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Intermediate Skills – The Hitch Kick

INTERMEDIATE SKILLS – THE HITCH KICK

The “hitch kick” in soccer is a ball skill whereby the non-kicking leg is thrust into the air in order to raise or alter the path of the kicking leg as it is thrust in the air to strike the ball immediately thereafter, before the first leg comes back to the ground.  Also called the “hitch-kick,” the “hang kick,” the “double-kick,” the “jump kick,” and the “jump hitch-kick,” this skill is not seen very often in games.

Instead, the hitch kick is mostly important because it is a necessary skill in the learning progression toward the advanced skills of the flying side volley and the scissors or “bicycle” kick.  The hitch kick builds on the volley kick.  Players should already be familiar with the instep volley.  If not, this should be demonstrated, practiced, and performed first. (See Coaching American Soccer.com, Intermediate Passing – Volley.)

There are essentially two types of hitch kick, one where the ball is sent forward, and the other where the ball is sent backward, over the head.  Both kicks usually have the effect of forcefully sending the ball back in the direction from which it came, as a defensive clearance, using the instep for the actual kick.  The suggested learning progression is:

Demonstration

Basic Body Movement

Forward Hitch Kick

Backward Hitch Kicks

Game Conditions

Demonstration

First, show the basic movement of the first leg thrust up and forward into the air, to create body elevation, and then the second leg thrust forward for an instep kick.  Using a server, who tosses the ball from the front, next show the hitch kick being sent back out, away from the body.  Make special note of the proper service.  Finally, demonstrate the two kinds of hitch kicks that send the ball back over the head, with the ball being served, 1.) from in front; and, 2.) from behind.  Again, make special note of the importance of a proper service.

Basic Body Movement

Without ball, players are to individually practice the in-air “scissors” movement by first kicking the left leg up and out and then kicking out the right leg, consecutively, in mid-air.  Players are then asked to switch to kicking out the right leg first, followed by the left leg.  Players are to be asked to imagine kicking a ball with the second leg.

Forward Hitch Kick

In pairs, players practice the forward hitch kick first for technique and then for distance.  Alternate servers and alternate the kicking foot.  Add a target player.  A lot of balls are needed.  “Retrievers” and “feeders” may also be used.

Backward Hitch Kicks

It is best to start the first backward hitch kick with one leg as a standing base.  In pairs, players practice by first receiving a ball in front from the server, which is then kicked backward over the head, with the non-kicking foot staying in contact with the ground.  Alternate servers and alternate the kicking foot.  The actual hitch kick is then to be performed, again with the service from the front.  Players practice the backward hitch kick first for technique and then for distance.  Alternate servers and alternate the kicking foot.  Add a target player.  A lot of balls are needed.  “Retrievers” and “feeders” may also be used.

Similarly, for the second type of backward hitch kick, where the ball is received from behind and over the head, it is best to start with one leg as a standing base.  In pairs, players practice first by receiving a ball from a server standing behind them.  This is not a “blind” activity!  Players are to watch the server and the ball at all times by turning their heads at the neck and their bodies at the waist.  If players have problems with the “behind and over the head,” service, it can be switched at the beginning to be delivered from over or beside the shoulder.  Again, players practice first for technique and then for distance.  Alternate servers and alternate the kicking foot.  Add a target player.  A lot of balls are needed.  “Retrievers” and “feeders” may also be used.  The actual hitch kick is then to be performed.

Game Conditions

Successfully setting up and practicing hitch kicks under simulated game conditions can sometimes be difficult.  First, distance between the pairs is increased.  Next, additional movement is added by servers throwing balls high and short, for the forward hitch kick, and high and long, for the backward hitch kick; receivers must get to the service while the ball is still in the air.  “Offensive players” acting as “distracters” are then added.  Services may then be made by chipping the ball.  Action between defensive and offensive players can then go “live.”

 

Soccer Coaching Tips:

  • For the demonstration, it is extremely important that the server and the kicker prepare in advance in order to be successful. The arc of the ball from the server to the kicker is especially critical.
  • 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 basic hitch kick may rarely be used in a game, it does have its place. One of these situations is the clearance of a ball where the defender needs to get up into the air next to an opponent in order to  not incur a dangerous-play call.
  • Inform players that the hitch kick is a precursor skill to the flying side volley and the scissors or “bicycle” kick.
  • It may be helpful to tell players that the initial kicking movement is similar to performing “two side-by-side instep kicks in mid-air.”
  • Like the action used by a goalkeeper, the initial upward thrust of the knee of the non-kicking leg gains height. Like the instep drive, the knee of the kicking leg is bent or “cocked” properly in order to perform the actual kick of the ball.
  • A variation of the front hitch kick may be demonstrated and practiced using the inside-of-the-foot to provide better accuracy in a pass to a nearby teammate.

 

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John Harves

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