SOCCER BICYCLE KICK
A bicycle kick in soccer is an extremely acrobatic skill whereby a player essentially inverts their body in mid-air to strike an airborne ball, arriving above the level of their head, backward from the direction they are facing.
The term “bicycle kick” comes from the action of the legs which looks like that of pedaling a bicycle, only “upside-down.” The bicycle kick is also known as an overhead volley, a scissor kick, or a “bike.”
The bicycle kick is a ball skill whereby the non-kicking leg is thrust high into the air in order to raise the path of the kicking leg as it is thrust even higher into the air to strike the ball immediately thereafter with the instep. The legs slicing beside one another in mid-air is what looks like the “pedaling” of a bicycle or the cutting motion of a pair of “scissors.” Because the body is placed in an inverted position, the landing is considered to be the most dangerous or risky part of the skill.
The bicycle kick is very dramatic and very difficult to perform. The kicker first leaves their feet by pushing off the ground with the foot that will eventually kick the ball. The arms, head and shoulders are then thrust backward. The non-kicking leg is thrust as high as possible into the air while the upper body is forced backward. This is followed by the kicking leg which is then used to strike the ball with the instep of the foot.
The bicycle kick is the culmination of the skills learned in the “hitch kick” and the “flying side volley.” For safety, the bicycle kick should only be used when defenders are not in close proximity. The bicycle kick is a highly advanced skill that should only be performed by players who are comfortable and proficient in the acrobatics involved. Coaches should never force the bicycle kick on players. Players attempting the bicycle kick should be experienced, competent, confident, and exhibit gymnastics-like capabilities.
Points of Discussion
Talk with the players:
- Although a bicycle kick can be performed anywhere on the field, it is almost exclusively used as a shot on offense. On defense, it is usually far too risky given the consequences of failure.
- Do not try to force your body to do something it can’t do. If you really wish to get to the level of a bicycle kick, start with gymnastics routines, advancing to backflips. Go ahead and use your dominant leg/foot.
- Although bicycle kicks are spectacular, they have a low probability of scoring. Look to do something else first, such as a backpass. “Play simple.”
- Be sure you are onside. This is not usually an issue, but it can be if you are receiving a pass.
- You can be called for dangerous play. Do not attempt a bicycle kick into an oncoming opponent or if there is a chance of hitting someone’s head.
- Know where you are. Like any other shot, the bicycle kick needs to be on goal.
- Do not try a bicycle kick if there is a potential danger to you from defenders nearby. This is particularly true if there is any chance of being undercut.
- Do not attempt a bicycle kick on a bad or wet field.
- If you are going to do it, you have to do it right. Practice your technique with a teammate or with a coach. Never practice alone. Have a partner serve the ball by hand. Practice outside only on soft ground with grass.
It is imperative that the demonstration be performed by a capable, competent, responsible individual who can perform the bicycle kick correctly and is willing to do so.
Explain that this demonstration is for a dominate-foot kick and that’s the way it should be performed by players. Review the hitch kick and the side-scissors volley. “Walk through” the steps in “slow motion.” Demonstrate that an upward arm thrust starts the motion.
Demonstrate the take-off. Place special emphasis on the fact that the first jumping leg will be the kicking leg. The kicking foot is the last foot in contact with the ground. This provides the first measure of lift. Like the flying side volley, it is followed by the non-kicking foot, being thrust higher up and out to obtain greater height, and then the kicking foot.
The landing force is absorbed first by the hands, forearms and upper arms, and then by rolling through the shoulder, the back and the hips.
Demonstrate and practice on soft ground with full grass.
Coaches may wish to practice the movements without a ball at first. If possible, use a gymnastics mat for the landing. The following is based on a dominate-foot shot on goal:
To perform a bicycle kick, the ball must be in the air, on the opposite side of the player from the goal, and above the level of the player’s head, in a position that allows it to be struck using an overhead volley. The ball is likely to arrive from a cross that is behind the player or from a fortuitous bounce. (A player can even create the conditions by flicking the ball up into the proper position!)
Most bicycle kicks are performed within the penalty area. Everything happens very quickly. Originally, the striker is most likely to be facing the goal, but the ball arrives behind the striker’s back. Accordingly, the striker must remember where the goalie was and their relative location to the goal. The striker turns around so their back is then to the goal and sights the ball. Defenders must not be too close and vision is maintained on the ball.
Generally, only one or two steps are available to the striker before the ball arrives. The timing for the jump is established within these two steps. The striker must judge the arrival and optimum position of the ball for the kick. Depending on the height of the ball, and the player’s jumping ability, it is possible that the player may have to wait a split second for the ball to fall.
