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Intermediate Passing – The Lofted Drive

INTERMEDIATE PASSING – THE LOFTED DRIVE

The lofted pass in soccer is ideally a long, powerful, kick intended to send the ball in the air over the heads of defenders to a teammate.  Also known as the lofted kick, the lofted drive, or the lofted ball, the lofted pass is a multi-purpose skill used for deep attack, defensive clearances, corner kicks, crosses, goal kicks, and free kicks.  The techniques for the lofted kick involve some of the first modifications for skills derived from the instep drive.  After players have mastered the instep drive, demonstrating that they can use proper form to kick the ball effectively with the top of the foot covered by the shoe laces, they may be introduced to the lofted kick.  Young players may not have the leg strength to initially get the desired flight to the ball, but they should be continually challenged to attempt the lofted kick until it can be performed. 

In order to perform the lofted kick, modifications to the instep drive are introduced to include changes to the angle of approach to the ball, placement of the non-kicking (or “plant”) foot, and the location on the ball to be struck.  The run up to the ball needs to be at approximately 15-degrees from straight-on, the non-kicking foot still needs to be pointed in the direction of the kick but needs to be approximately six inches behind and approximately nine inches outside of the ball, and the ball needs to be struck in the center below the midpoint (bottom-half).  The player should lean his body slightly away and back from the ball, ensuring that the ball is struck with the leg on the upswing from the hip.  As with the rest of the instep drive, the ankle of the kicking foot remains down and locked, and the toes curled under, throughout the backswing, contact with the ball, and follow-through.

 For really young players, a lot of this information can be overwhelming and they should be allowed to just work on their own to try to get loft on the ball.  As with any pass, emphasis should always be placed on the importance of accuracy, ensuring that the ball makes it to the intended recipient.  When improvement is seen, coaches may then introduce the arm swing associated with the lofted kick that adds additional power.  If the kicker is striking the ball with the right foot, for example, to maintain balance the right arm should be out to the side and slightly behind the body. The left arm should start out in front of the chest and then be swung left as the kick is made.  The opposite is true for a left-footed kick.  Again, as with the basic instep drive, the weight is centered over the non-kicking foot so that the kicking foot swings freely and permits a full follow-through without stabbing at the ball or having to put the foot down to the ground prematurely.  Similarly, coaches are reminded that both legs must be training equally.

 The recommended progression for introducing the lofted pass is:

Demonstration

Pairs with Ball

Pairs with Ball Over Cone

Pairs with Ball Over Flag

Pairs with Ball Over Defender

Receiver Moving

Ball Dribbled

Game Situation

 Demonstration

 The coach should announce that he is going to introduce the “lofted pass” and show the expected end result.  From a position in the defensive half of the field the coach should demonstrate a lofted pass, over a “defender” assistant coach, directed toward an “attacking” assistant coach who is closer to the goal.  This may be done first with a stationary ball, then with a moving ball, then with the “attacking” assistant coach moving toward the goal.  After having explained the purpose of the lofted pass, the coach should then demonstrate the mechanics, explaining each of the modifications to the instep drive from approach, placement of the plant foot, body lean, leg swing, and part of the ball being struck, to follow-through.

 Pairs with Ball

Set up two players with a ball at enough distance apart to allow for long kicks, based on the age and leg strength of the players.  Players are to first kick stationary balls back-and-forth, trying to achieve loft while sending the ball to their teammate.  Players should then tap the ball out in front and move on to the ball to attempt the same skill.  Players may start by kicking with their dominant leg, but then they must be asked to switch legs in order to train both legs equally.

 Pairs with Ball Over Cone

 Coaches may then place cones between the pairs of players and ask that they repeat the training above while lofting the ball over the cone.  Again, both legs should be used.

 Pairs with Ball Over Flag

Coaches may then replace the cones between the pairs of players with corner flags,  “coaching posts,” or mannequins and then ask that the players repeat the training above while lofting the ball over the posts.  Again, both legs should be used.

 Pairs with Ball Over Defender

Coaches may then divide the players into groups of three.  One of the players is to be designated as the first defender, who replaces the post between the pairs of players.  Players are asked to repeat the training above while lofting the ball over the defender.  The defender just turns around in place as the ball is sent back-and-forth. The players are to be rotated so that each one is a defender.  The defender can first be stationary and then be allowed some restricted movement.  Again, both legs should be used.

 Receiver Moving

With players still in groups of three, an initial receiver may be designated to start next to the defender and then initiate the action by moving toward goal.  The defender is instructed to remain stationary or move slightly toward the kicker.  The kicker is instructed to perform the lofted pass over the defender and to the receiver.  The players are to be rotated so that each one is a defender.  Again, both legs should be used.

 Ball Dribbled

The training above is repeated, but with the kickers dribbling the ball before making the pass.  The dribbling may be slowly at first but then quickened as success is achieved.  When the ball is moving forward just before being struck, allowance must be made for the plant foot to be in the correct place as the ball moves into the position to be struck.  This may be demonstrated by showing that the plant foot is placed beside the ball as the ball rolls past it into position.

 Game Situation

Coaches may then set up any drill, such as 4 v. 2 in a very large space with no goals, where the four players on offense, whenever they receive the ball, are directed to dribble and then send a lofted pass to a teammate.  Defenders should be asked to just get between the player with the ball and possible receivers, not to try to take the ball away.  If this is used, again coaches need to remember to rotate the offensive and defensive players frequently.  Emphasis should be added that this is the opportunity to use both legs equally.

 Soccer Coaching Tips

 For young players, coaches may simply point to the contact spot on the ball and say, “Kick it here.”  Similarly, coaches might say that loft is achieved by “getting the foot under the ball.”

 Players often try to kick the ball too hard, loosing accuracy in the process.  Coaches should remind players that accuracy must be maintained while striving for loft and to not to try to “kill the ball.”

 Players should be reminded to take a quick peek at the receiver, pick the proper spot on the ball to kick, and then see their foot contact the ball at that spot (“eyes on the ball”).

 Coaches should remind players that ultimately the loft on the ball should be high enough to clear the defender even if he jumps or is able to move backward.

 Coaches need to observe each player to offer corrections in order to achieve the desired results.  Problems may be manifested by such things as lack of distance, sliced or hooked balls, backspin or lack of any loft.  Distance is helped by a firm plant foot, a full follow through, and encouragement that the ball can be kicked harder. In addition, the player may be approaching the ball straight on, the inside of the foot is being used instead of the instep, the ankle is not locked, or the eyes may be coming off the ball too soon. Hooking the ball tends to be an indicator the plant foot is too close to the ball.  Slicing the ball tends to be an indicator that the plant foot is too far away from the ball.  Backspin on the ball is an indicator that the foot is pointed toward the outside of the body.  There should be little or no backspin on a lofted pass.  This is not a chip pass; the ball should roll forward when it lands instead of “dying” due to backspin.  Lack of loft is generally caused by the non-kicking foot being beside the ball as the ball is struck.  Similar to the basic instep drive, if the path of the ball is not toward the receiver, this is an indicator that the plant foot is pointed in the wrong direction, the hips and shoulders need to be squared to the desired flight of the ball, and/or the follow-through is coming around the body instead of being directed at the intended target.

 After gaining some facility with the lofted pass, on their run up to the ball players may find it easier to obtain a better result by making their last stride to their plant foot a little longer, thereby increasing the momentum transferred to their leg swing.

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