the study of the kicking components within sports

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Kicking for Beginners

In a previous post, we looked at the importance of deliberate practice, and plenty of it, on the way to becoming an expert kicker. The popular target number that is typically hyped is 10,000 hours of such practice. From a simple mathematical viewpoint, that suggests starting at an early age can be a big advantage. Although individual children vary in their development, 18 months is a typical age when most kids can start working on kicking a ball. So if you are (or will soon be) a year and a half old, you will definitely want to continue reading this post.

Pediatrician David Geller provides the following thoughts on initial practices for aspiring kickers:
Children learn well by watching someone else perform a task, imitating that person, and receiving positive reinforcement for their efforts. For example, to teach your child how to kick a ball, demonstrate kicking it yourself. Roll it toward her foot and ask her to kick it. She'll probably try to imitate you, but even if the ball simply touches her foot, reinforce what just happened by saying "nice kick." She'll then learn that a kick is when the ball hits and — you hope — bounces off her foot.

Soon, she'll start trying to kick the ball — if she hits it, give more praise. Going barefoot may speed things up because she can feel her foot connect with the ball, so if you can, lose the shoes. Once she's got the hang of it, show her how to practice kicking against a wall (if you're indoors, make sure you've got a room with lots of space). She'll learn quickly what kicking means and will enjoy doing it.
Looking ahead one year, to when you reach the age of approximately 30 months, you will want to consider getting involved in organized soccer. That's true even if soccer is not your long term goal. If you check the resume of nearly every NFL placekicker, you'll find soccer listed at the beginning of their kicking career. There are soccer programs around the globe for toddlers, often starting as young as 2 to 3 years of age.

If you have parents or know other adults that will be teaching soccer to toddlers, they may want to keep the following basics in mind:
  • Children age 2 and up can begin to learn soccer. They will need a size 3 ball which generally weighs between 11 and 12 ounces with a circumference of 23 to 24 inches.
  • Teaching your child to dribble rather than kick the ball will take patience. Demonstrate the technique of moving the ball across the grass using various parts of the foot. You don’t have to be an expert, but you do have to cheer them on as it is hard work! 
  • Shooting the ball involves power and accuracy which toddlers do not have yet. Teaching them that the object of the game is to get the ball into the net is enough for now. Technique can be taught later.
  • You can have a great deal of fun passing the ball back and forth. The exercise will do you both good and prepare your child for later lessons.
Some suggestions for a practice itinerary include the following:
  • Practices should be 45 minutes to an hour; any longer and you risk bored, overtired toddlers. 
  • Although they don't need it, spend the first five minutes stretching with the kids. It's a good habit to establish. After they learn the stretches, allow each child to pick one for the team to do.
  • End each practice with a scrimmage. This will teach the kids which goal their team is attacking, but it's OK if they get confused. Expect it to happen. 
As NFL kicker Steven Hauschka noted when we interviewed him:
"I always remember being a good soccer player. I started playing soccer when I was two or three. We had those soccer nets, like the hockey goals were soccer nets. I remember being the goalkeeper and being able to shoot at the other goal from my goal. I kicked the ball pretty well from a young age."


Anonymous said...

Kickologist, I love your style!!

Chris Husby said...

That's a great article.

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