Finishing from Volleys and Headers

I've always had a standing challenge to my teams (U13 and below), if they score a headed goal, I buy ice cream for the next practice. It's been a way to encourage the players to try and score with their head if they can. This has been most successful with the girls teams I have coached. The extra incentive has become something that the team rallies around.

After spending a few weeks working on our combination play to score we played very well in our next games. Two of our three goals came from combinations in the middle of the field.

Another area that I've wanted to address but didn't because of lack of time is working with the players on their volleys. I look at this skill as a combination of timing and technique.

The first step has to be to grove the correct technique with the inside of the foot and the laces. I encourage the players to focus on the inside of the foot because of the greater surface area. Most of the time you don't need to generate much power because the ball usually arrives with enough pace that redirecting it is all that is needed to score.

Once the players understand the technique I try to get them a large number of opportunities to judge balls in the air so that they can practice the necessary timing.

Here is a practice that I've used to introduce volleys to my teams.

Two players are inside of a triangle that is three yards on each side. The player at the point is the server and the player at the base volley the ball. Each player volleys the ball the ball 10 times with each foot.

Now the players move to the outside of the triangle. The player at the point serves the ball as the player at the base moves from one corner to the other. It's not important to move quickly from side-to-side but to shuffle and be balanced for each volley.

Having one group of players on the outside of the circle serving balls to the inside plays starts to work on the timing of the volley. How fast they should approach? Which foot to use? What part of the foot?

Most young players are not able to serve the ball with their feet consistently enough to provide good service so I begin by having the players perform a throw-in for another player to volley or head. The players have to decide whether it's better to head the ball or volley it. The emphasis remains on timing and technique to finish.

The field is narrowed to the width of the penalty area and a free channel is created on each side. If the attacking team can pass to a player in this area she is allowed to pick it up and perform a throw-in to create a chance to score from a volley. Eventually the players are asked to serve the ball with their feet. You can add a defender to the channel if you'd like to progress the scrimmage further.

What is you're favorite exercises or small-sided game to teach your players to volley the ball effectively?

Have a great day!


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