How to Kick a Soccer Ball: Accuracy vs. Distance


We’ve all tried to kick a soccer ball at some point in our lives, whether it’s trying to show our child, or playing in a pickup game ourselves. You may have been surprised to see how hard it actually is to accurately kick the ball where you want it to go. Here is everything you need to know about kicking a soccer ball the right way.

To kick a soccer ball, you must know what type of kick you’re performing, how far you want the ball to go, and where your target is. The situation and circumstances will determine how much effort you put into power (distance) and accuracy, involving force and which part of your foot connects with the ball.

So let’s break this article down into distance and accuracy. This way, we can focus solely on that aspect to get a clear understanding of what goes into it. Then we can follow those points up with how to combine them and determine what balance is needed to make the right choice. 

Accuracy

When we think of accuracy in soccer, we assume that it’s a big part of the game. Some people might underestimate how easy it is for someone to simply kick the ball in a certain direction. From experience, it’s not hard to admit that kicking a ball to a target is harder than it seems.

So what has to happen when a player makes a pass to a teammate in a limited amount of space? We can think of form and technique. 

Form and technique will vary depending on the type of kick you are trying to produce. Much like tennis, we can think about the different shots one might have to use. For example, slice, drop shot, drive, etc. are all used at different times. Or like golf, the chip or drive. This is a similarity in sports.

To make sure you’re using the right ball for you, check out my Soccer Ball Size And Weight Guide. If you’re over 12, you will most likely be using a size 5 soccer ball.

Push Pass

This is arguably the most common pass in soccer, also referred to as the direct pass or the instep. The part of your foot that you will use will be the inside of your right or left foot. You’ll try to line the ball up with the arch of your foot, pointing it outwards. This naturally opens the knee and the hip in order to make direct contact with the ball.

Keeping a locked ankle is also important, so the foot doesn’t get pushed around from the ball interfering with your accuracy. 

  • As you approach the ball, your plant foot (not the passing foot) will take its position about a little more than a foot from the ball.
  • You have to stand slightly to the side of the ball to allow the swinging hip to move smoothly.
  • If you stand too close, you will get jammed and the opposite too far away, and you will not have great contact.
  • The toe of your plant foot will be pointed in the direction that you are aiming to pass in.
  • Your plant foot should also have some give to retain balance.
  • Strike the ball in the middle, not too low or high for maximum accuracy. 

The arms should be somewhat away from your body swinging freely and naturally to allow for the proper follow-through. When arms are rigid and too close to your body, it will be difficult to control what your feet are doing at the same time.

Here’s a helpful video to show you the push pass in action.

Long Pass

This type of pass is a little more complicated and can actually be broken down into two types of this pass itself. The first is the driven pass, and the second is the through pass. There is a key difference between the two, whereas the driven pass is about making the speediest pass possible from where the ball starts to where the ball has to end up.

The through pass is intended to go beyond the player receiving the ball and allow the receiver to catch up to the ball and is much more difficult. For the most part, the form remains the same.   

  • Consider approaching the ball similar to a short pass.
  • Think a 30-degree angle so that your planting leg will follow the same rules as the push pass to allow the hip to be open and move freely.
  • Your planting foot toes should still be facing towards your intended target as that does not change.
  • Also, what does not change, is your arms staying out for balance and follow-through. 

The difference for this pass compared to the direct pass, is the part of your foot that has contact with the ball. Rather than kicking with the inside of your foot, you will kick with the top of your foot.

The laces are exactly what you want to aim for in terms of contact with your shoe and the ball. 

Another difference will be the part of the ball you will hit. This time you want the ball to go airborne. You want to get under the ball to lift it instead of hitting directly in the middle of the ball.

Here’s a helpful video to show you the long pass in action, and give some pointers on how to complete successfully.

Reverse Pass

This pass is known as the reverse pass but can also be called the back-heal pass and is usually used in a play that’s meant to disguise the objective or surprise the opponents. Hard to pull off despite its simple instructions. Accuracy is something that comes with a lot of practice due to the fact that it’s harder to control the ball.

  • Your plant foot will want to be directly on the side of the ball so that the ball is on the outside of your foot rather than the inside.
  • You’ll want to lock the ankle of your passing foot and have it flexed, so your toes are pointing to the sky.
  • Cross your passing foot over your planting foot and kick the middle of the ball with the back of your heal.
  • Make sure you don’t use the spike on your cleats of the bottom of your heal as you will lose all power and ability to control the pass. 

Things to keep in mind here with form, is that you aren’t generating power from a big swing. It’s a short and simple movement. A big windup would cause a counterbalance issue while moving forward. Another good tip to follow when it comes to accuracy, is that your back should be facing the intended target.

There isn’t a real good way of angling the ball when kicking backward in this motion. 

Here’s a helpful video explaining the reverse or back-heel pass. This video shows how to get the ball airborne with a reverse pass, but this can be done on the ground as well.

https://youtu.be/pArRRyX-aRE

Wall Pass

A wall pass much relies on accuracy as it does speed, given the purpose of the goal. The point is for a player to quickly pass the ball to their teammate only to receive it back immediately. Because this is a combination pass, it requires good technique as it also needs power to efficiently get the ball back quickly without it being intercepted. 

The technique somewhat matters first because if it doesn’t go to the intended player, well, then it’s simply not coming back. The technique that is used here is the push pass or the direct pass so that the ball meets the inside arch of your passing foot. The planter foot doesn’t stay planted as long as you would, in theory, keep running to keep the ball moving quickly. 

This is a higher skill because once the technique is mastered while being able to continue to run, it’s then important to realize without power, the ball will be intercepted.

