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Intermediate Passing – Volley


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The volley in soccer is the act of directly kicking the ball while it is in the air, before it strikes the ground, without controlling it first.  Also known as the “full volley,” a volley can be utilized as a pass to a teammate, a shot on offense, or a clearance on defense.  The volley is generally used when quick action is required and the ball is able to be struck below the level of the waist.  Otherwise, if the ball arrives above the level of the waist and time permits, the ball may be controlled or, if time does not permit, a header may be used.  There are two types of basic volleys, the inside-of-the-foot volley and the instep volley.  As the names imply, the skill of basic volleying builds upon a player’s ability to understand and properly perform the inside-of-the-foot pass and the instep drive.  The inside-of-the-foot volley offers the most control, while the instep volley offers the most power.  As a result, in game situations the inside-of-the-foot volley is most often used to pass, both the inside-of-the-foot volley and the instep volley are most often used to shoot, and the instep volley is most often used to clear the ball. 

 In order to volley the ball, players must first determine where they want the ball to go after it is volleyed.  This will determine which volley to use, based on the availability of a teammate, proximity to the attacking goal, or the need to get the ball out of immediate danger near the defending goal.  Virtually simultaneously, players will need to get into the proper position to intersect the flight of the ball, by anticipating where the ball would be expected to land, and then by moving toward the ball ahead of that location.  The body is then set properly according to which volley is being used and then the skill is performed.  For young players, a lot of this information can be overwhelming and they should be allowed to just work on their own (against a wall, in pairs, or into a goal with a net on it) to try to properly contact the ball.  As with any ball skill of this nature, emphasis should always be placed on the importance of proper technique, before adding power.  Similarly, coaches are reminded that both legs and feet must be trained equally.

 The recommended progression for introducing the volley is:


Players Try Volleys on Their Own

Coaches as Servers

Pairs with Ball

Pairs with Ball, Teammates as Servers

Threes with Ball, Triangle

Threes with Ball, Over “Defender”

Threes with Ball, For Distance

Game Situations


 The coach should announce that he is going to introduce “the volley” or “volleying” and show the techniques for both “the inside-of-the-foot volley” and “the instep volley.”  This is best done with an assistant coach as the server where both the coach and the assistant have practiced the demonstration in advance. The demonstration should be shown from the front, back and side views.  For both volleys, the standing leg will have the knee bent slightly and the plant foot kept in contact with the ground.  In addition, the initial body position will be directly in the path of the ball with the hips and the shoulders initially squared to the path of the ball and the arms out for balance.  The volley should be returned directly to the waist of the server.  Players are to be told that they should move forward, backward or to either side, as necessary, to respond to the way the ball is served.

 For the inside-of-the-foot volley, the contacting leg is brought up, with the knee up, and the whole leg turned outside approximately 45-degrees at the hip.  The foot is also turned out so that it is perpendicular to the flight of the ball with the toe up, the heel down, and the ankle locked.  The plant foot is pointed in the direction that the ball is intended to go.  Contact with the ball is made in the center, slightly below the midline.  Good balance over the plant foot is maintained so that the contacting foot may swing freely.  The foot should be brought up early and the body kept essentially vertical (i.e., don’t lean back).  Players may simply be told that they are, “…doing an ‘inside-of-the-foot pass’ in the air.”  The techniques are exactly the same, but with the foot higher off the ground and little follow-through with the kicking leg.

 For the instep volley, the ankle and foot are positioned just like the instep drive with the toe down, the foot extended and the ankle locked.  Good balance is established with a slight body lean to the opposite side of the contacting leg in order to allow for extension of foot.  Again, the technique is just like “doing an instep drive in the air,” and the kicking leg should be able to be swung freely.   In order to keep the kick low; the ball is to be struck dead center or slightly below the midline and a good follow-through should be used.