It is usually best to start learning the bicycle kick from about 15-yards in front of the center of a full-sized goal. It is often beneficial to start the learning progression by having the player lie down on their back, with their head closest to the goal and the knees bent. The arms should be to the side with the hands about six inches from the hips. One leg is raised to establish the initial position of the ball. It is then put back. A coach or teammate then holds the ball in the established position. The player performs the first scissor motion with the non-kicking foot and then strikes the ball backward into the goal with the kicking foot, using an instep drive. Adjustments are made to the location of the ball in the air to maximize the result.
Standing, players should practice facing the goal and then turning their backs and moving two steps toward an expected launch point. Specifically, players must ensure that, upon arriving at the launch point, their backs are going to be perpendicular to the path they want their shot to travel to the goal.
Overhead Hitch Kick on Goal
Returning to a position approximately 15-yards in front of the center of the goal, facing away, players should perform an overhead hitch kick to score. This reinforces the basic kicking motions. Players serve themselves the ball starting with it held with both hands and then tossing is up and out. Start the motion with a push off the ground by the kicking leg. Force the non-kicking leg into the air. Kick the ball overhead and backward into the goal.
Preparing the Landing
Still in front of the goal and facing into the field, players are to learn the initial landing by modifying the overhead hitch kick from above. This is done by using a starting position with the knees bent and the buttocks close to the ground. The kick is performed while simultaneously “sitting down.” Just after striking the ball, the players should attempt to reduce the effect of the landing with their hands and arms and then roll on their back.
Take off by jumping into the air as high as possible with the leg of what will be the kicking foot. (The single-leg jump is described in Jump Heading.) The arms should be slightly out for balance and bent upward as part of the takeoff. While directing the head backward and bending back at the waist, thrust the second leg up to increase height.
As the head and shoulders are thrust backward, the kicking leg is now thrust upward to make the shot. Contact with the ball is optimal when the torso is parallel to the ground. Focus must be maintained on the ball as the “bicycling” motion of the legs is occurring and the momentum of the player is now being directed behind, toward the goal.
The strike of the ball is a traditional instep drive. The contact point with the ball needs to be slightly above the midline in order to ensure that the flight of the ball takes it under the crossbar. As with any kick, it is important to “keep your eye on the ball” and actually see your foot make contact. As much follow-through as can be achieved is desirable.
Stated simply, the landing from a bicycle kick is not normal for soccer. Conceptually, each part of the body, in turn, is used to absorb the impact with the ground. Put your arms slightly out from the body and the hands and arms down toward the ground to ensure that the arms will contact the turf first. Twist at the waist to ensure not to land flat on your back. If not already in position, bend your head forward at the neck to ensure that the head and neck do not hit the ground. The hands should hit the ground first. The arms should then be flexed at the elbow to absorb energy and then the forearms strike the ground. Try to land slightly on one side, rolling through the buttocks, hip and shoulder. A right-footed strike generally will create a landing that is more to the left side and vice versa.
Teach a proper practice service to all players. This consists of a high, underhand, toss using both hands, from at least 10-yards away from the spot in mid-air. Use teammates as servers.
Let the players choose their dominant leg for the kick. There is no real need to try to force practice equally with both legs.
Finish with simulated game conditions. Perform shots at goal from about 15-yards out. Add movement, power, and distractors for each of three different locations, one post, the middle, and the other post.
Soccer Coaching Tips:
- The bicycle kick is an especially hard skill. Expect “misses.” Be patient. Do not overtrain. In all cases, players should be reminded not to try to kick the ball too soon, but to wait the split second that is necessary for the ball to be in the proper position to get it under the crossbar. It is better to try to be over top of the midline of the ball have the kicking foot than below it.
- For the demonstrations, it is extremely important that the coach and the demonstrator prepare in advance in order to be successful. When used, the arc of the services of the ball from the coach to the demonstrator is especially critical. Again, the demonstrator must be well-trained, confident, and excellent in the performance of the skill. Do not over-extend the demonstrator.
- Players must be reminded that this is not a “standing” activity. They must move and properly position themselves to perform the skill. They can further be reminded that no “serve” is going to be perfect.
- Clearly inform players that, although the bicycle kick may rarely be used in a game, it does have its place in advanced soccer.
- See “Plyometrics” for jump training.
- Added practice for strength training and flexibility, specific to the bicycle kick, are required.
- Use of a full-sized pendulum trainer can be very beneficial to coach the bicycle kick.
© Copyright, John C. Harves