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Intermediate Shooting – The Side Volley

INTERMEDIATE SHOOTING – THE SIDE VOLLEY

The side volley in soccer is the act of kicking an airborne ball arriving to the side of the body around waist-high, without controlling it first.  A side volley is most often used as a shot on goal, but may also be utilized as a pass to a teammate or a clearance on defense.  The side volley is generally used when quick action is required and the kicker is only able to get to the ball while it is in a particular location in mid-air.  The instep side volley is by far the most common, although an inside-of-the-foot side volley can be performed. The skill of side volleying builds upon a player’s ability to understand and properly perform the instep drive, the half volley, and the full volley.

In order to side-volley the ball, players must first determine where they want the ball to go after it is side volleyed.  This is determined by the proximity to the attacking goal, the availability of a teammate, 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 can be struck successfully, and then by moving to that location.  The hips are then rotated to determine the ultimate path of the kicked ball. For young players, a lot of this information can be overwhelming and they should be allowed to just work on their own to try to properly contact the ball.  This is effectively done with the ball placed on top of a cone or by using a tethered-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 sides must be trained equally.

The skill is divided into two parts.  Part I is receiving the ball from the front (“facing” or “head-on”).  Part II is receiving the ball from across the body (“the opposite side”).  The recommended progression for introducing the side volley is:

Part I – Side Volley Receiving the Ball from the Front

Demonstration

Players Try Side Volleys on Their Own

Coaches as Servers

Teammates as Servers

Demonstration

The coach should announce that he is going to introduce “the side volley” and show the techniques to be used.  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.  (This may best be accomplished by moving the viewers around.)  For the right-side volley, the left standing (plant) leg will have the knee bent slightly and the left foot pointed in the direction of the target.  The body is then made to lean left at the waist in order to raise the right leg off the ground for the right-footed kick.  In addition, the initial body position will be just to the side of the expected service of the ball, with the left hip and left shoulder angled toward the intended path of the ball after it is kicked, and the arms outstretched to the sides for balance.  Players may be instructed that getting the proper left lean to put the right leg out to the side is “like bending over sideways to pick grass with the left hand.” The serve should be from the front and to the side of the kicker, a little below knee-high, and may be performed with one bounce at first.  The side volley should then be kicked directly back toward the server while rotating the hips and shoulders counter-clockwise.  (Players may need to be told that they may have to move one step quickly toward the ball, reacting to the way it is served, because not all serves will be perfect.)

For the instep side volley, the ankle and foot of the kicking leg are positioned just like the instep drive, with the foot extended and the ankle locked, and the instep facing forward.  In this case, however, instead of the toes being pointed toward the ground, they are pointed out to the side.  Good balance is established with a slight body lean to the opposite side of the contacting leg in order to allow for extension of leg.  The kicking leg should be able to be swung freely.  The plant foot is pointed in the direction that the ball is intended to go.  In order to keep the kick low, the ball is to be struck in the center slightly above the midline and a good follow-through should be used.

For the inside-of-the-foot side volley, the toes of the contacting foot are turned up so that the foot is perpendicular to the flight of the ball with the heel down, the ankle locked, and the inside of the foot facing forward.  Again, 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 above the midline.  Good balance over the plant foot is maintained so that the contacting foot may swing freely.

Players should be reminded that the hardest part of the side volley may actually be getting to the ball quickly.  Similarly, adjustment of the position of the kicking leg and foot may be required at the last second, by changing the lean of the body and the position of the hips, in order 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.  The second hardest part of the side volley may be overcoming the desire strike the ball a split second before the foot can hit the ball at or above the midline.  This will cause the ball to “sky” or be kicked upward or high.

[The entire demonstration should then be shown using a left-side volley.]

Players Try Side Volleys on Their Own

At the younger levels, players may try side volleys by kicking the ball off the top of a short cone.  Otherwise, a tetherball (or an actual tethered, “training,” soccer ball), hanging from the crossbar of a goal, makes an excellent introductory device.  This is particularly true because it can be adjusted to the height of each player.  At the coach’s discretion, players may be allowed to first try side volleys on their own by gently dropping a low, straight ball to the ground to their right or to their left and then kicking it after it comes up from the bounce, either with the instep or with the inside-of-the-foot, to the waist of a teammate approximately five yards away.  This could also be done alone into a brick wall (without windows), into a bangboard, or into a goal with a net.

