The basic principles of kicking are similar to those of passing, except that the player must be even more in control of the power he puts behind it and, when shooting, the angle of the ball’s flight and the direction in which it goes. There are many styles of kicking, but basically they are the same and very simple. The leg that does the kicking is less important than your supporting leg which allows the other one to swing at the right angle. For example, if the foot of your support leg is behind the ball, the ball will tend to rise. On the contrary, when the support foot is next to the ball, the ball will stay low or at knee level. When, by mistake, the support foot is in front of the ball, the power of the shot will be reduced and the ball will probably hit the ground and ricochet. So the angle of the flight of the ball is determined by the position of the support foot in relation to the line of the ball, that is an imaginary line running through the center of the ball, whether it is in motion or not.
The direction of the kick is also determined by the position of the foot and knee of the support leg at the moment your boot hits the ball. When you are kicking the ball to another player, the foot and knee of the support leg must point towards your target. Practice these two basic principles until they become automatic. The position of your body is also important. For a medium height or low kick your shoulder should be directly above your supporting foot and knee with your body leaning slightly forward. For a high ball, especially a goal kick, your body should be lightly leaning backwards with your shoulder behind the supporting foot and knee. One uses different parts of the foot when kicking. The top of the foot, the inside and outside of the top, the inside and outside of the boot and even the heel and the toe. The toe should be used when scoring a great ‘bicicleta’ goal. So many matches are decided by a good hard shot with the front of the foot. Use the top of the foot when you want to put power behind a long kick because the area of impact is larger, right in the middle.
Use the inside or outside of the top of the boot for curving shots. To make the ball curve to the left, kick it on its right side with the inside of the top of your foot. Do the opposite if you want to kick the ball with your left foot. If you want to take the ball curve to the right with your right foot, use the outside of the top of your boot to kick the left side of the ball. The inside and outside of the foot are usually used near goal, often when the goalkeeper comes forward towards the attacker who is running in, thereby trying to narrow the angle and block the shot for goal. By running forwards it’s as if the goalie were actually offering us a corner of the net to shoot at! When you are near the goal it is essential to place the ball carefully, taking the goalkeeper’s position into account, rather than attempt a real pile driver. Do you know why? It is much easier for the goalkeeper to save a powerful shot than a weak, but better – placed kick.
In a powerful shot the ball certainly moves faster, but it does not alter its course much, whereas a gentle, well directed shot goes the way decided by how you kick the ball. You can place the ball more precisely when using the inside of the foot because the area of impact is larger. For a long distance shot you should follow the following three hints on how to swing your kicking leg: (1) your leg should not be stiff, but swung right back; (2)the forward swing to kick the ball should be really explosive; (3) after you’ve kicked the ball your foot should carry on forwards and upwards completing a kind of semi – circle. For the half – volley and a volley, swing the knee and foot right up behind you so the pointed toe and knee are equidistant from the ground to give you a low or knee – high kick.
Another basic rule of shooting is to keep your eyes on the ball at the moment of impact. You should have already assessed the positions of the defending players, the goalkeeper and the goal itself a fraction of a second before your shot. By the time your eyes have returned to the ball you should have decided the exact direction and force of your shot. The actual shot is more or less automatic because of your previous training. The arms are essential in balancing the body for a kick. The arm above your kicking leg should be by your side, while the other one should be lifted more or less as high as your shoulder. There shouldn’t be any unnecessary contraction of your muscles when you are kicking. By keeping the rest of yourself relaxed, all your energy will be centered on the vigorous and rapid motion of your kicking leg. When your foot hits the ball it’s like an explosion! You need to be in excellent condition, so don’t waste your energy unnecessarily. There is no point in using the muscles which are not needed for each particular action.
Now let’s see how to do the bicicleta. It is a spectacular shot which needs a lot of practice and caution. It’s best to learn how to do it on soft ground, preferably in long grass, on springy turf or on sand etc. at the beginning. The movement must be exceptionally well coordinated and it requires great agility. Firstly fling your legs forwards and upwards which propels your body backwards in the air. Keep one leg higher, thereby giving the other time to be swung up to kick the ball. Then comes the fall which should be broken by your hands, with the fingers well spread out, the forearms and then your back. That sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? But seriously, you do need a lot of patience to learn how to do a good bicicleta. Don’t give up if you can’t do it at first. Keep trying. And don’t get depressed if you find you really cannot do it the way you want to. There are many professional footballers who also cannot do it. It certainly took me a long time to learn how to do it. I treated the difficulty as a challenge, without getting discouraged and then, one day, it just came to me.
Kicking is vital in football because it scores the goals. So keep practicing and don’t forget to use both feet. A player has to be able to shoot well with either foot. You also must have an idea of angles, so you can place the ball right in the net and score a goal. Another bit of advice is if you have the chance of shooting for goal, don’t try to dribble any more. It’s more important to take the opportunity of shooting than to carry on dribbling unnecessarily at the risk of losing the ball. A mid – field player, as well as a striker, should try at least five shots at goal per game. You can try to score from anywhere within 30 meters (35 yards) of the goal, so don’t just wait until you are in the penalty area. It is also essential to remember that if a team-mate is in a better position to shoot you should pass the ball to him rather than try to score yourself. The player who passes the ball is as important as the one who actually kicks or heads it into goal!