Good defenders not only get in the way, but can dictate the way that an attacker will have to play the ball, and that is generally to make the attacker play away from the goal. Defenders must also learn how to delay attackers, particularly when they are out numbered. Delaying the attackers will give your team mates enough time to recover and mark the opposition players.


Often neglected at training, goalkeepers need to have the skills of the outfield player and in addition they require other skills such as diving, jumping and good ball handling skills. A goalkeepers judgment on whether to catch, punch or palm a shot can make the difference between a win and a loss. Goalkeepers also need to be able to read the game and offer advice to team mates as goalkeepers are the only players to have a full vision of the game. Goalkeepers also need to be brave and fearless in their commitment.

More advice?

Nigel has written a number of articles on how to play soccer that available from this site.

Nigel Reed has been involved in soccer during the 60's, 70's and 80's as a player and has been coaching youth soccer in Australia since 2000. Nigels main soccer webite has detailed information on How to play soccer as well as a number of Free Soccer Drills Good luck with your coaching


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