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Rick’s tips: Perfecting the magic hop

Rick explains why the magic hop follow through can improve your shot.

SOCCER: NOV 20 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Play-In - Montreal Impact at New England Revolution Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I was watching Sheffield vs Man United last Wednesday and saw that 38-year-old Phil Jagielka was playing for Sheffield. This surprised me and reminded me of something one seldom sees.

A few years ago when he was playing for Everton he scored an extra-time tying goal vs arch-rival Liverpool, a difficult half-volley shot from 25 yards using as near perfect technique as you ever will see. What makes it different was that he did a forward hop off the placement foot at the end of his follow-through.

At the Vogelsinger soccer camp that I worked at for 40 years, we stressed this “magic hop follow-through” when teaching shooting.

What does this mean? Basically, it means that you let the momentum of your kick pull your planting foot off the ground in a small forward hop before your kicking foot touches the ground.

If anyone has accessed internet soccer instruction about shooting, odds are they will say that you should always, and I mean always, land on your kicking foot first after your shot. I completely disagree with this instruction!

First, the magic hop enables the shooter to execute the kick with the full range of motion of the kicking leg, especially the follow-through, while (by contrast) landing first on the kicking foot truncates this range of motion of the follow-through, potentially resulting in a reduction of power.

Second, the magic hop will make it easier to follow through toward the desired direction of the ball, helping to assure the shot stays on-target.

Third, the magic hop keeps the shooter’s body on balance, making it easier, even comfortable, to follow the shot to look for a rebound and an easy goal.

Fourth, and most importantly, the magic hop helps the shooter maintain total body control and balance through the whole shooting process; it will also help prevent technical flaws like ending the shot with crossed legs or a flailing placement leg.

Having made my case for the magic hop, let me add as an important footnote that landing first on the kicking foot after shooting is not necessarily wrong. In fact, it is absolutely necessary in many shooting circumstances, especially awkward ones, like approaching the ball at speed to shoot or approaching it from an acute angle. Both these circumstances make landing on the kicking foot almost inevitable.

Similarly, if goalkeepers ever learned to use the magic hop they would increase the distance of their goal kicks by at least 15 yards, very likely more. Why? Again because increasing the range of motion of the leg swing will result in increased power. The same goes for long-distance free kicks.