Advanced Shooting – The Topspin Shot



The topspin shot in soccer, for a ball kicked off the ground, produces an airborne flight less than waist high, that has significant forward-facing rotation.

Soccer Topspin Shot

Soccer Topspin Shot

This rotation causes the ball to dip down to the ground dramatically, about 15-yards out from where it was kicked.

Also known as an overspin kick, the topspin shot is very popular because, at the last second, the rotation of the ball will cause it to drop below the outstretched hands of a goalkeeper.  With this characteristic, the topspin shot is extremely effective and can also be used as a direct free kick.

The topspin shot is a modification of the basic instep drive.  The key difference is that the ball is ultimately struck with all of the instep to impart substantial spin.  This spin is achieved by starting with the top of the instep and then keeping the foot in continuous contact with the ball with the middle and then with the bottom of the instep.

The topspin shot is an extremely challenging skill and it is rarely used in a game.  Because of this, a goalkeeper is typically not expecting to see it and, when it is employed, the trajectory is such that there is very little time to read and react to the downward path of the ball as it happens.

The skill often requires hundreds of hours of practice to perfect, most often made by an advanced player experimenting one-on-one with the ball.  For the sake of efficiency, it is recommended that players use multiple balls or a kickwall.

Youth players should be old enough to be using a size-5 ball.  Balls must be properly inflated and must not be out-of-round. The following steps represent a sample learning progression for the topspin shot, but this is a skill that players must master to their own satisfaction by making personal adjustments and by spending the necessary time.


Players should first practice contacting a standing ball by “pulling up” their instep against the surface.  The initial contact is with the top of their instep, otherwise known as the “high instep” of the soccer shoe, striking the ball slightly below dead center.

#7 – High Instep

Contact then continues in one motion with the full instep.

#6 – Full Instep

Contact is completed with the low instep, still in one continuous motion.

#5 – Low Instep

All of this should leave the ball rolling forward along the ground.  This is analogous to applying topspin to a tennis ball or a ping-pong ball.

Players should then take about a three- to five-step “run-up” to the ball, at about a 30-degree angle, or less, to the path they want the ball to take and practice pulling up their instep against the surface of the ball.

Plant Foot

The plant foot should be placed slightly ahead of the ball and approximately 12-inches away.  It should be relatively close in order to minimize body lean and hip rotation.  This is to try to maximize a mostly straight-on strike by the kicking leg and to reduce imparting anything other than forward rotation to the ball.

The toes and front of the plant foot are to be pointed directly toward the target.


The body needs to be kept as straight as possible, with minimal lean.  If there is leaning, it should be to the opposite side of the ball.  As with any instep kick, players must see their foot contact the ball by keeping their head down and their vision focused on the point of contact.

The instep itself needs to be virtually perpendicular to the ground at the point of contact.  This is true in all aspects: forward, back, right, and left.

The Kick

The strike of the ball starts out as a normal instep drive, with proper balance, the plant foot firmly grounded, and the striking leg flexed at the knee to generate maximum power.  The leg is then extended forcefully to contact the ball starting with the top of the instep.  As usual, the foot is in maximum extension, with the toes curled and the ankle locked.

It is here where the contact with the ball becomes unique.  It has sometimes been referred to as a “pull,” an “upward drag,” a “grip,” or a “forward roll.” Whatever the term, the instant that the ball is contacted, and as much force has been transferred from the foot to the ball as possible, the instep must stay in contact with the ball, from top to bottom, to create the topspin.  This is the hardest part, requiring the most experimentation and practice on the part of an individual player to achieve.  Great mental concentration is required to impart the spin.

Evaluation of the success of the kick is usually based on whether or not the proper forward spin is observed during the flight of the ball.  Kicking under the ball may result in backspin and too much loft; this is fixed by moving the plant foot forward and/or consciously getting the body over top of the ball.  Kicking too far over the ball will result in topspin but a low or grounded path; this is fixed by moving the plant foot back or straightening the torso.  Sidespin results from missing the center of the ball or the instep; this is also fixed with minor adjustments of the location of the plant foot or the torso (left or right), but also suggests loss of concentration to see the foot start to strike the ball somewhere other than slightly below dead center.


In a traditional instep drive after the strike of the ball, the movement of the kicking leg usually continues with a significant “follow-through” created by the forceful extension of the leg at the knee and the kicking foot ending up high and in front.  This is not the case for the topspin shot because the player must actually raise their knee to complete the process of imparting the spin to the ball with the instep.

As such, the last part of the topspin shot process is raising the knee high and then extending the lower leg.  This provides the loft necessary for the spin to catch the drag the air.  Loft is mandatory.


Once players are consistent with the mechanics of the topspin shot, they must find the distance away from the goal at which they will shoot most effectively.  This range is the location from which the ball will drop about one-yard in front of the goal-line.

Soccer Coaching Tips:

  • Players may start by going through the entire set of motions without a ball.
  • Players need to be cautioned to focus on technique first and add power later.
  • Players with larger feet may have to turn their lower foot out to avoid scraping the ground.
  • Players can get very frustrated when they don’t see immediate results when learning this skill.  The topspin shot has a steep learning curve and so they must be patient.
  • The treatment above is based on a stationary ball, usually for a direct free kick.  Moving balls can be added to the mix, for shots during the run of play, after success is achieved with a still ball.
  • A topspin kick can even be made with the inside of the foot or with the instep on a side volley.  Topspin can also be applied to a straight-on instep volley.  All of these are further advanced skills.
  • There are actually degrees of topspin that can be applied to a ball, but a player having one effective strike is usually all that matters.

 Copyright, John C. Harves