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This drill will improve your shooting

Rick Sewall has a tip for any players looking to shoot like Gustavo Bou.

Montreal Impact v New England Revolution

It’s time for a lesson in shooting, again.

First, get a ruler, a pencil, and an 8” by 11” piece of paper.

Lay the paper down on a table with the 11” side on the bottom. With the ruler, draw a 1” line extending from the bottom right corner to a point one inch up on the right side of the paper. This represents the goalpost. Then draw a 10” line from the bottom of the goalpost (bottom right corner of the paper) toward the other corner of the paper. Using your ruler again, connect the end points of the 10” and 1” lines to form a scalene triangle, with a right angle at the bottom right corner of the paper.

It should come out looking pretty much like this:

What’s the point of this exercise? Well, first, the scale of the resulting triangle illustrates the challenge of shooting on goal from close to 30 yards out (1” represents an 8’ goal, 10” represents 80’, or 26.67 yds, from the goal). The most obvious characteristic of this scalene triangle is the extremely acute angle formed at the intersection of its two long sides.

I say that any self-respecting professional soccer player should be able to shoot a ball on target with confidence from at least 30 yards from the goal. For pros, this is not really a shot from distance (I know from long coaching experience that even high schoolers can be taught to shoot effectively from 30 yards). Physically, I’d bet all pros are capable of drilling a 30-yard ball with power. Technically, though, many – perhaps the majority – are unable to drill a shot reliably on target from that distance. This is why so many shots end up going over the crossbar at all levels of play, even among top pros. Shooting a ball so it goes under the crossbar should be a priority.

I watched a number of EPL games on Monday, December 28th. One score was 2-2, four were 1-1. The only non-tie ended 2-1. That means that only 13 goals were scored in 6 games—a statistic suggestive of way too many missed scoring chances. Admittedly, many shots on goal in these games were blocked, but more sailed unnecessarily over the crossbar.

A game I saw the next day (12/29) was Manchester United vs Wolverhampton. The Manchester team has an excellent forward, Anthony Martial, a player worth $60 million on the Transfermarkt. In the 78th minute he found himself standing directly in front of the goal, 22 yards away, with a pass from a teammate, the ball rolling gently toward his right (dominant) foot. He chose to shoot the ball with the inside of his foot, sending it well over the goal, his body leaning away from the goal on the follow-through. What happened to keeping the ball low and under the crossbar?

Bad misses like Martial’s are not unusual. How can they be corrected?

Players should:

Focus on and master the instep power-shooting technique so they (1) know how to shoot a line drive instead of a curve ball (so many people are enthralled with the “dessert” of Bending-It-Like-Beckham that they have abandoned the meat-and-potatoes instep drive); (2) avoid ending a wild curving swing with their legs crossed, making it effectively impossible to follow their shot to capitalize on a deflection or rebound; and (3) avoid standing still after the shot and pulling the head up too quickly to see where the ball is going. Generally speaking, complete body control is needed for effective shooting.

The drill outlined below will help to correct the bad habits listed above and others like shoddy foot control, not using the proper sweet spot on the foot for kicking, and other aspects involving corresponding body behavior (a raised hip joint on the shooting leg, upper body positioning over the ball, for example). Total mental focus is required to execute the following drill correctly.

The following drill should help. Note, though: it is meant for advanced players who have basic knowledge of instep power shooting technique, and who play at the club, academy, college, or pro level. I recommend it strongly to the Revs, especially given that the only Rev player opposing keepers really fear when shooting is Gustavo Bou.

First, place two players 30 yards apart with one ball. Second, using only the top of the foot (instep), player 1 kicks the ball on the ground to player 2. With one touch, player 2 returns the ball to player 1, and so on. They simply pass the ball back and forth using the instep only. Moving forward when kicking, then backpedaling to keep the 30-yard distance, is necessary to do the drill properly.


1) Only the instep is to be used.

2) The ball should not be controlled before returning the pass—one touch only.

3) The ball should never stop rolling.

4) The ball should never leave the ground—grass cutters only.

Players should be able to execute this drill for 15 minutes without an error. Perfect technique makes it relatively easy, yet in the beginning even professionals will have difficulties.

Mastery of the drill will result in better overall body control and improved focus on the ball, resulting in more shots on target, especially when shooting from distance.