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Tetherball for Side Volley ©CoachingAmericanSoccer

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, from in front of and to the side where the players should side volley the ball.  For young players, success may also be achieved by using a bounced ball to start.  Otherwise, the ball should be served directly.  Reminders from the main demonstration, for both servers and kickers, may be provided at this time.

Teammates as Servers  

Set up two players with one ball, facing each other, approximately five yards apart. Teammates are to serve the ball, using the proper serving technique demonstrated with the ball sent off to the side, so that their partner can return it with the instep side volley.  The target of the kick should again be the waist of the server.  After ten to twenty reps, the partner then does the same.  The players are to then do the same using the other foot.  Players may then serve and return the ball using the inside-of-the-foot side volley, again switching feet after the full number of repetitions.

Part II – Side Volley Receiving the Ball Across the Body

Demonstration

Coaches as Servers

Teammates as Servers

Threes with Ball, Triangle

Game Situations

Demonstration

Once coaches are comfortable that their players are properly performing the side volley when receiving the ball from the front, the side volley may be introduced while receiving the ball from across the body.  There are three major points that must be emphasized.  The first is that the path of the ball is coming from a different direction and that the foot opposite from the incoming direction of the ball will be used for the kick.  The second is that the body position is only altered slightly at the hips, essentially remaining the same as before, mostly facing the direction that the kick is intended to go.  The third is the need to wait the extra split second that is necessary for the ball to pass across the body before making the kick.  For older players, a ball can be placed on a tall cone for individual practice.

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Ball on Tall Cone for Side Volley ©CoachingAmericanSoccer

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, from the side, going in front of and beyond, approximately waist-high, to the other side where the players should side volley the ball.  For young players, success may also be achieved by using a bounced ball to start.  Instruction for both servers and kickers may be provided at this time.

Teammates as Servers 

Set up three players with one as the server, off to the side of the kicker, with a pile of balls; the second as the kicker; and the third as a target or receiver in front of the kicker.  Players should be approximately ten yards apart. Teammates are to serve the balls, using the proper serving technique demonstrated by the coach, with the ball sent off to the far side of the kicker, so that the ball can be kicked to the target player with the instep side volley.  After ten to twenty reps, the players switch positions.  The players are to then do the same using the other foot.  Players may then serve and return the ball using the inside-of-the-foot side volley, again switching feet after completing the full repetitions.

Threes with Ball, Triangle

Coaches demonstrate, then set three players with one ball in a triangle formation with the players approximately ten yards apart.  The first player serves the ball to the second player, who must side 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 side volleys are to be used.  The ball should clearly be sent around in the direction that best serves the kicking leg being used, i.e., counter-clockwise for the right leg and clockwise for the left leg.  Coaches should emphasize that the kickers must alter their body position (hips) properly in order to perform this skill and be patient for the ball to be in the right spot.

Game Situations

Coaches may set up drills similar to the ones above, in close proximity to an attacking goal in order to practice shooting; in midfield in order to practice passing; and, in close proximity to a defensive goal in order to practice defensive clearances.  Both types of side volleys should be used and, again, both legs should be trained equally.  Coaches should then add movement, power, and pressure in each of the three locations.

The midfield passing activity may include demonstration and drill of the “knock-down pass,” where the inside-of-the-foot is specifically used to re-direct the ball out of the air to the feet of a nearby teammate.

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.  Trying to kick the ball too soon most often results in the ball going up into the air instead of out in the intended direction.

Soccer Coaching Tips

  • Proper side volley technique requires lots of repetition using correct form. In order to do so, players can make very effective use of a wall or a bangboard to get each attempt back quickly.
  • Beginning players tend to want to bring their legs up too high to side volley. Leaning back and/or not getting to the ball fast enough are the two most frequent reasons for kicking a side volley higher than is intended.
  • Coaches may emphasize that side 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 generally be as low as possible to get the job done and go to an intended target.
  • A challenge is to do a juggling pick-up, juggle the ball a couple of times, set up for a side volley with the last by touch positioning the ball off to the side, then side volley it to a teammate who receives and repeats. An individual could also do this using a wall.
  • Side volleys can also be performed with the ball arriving from behind, usually after a bounce.
  • When cones are used, the tops of the cones may be cut off to better support the ball.  (Cut only enough for the ball to stay on.  Otherwise, the impact of the cone will unduly affect the flight of the ball.)

 

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

 

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John C. Harves

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