 Players should be reminded that the hardest part of volleying is waiting for the ball to come down so that it isn’t lofted too high during the kick.  Similarly, a slight adjustment of the position of the kicking leg and foot may be required at the last second to ensure a proper result.  As with all ball skills, players should also be reminded to “keep their eye on the ball,” seeing their foot actually make contact.

 Players Try Volleys on Their Own

 At the coach’s discretion, players may be allowed to first try volleys on their own by gently punting a low, straight ball with the instep to the waist of a teammate who is approximately five yards away.  This could also be done alone into a brick wall (without windows) or into a net.  Players may recognize analogies with a punt in American Football or a goalie’s punt.

 Coaches as Servers

Coaches should demonstrate the proper technique to be used by servers, sending an underhand throw using both hands, and with very little arc, directly to the spot in space where the players should volley the ball.  This is based on the height of the player.  For young players, coaches may wish to serve the balls themselves to each player first, and offer individual instruction, before asking teammates to take over as servers.

 Pairs with Ball

Set up two players with one ball approximately five yards apart. Players are to hold the ball and then kick it with the inside-of-the-foot volley to the teammate.  The teammate then does the same.  The players are to then do the same using the other foot.  Players are to then hold the ball and kick it with the instep volley to the teammate. 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.  Ten to twenty repetitions should be used for each volley for both feet.

Pairs with Ball, Teammates as Servers  

 Set up two players with one ball approximately five yards apart. Teammates are to serve the ball, using the proper serving technique demonstrated, so that their partner can return it with the inside-of-the-foot volley.  After ten to twenty reps, the partner then does the same.  The players are to then do the same using the other foot.  Players are to then serve and return the ball using the instep volley, again switching both feet.   

Threes with Ball, Triangle

 Coaches demonstrate, then set three players with one ball in a triangle formation with the players approximately five yards apart.  The first player serves the ball to the second player, who must volley it to the third player.  The third player catches the ball and then becomes the next server.    Again, both legs and both types of volleys are to be used.  The ball should be sent around in the direction that best serves the kicking leg being used.  The kickers must alter their body position properly in order to perform this skill.

 Threes with Ball, over “Defender”

 Coaches demonstrate, then set three players in a row, where the middle player acts as the server and the kicking player is to send the volley over his head to the third player.  The third player passes to ball back to the man in the middle and the exercise is repeated.  Again, both legs and both volleys need to be used.  The players rotate to all positions.

 Threes with Ball, For Distance

 Coaches demonstrate that, with players still in groups of three, a player with a number of balls may serve to a kicker who will send the ball, using an instep volley, to a target man thirty or more yards away.  Again, both legs should be used and the players rotated.

 Game Situations

 Coaches may then set up any of the drills above in close proximity to a goal in order to practice defensive clearances or offensive shooting using both types of volleys.  Both types of volleys should be used and both legs should be trained equally.

After success with the inside-of-the-foot and the instep volleys, coaches may introduce the outside-of-the-instep volley as the final part of this progression.  The follow-ons to the volley are then the half-volley and the side volley.

 Soccer Coaching Tips

       Proper volley technique requires lots of repetitions using correct form.  In order to do so, players can make very effective use of a wall or a bangboard.

       Beginning players tend to want to bring their legs up too high to volley.  Leaning back and/or not allowing the ball to come down far enough are the two most frequent reasons for kicking a volley higher than is intended.

–    Coaches may emphasize that volleys may be made in two forms, as subtle redirection of the ball, or by using a powerful kick.  In either case, the flight of the ball should  be as low as possible to get the job done and go to an intended target.

       Coaches may try a volley challenge using pairs with a ball where the objective is to keep the ball in the air by passing it back and forth.  This can be done with either the inside-of-the-foot, left and right, or the instep, left and right.

       Another volley challenge is to do a juggling pick-up, juggle the ball a couple of times, then volley to a teammate who receives and repeats.  An individual could also do this using a wall.

Any undefined soccer words, terms, or phrases may be found in The ULTIMATE SOCCER DICTIONARY of American Terms available at Amazon.com.

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John Harves


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