INSTRUCTIONAL SOCCER PROGRAM
INSTRUCTION AND DRILL: THE INSTEP DRIVE (KICKING)
The “instep drive” is the most important kicking skill in soccer. Because of this, it is critical that the instep drive be introduced properly during the Instructional Soccer Program. Soccer players do not “toe” the ball when they kick, but use the top part of the foot covered by the shoelaces, known as the “instep.” Just as a tennis racket becomes an extension of the arm, with the wrist locked as the tennis ball is struck, so the foot becomes an extension of the leg in soccer, pulled down with the ankle locked, as the soccer ball is kicked.
The instep drive is also sometimes referred to as the “instep kick” or, for children, the “laces kick.” For children, the “laces kick” may be the preferred usage in order to avoid confusion between the words “instep” and “inside,” as associated with the “inside-of-the-foot” kick. The assumption, of course, is that the children understand shoes with laces. At particularly young ages, this may be the “straps,” “tabs,” or “Velcro-tabs” kick!
Place 2-inch-long strips of white adhesive tape over the instep of both shoes of every player. Do the same for the coaches. This can be athletic tape, first-aid tape, or any type of tape that will stay on. Test which type of tape works best for you. Announce the “instep drive” or “laces kick” and show the players that they will be contacting the ball with the part of the foot covered by the tape.*
To contact the ball, the non-kicking foot is planted just far enough away from the ball to allow for the extension of the kicking leg and foot without the toes of the kicking foot stubbing the ground. The non-kicking foot should point in the direction the ball is intended to go.
The upper part of the kicking leg is pulled back at the hip while the knee of the kicking leg is flexed. The upper leg of the kicking foot is then brought forward while the lower leg is forcefully extended at the knee so as to drive the instep into the ball. A follow-through is then very important. The kicking leg is to swing freely with body weight over the non-kicking or “plant” foot. The ankle is to remain “locked” and not allowed to “flop” during the course of swinging the leg.
Demonstrate the leg swing from all four positions, facing away from the players, facing 90-degrees to the players, facing the players, and facing the opposite 90-degrees to the players.
Further, it should be clearly shown that the ball is not being kicked with the front of the shoe or being “toed.” It should further be shown that proper balance will allow the kicking foot to swing freely “through the ball.” Players are not to “stab” at the ball and then step down onto their kicking foot. The ball is to be kicked along the ground.
- On hands and knees, players (with the help of parents or assistants) point toes straight behind and tap the ground with both insteps. Emphasis on foot extension and ankle lock.
- In the position above, add the ball, held by the parent or assistant, so that it is struck (into the ground) with the instep, first with one foot and then with the other. Emphasis on foot extension and ankle lock.
- Have players sit with arms out and back, hands to the ground for balance, so that one leg and then the other can be brought up freely. Add the ball, held by the parent or assistant, so that it can be struck with the instep, first with one foot and then the other. Emphasis on foot extension and ankle lock.
- Using teammates, parents or assistants to support themselves, players stand on a plant foot and then swing a leg freely as if kicking a ball; right then left, ensuring that the foot is extended and the ankle locked.
- Free leg swinging, as above, but without support.
- Using a stationary ball, perform a standing instep drive to the parent or assistant, right then left, using proper form and not for power or distance.
- Same as above with a simple walk up to the ball and kick.
- Try a short run up to the ball and kick, right then left.
- Try a run up to the ball and kick for power and distance, right then left.
- Try to dribble the ball and then kick, right then left.
- Practice shooting at the “big goal.”
*In order to keep the tape on, some coaches have just taped all the way around the instep and arch of the shoe and then used a colored marker to draw an oval on the tape over the instep.
FOR DETAILED INFORMATION ON HOW TO TEACH THIS SKILL, SEE: Introduction to the Instep Drive – The Big Kick of Soccer
Note: For really young players, it is more effective to introduce the instep kick before the inside-of-the-foot kick. See: Coaching 3 to 4 Year Olds.
Soccer Coaching Tips:
- A simple, low “punt” to the parent or assistant may also be tried to get the players used to getting the ball onto the instep, but this is usually too difficult for beginners.
- Like the angle on the head of a golf club, the angle at which the instep contacts the ball will determine the ball’s flight. This angle will depend on the placement of the “plant” or non-kicking foot. If the non-kicking foot is planted behind the horizontal axis of the ball, the instep of the kicking foot will generally be rising and the angle will cause the ball to go up. If the non-kicking foot is planted beside the ball, the instep will generally be perpendicular to the ground and the angle will cause the ball to go along the ground. Ultimately, kicking with a rising foot will cause the ball to go over the goal when shooting. Unfortunately, when this happens, many novice coaches call out to the player to “keep your toe down.” This phrase is meaningless to the player when they know that their foot is extended and their ankle is properly locked in place. The correction is to get the non-kicking foot properly beside the ball at the moment it is struck. Often this is a challenge for players because they must learn to anticipate where to place their plant foot in order to allow for the travel of a moving ball. A better phrase might be, “remember to get your body over the ball.”