How to Develop Your Off-foot in Soccer
It’s impossible to play soccer at a high level without developing your non-dominant foot. At some point you’ll need to count on using your off-foot, whether it’s to clear the ball or take a shot. Players owe it to themselves (and their teammates) to be able to effectively handle the ball with both feet.
Developing your Off-foot
Using your off-foot in soccer is just as important as using your off-hand in basketball: It keeps defenders off-balance, and opens up the entire field. Being able to shoot with your off-foot also makes you a more dangerous offensive player, allowing you to shoot at almost any time.
There’s no one trick or secret to developing your off-foot as a weapon. It takes practice and persistence. However, by working hard during the off-season and making your off-foot part of every practice and drill, you will soon see results that translate into success on the pitch.
Passing with the Off-foot
One of the best parts of soccer (and a reason that it’s among the most popular youth sports in the U.S.) is that it is possible to dramatically improve soccer skills by yourself or in small groups.
When practicing passes with your off-foot against a wall, it’s important to remember the following:
- Practice different types of passes: Work on passing the ball along the ground first, and then mix up your routine; try different types of passes, and vary your intensity between soft and hard.
- Focus on one spot: Try to hit the same spot on the wall consistently. If possible, try to tape a square from knee to stomach level, two feet wide. Try to hit it five times in a row, and then back up and try again.
- Work from various distances: Once you have mastered passing with your off-foot from ten feet, back up to twenty and thirty feet.
Execute passing drills with your off-foot either by yourself, or with several teammates arranged in a circle. This is a great way to warm up for practice or a game.
Hot Tip: Juggle!
Another activity that will improve your off-foot coordination is juggling. Start with your off-foot and juggling as many times as possible without using your strong foot. Focus on balance and body control to improve.
A great team drill for developing your off-foot skills is a game called “soccer tennis”. Using a height barrier (a low net, a bench and some cones, etc.) split teammates evenly on two sides and practice getting the ball over the net or bench and in-bounds. Serve, rally, and keep score, punishing the losing team by having them run a lap around the field.
Dribbling with the Off-foot
Dribbling between cones is a great way to improve agility and skill. Begin by setting up cones twenty feet apart in a straight line, and focus on the following skills:
- Zig-zag between the cones with multiple touches using your off-foot
- Move the cones closer to each other as you improve
- Use just one touch between cones, moving them to within ten feet of each other
It’s important to work on alternating between using the inside and outside of the off-foot, depending on which direction you’re dribbling. It’s also helpful to work on improving your speed and timing as you work with a dribbling drill. A good habit to develop is to execute a drill twice with your off-foot for every time you do it once with your strong foot.
Shooting with the Off-foot
Shooting with your off-foot is one of the most difficult skills to develop in soccer. Getting pace and accuracy on the ball requires great skill and agility, which only come with years of practice. Still, it’s an essential tool for strikers, and will make any player far more difficult to defend.
Here’s a simple off-foot shooting drill:
- Start at the top of the penalty box
- Have another player or coach send a pass to your off-foot side
- Step up and shoot with your off-foot
This drill will help develop both strength and shot control. Players must work on footwork, lining up the ball, and following through.
White and Black Socks
Have players bring multiple pairs of socks, or tell them to wear two different colored (like white and black) socks to practice.
The biggest reason young players don’t develop their off-foot is because they lack confidence in using it. Therefore, it’s important for coaches and parents to encourage beginning players to work on using both feet in passing and shooting drills, and to remind them of the importance of having a strong non-dominant foot.
Make sure that one type of sock (light/dark/a specific color) is on the player’s off-foot. Let the team scrimmage but force them to only touch the ball with their off-foot. Touches with the preferred foot result in a free kick for the opposing team.
Another way to complete this drill is in three-on-twos, forcing the offensive team to only touch with their off-foot, while the defense can touch with either foot. Give the offense three minutes to score using only their off-foot against the two defensive players.
Perfecting your Off-foot in Soccer
Sure, the best players in the world can use either foot with equal skill. That takes many years of practice and selfless dedication to achieve, and may not be possible for every player. However, the ability to control the ball accurately with your off-foot is a tremendous asset, and something that every player should train on as long as they continue to play.