You might not have the time to have a full wind up, so it’s important to have quick short, powerful motions of your passing foot. Something to keep in mind is while you aren’t going to plant your planter foot as long you want to make sure it’s stable so you can have that power-balance for your passing foot.

Here’s a helpful video showing how to perform a wall pass to beat a defender.

Distance

Being able to kick the ball farther isn’t just one thing or another. It’s a combination of strength, leg speed, and kicking the ball correctly. If you forgo all the techniques mentioned above, then you don’t need to worry about how far you can punt the soccer ball at all.

It won’t matter how hard or far you can kick a soccer ball, if your technique is wrong, the ball won’t go where you want it to.

Strength

It’s somewhat of an obvious statement that the stronger a muscle is, the more it can lift/execute. Just like a strong football player can throw the ball farther when he’s a little more muscular. If your kid playing soccer is on the younger side, then this is something they will develop into. Lifting and strength training a young child’s body too soon is not always a good idea.  

Having said that, as athletes develop, strengthening our muscles is a great idea. Lower body strength is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of power and soccer players.

And it’s true strong legs are a must. But don’t be fooled; it’s not the only thing you must consider.

Core strength is essential to upper body strength. Think about the loading position of a player who’s about the kick the soccer ball. They are leaning slightly to the side or back, and their cores are completely engaged to keep their upper body balanced as their lower body does the work. 

Strength training leads to great explosive power, and explosive power directly correlates with speed, which is the next important thing when talking about getting the soccer ball to travel farther down the field. The two typically go hand and hand with each other and can be trained at the same time. 

Speed

This might seem like common sense, but the slower to kick the ball, the less distance it will travel. Same with throwing a baseball if you throw at 50 percent speed, it will get 50 percent less distance than if you threw the ball as fast as you could.

Developing speed is a direct result of explosive power, which comes from training fast-twitch muscle fibers and making them strong. 

Adding resistance to your kick is one way to increase the speed of your passing leg coming through the ball. If you practice pulling a resistance band through your leg swing, eventually, your leg will become stronger and do it at a faster rate because the band will become easier.

When the band comes off, your leg will feel like lightning. Another great way to add resistance is to do your leg swing motions in the shallow end of a pool so you are still standing and can hold on to the edge for some extra balance.

  • Stand in a pool waist deep in water
  • Hold onto the edge for balance
  • Swing your kicking leg as if you were kicking a soccer ball

Oddly enough, something we don’t think of as common sense when it comes to increasing speed is stretching and flexibly. The greater the flexibility, the longer range of motion our leg has. This means that the leg has a slightly longer time to increase speed as well as the loading starting point is farther back, adding an extra dimension of explosiveness.

Think like a catapult. The farther the catapult goes back, the more power it typically has, and the added length adds speed. But if it didn’t have that range of motion, it wouldn’t quite be the same. 

Sweet Spot

Previously when we talked about what part of the ball to make contact with in order to ensure accuracy through technique, we also briefly touched on lifting the ball and what happens when you get under it. There is a sweet spot when it comes to kicking the ball, and it entirely depends on the direction the ball is coming from, if you are in line with the incoming ball, and how much under or over the ball you are kicking with.

There are two things to really keep in mind when finding the sweet spot, and it’s the actual ball itself and then your foot placement. 

Forget about which part of the foot you are using for a minute and think about how the ball goes in different directions based on the angle at which we hit it. If we went completely underneath the ball, it would skyrocket up towards the sky. And just the opposite if we kicked the top of the ball it probably wouldn’t travel too far because of the awkward angle. At best-case scenario, it comes a few feet in front of us.

If we kick the ball just right in the middle, maybe slightly lower if we want it to be a little more airborne, then for sure, we are getting the maximum power.

The same concept can be set for hitting a baseball. Foul balls are a result of a miss-hit when the batter is trying to find the sweet spot. 

The other component of this goes right back to the technique again. The part of your foot that makes contact with the ball at the specific spot makes a huge difference in power, therefore, distance. Mostly we refer to the long pass here as kicking with our laces will always result in the most powerful kick traveling the farthest distance.

Having said that, sometimes we still have to pass to a teammate to the side and still cover some ground, so connecting with the ball at the arch instead of your toes or heal is important. Imagine trying to pass with the inside of your foot, but using the front your toes. There would be no power or control. 

Conclusion

Accuracy and distance are two separate concepts and components when it comes to learning how to kick a soccer ball. They are both much needed, but I would still say an emphasis on accuracy due to the right technique is important early on.

Once the athlete has that part down, power can be added in. It’s a little hard to do the opposite, starting with a lot of power and then trying to teach technique. That goes for a lot of sports and not just soccer.  

  • When a soccer player becomes comfortable with both, it simply becomes a combination of the two.
  • One might have to give or take so the other can have more of the focus.

What I mean by that is there are times when distance matters more, and others times where accuracy matters more in soccer.

Think about when a player punts the ball to the opposite side of the field to get the ball away from their own goal. This is when power is clearly more desired then accuracy. But in an alternate situation like kicking to score a goal. The player must determine how much power/speed they can put into the kick while maintaining their technique and accuracy. 

The best know how to make these decisions when it comes to balancing accuracy and distance. What happens is it becomes a game of quick thinking decisions while remembering all your training so that, hopefully, some parts are a little more instinctive than others. When it boils down to it, both accuracy and distance matter when kicking a soccer ball.

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Robert Sampson

I'm Robert Sampson and I live in Colorado where I spend a lot of time in the backyard with my family either grilling, playing games and sports, or working on a project to make our backyard a better place to be.

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