All around Houston, high school students are starting to prepare for the winter soccer season. Some soccer players have been at for most of their lives, playing in youth leagues and moving into club organizations. However, just as many will either be new to the sport or will come in with a lot less experience than their teammates. We wish them all a safe and successful season, and wanted to provide some tips for developing their non-dominant foot in this article.
Why is strengthening the non-dominant foot important?
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that most beginning soccer players prefer to use their dominant foot for passing, shooting and dribbling. After all, when you’re trying to learn the basics, using your go-to foot helps you feel more competitive. However, soccer is a sport that demands so many skills, especially in areas of footwork, versatility and conditioning. Failure to develop the non-dominant foot can hold a beginner or intermediate player back. Not only will a “weak” foot prevent the athlete from making plays that would have been easy with the dominant foot, the degree of imbalance between feet may lead to more frequent injuries as well.
Soccer players who focus on strengthening their weak foot learn that it enhances their stability, balance and agility on the soccer field. It helps them become more unpredictable, as they demonstrate a high degree of adaptability from moment to moment.
We’ve put together a set of exercises that can be used to improve weak foot strength, coordination and flexibility.
- Juggle with the weaker foot
You’ll need an open area and a ball for this exercise. Throw the ball up and let it bounce on the ground. With the weak foot, kick it up repeatedly, aiming to make contact with the ball with the top of the laces. Do this continuously for 5 minutes at first. As you find that you can control the ball, add more time. With daily practice, you will be able to juggle equally well with both feet in no time.
- Ball control with the weaker foot
You can improve the way you run with the ball with your weaker foot by using cones. Place the cones in a straight line and weave the ball through them. Ensure you begin with the cones close together (about 5 yards apart) and pay attention to your touches. Start with your dominant foot and count the number of touches you make, then switch to your weaker foot and count the touches also. You’ll probably find the the weak foot requires a lot more touches at first, but that difference will become less significant as you improve.. As you advance in this drill, increase the distance between the cones and increase your running speed. Keep track of the number of touches. You’ll find that your weak foot loses its comparative “stiffness” and you’re better able to direct the ball with fewer touches.
- Trapping the ball with the weaker foot
As a soccer player, ball control helps you to trap (stop) the ball and set it for your next move. It’s necessary to develop this skill so that you aren’t always forced to pass a ball coming at your weak foot. Use a partner who will pass the ball to you, or simulate this by bouncing a ball off a wall. As the ball comes your way, try to use just the toes of the weaker foot to stop the ball. You’ll want to do this in one smooth motion, absorbing the ball’s velocity efficiently. Practice with a mix of slow, medium, and fast traps that test your abilities.
- Passing with the weaker foot
Passing is such a fundamental part of soccer, that being effective with the weaker foot is a great advantage in any game scenario. You will need a wall and a ball for this exercise. Pass the ball against the wall with the inside and outside sole of your weaker foot. As you do it, build a rhythm with your passing by increasing the speed. In addition to the passing improvements you’ll make, you’ll be forced to work on trapping skills, too! Pass and trap the ball in a single fluid motion, making two touches each time you pass to the wall. Stop up the challenge, by aiming your passes directly at a specific area on the wall. This will help you improve passing accuracy tremendously (not to mention shots at the goal).
- Shooting with the weaker foot
Shooting drill with the weaker foot can be the most difficult skill to build. But, developing shooting strength and accuracy can be the difference between scoring a critical goal or facing the disappointment of a loss. You need an open space for this exercise. This can be a field or yard. Find a goal post or two cones to serve as the goal post. Aim to hit it with your shot. Make your shot as powerful and accurate as possible. Every so often, shoot with the dominant foot and be aware everything that is happening in your body, leg, and foot as a reminder of what feels “right.” Try to achieve that natural feeling as you practice with the weaker foot, making any necessary adjustments to identify how you can improve your attack and follow-through.
Regardless of whether you’re just starting out or if you’re a seasoned player, any one of these drills can help you step your game up. In “the beautiful game”, there is no telling when you’ll be in the perfect position to make a game-changing play, so why not be ready for it?
Houston Foot and Ankle Care is a leading podiatry practice, treating patients from the greater Houston area and southeast Texas. We offer the latest in diagnostic technology to make informed decisions, prescribe effective treatments, and help patients get back on their feet as quickly as possible. Dr. Gabriel Maislos, DPM, FACFAS is a board-certified podiatrist and podiatric surgeon, skilled in the latest non-invasive techniques. Whether you’re suffering from sports-related injuries, or pain, swelling or numbness from chronic conditions, call (713) 541-3199 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Maislos. We accept all forms of major medical insurance.
Call (713) 541-3199 if you experience:
- acute or chronic pain in the foot and ankle
- swelling or tenderness in the foot and ankle
- inability to walk to stand without discomfort