Free Kick Specialists
David Beckham's 2001 free kick against Greece will forever live in soccer lore. It was a strike that helped solidify the Beckham legend and one that kids still emulate around the world in their backyards. For Beckham, the game came naturally and it wasn't hard to see that. The way he moved with the ball was poetic and simple, yet full of grace and power. However, free kicks are anything but simple.
What is still incredible about Beckham's free kicks wasn't the sheer power, spin, or bend on the set piece, but, instead, the amount of dedication and focus put into practicing such a feat. It would be simply impossible to step up to a ball and replicate that kick without having spent hours and hours on the pitch perfecting it. In order to excel at taking free kicks, you need good vision, consistent form, and the ability to communicate with your team through signals. The team at CoachUp has put together some important soccer skills for you to work on in order to become a free kick specialist.
Relentless Work Ethic
Coaches do not spend a lot of time focusing on free kicks in comparison to the team’s overall game plan. This is because free kicks are not guaranteed and are almost a completely individual effort. You should spend a lot of time after soccer practice working on your own to make improvements. It may be a good idea to ask your soccer coach to work with you after practice or find a private soccer coach coach to help you out.
You need to communicate with your teammates almost telepathically. It sounds funny, but it’s true! See your team's movements and be able to spot who is in the best position to score. In the event that you're shooting on goal: pick the spot you want to hit. Watching the goalkeeper and the defense’s positioning is key to finding a weak spot. Knowing your strengths and free kick ability will help you pick the right spot to score. It will take hours of practice, but top corners are your friends!
Patience + Practice
This is the big key -- but don't give up! It's incredibly easy to get frustrated with free kicks, but don't let that discourage you. Before and after practice, take some extra shots -- but make sure you don't rush through them and breathe! Find out what works for you, what doesn't, how to put spin on your shoot, and learn how to make the ball do what you want. But understand that it won't happen overnight -- put in the time and effort and anything is possible.
On the pitch, you can test yourself by trying to hit the crossbar or the side posts. If you're at a park, you can pick targets like trees, signs, and swing sets. Years ago, David Beckham was in a commercial taking shots at a flag on a golf course. If you can find a place that will let you do that, go for it! Set goals for yourself -- or don't leave practice until you hit the post once. Then, the next day, don't leave until you hit two; so on and so forth.
It may sound cheesy, but imagine it! Imagine the moment you deliver the perfect free kick assist. Imagine ripping a bending rocket into the upper ninety. Imagine the crowd going insane. Imagine them cheering for you. Use it as fuel and motivation. Watch the professionals and emulate them, their body and its twists, turns, and little nuances. Watch where, how, and when they kick the ball, count their steps, and try it out for yourself.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Get out on the pitch and do it -- grab a friend and switch off running through scenarios together. Carve out your own strategy and find out what feels right to you. Whatever you do, remember that this is definitely not the type of skill you're born with, only hard work and practice will make a good free kick taker. You will never be able to step onto the field with the game on the line and nail a perfectly bended free kick without practice.
(Related: Read about breaking down the free kick here.)
Take a closer look at any of the gifs from above -- how many hours did it take to perfect that? What makes free kicks so unique to soccer is their unpredictable nature. There are thousands of possibilities on any given kick depending on the situation, distance, and desired result. The only way to figure them out is to practice them and do it yourself.
It may seem fruitless and frustrating, but stick with it. Your ability to deliver a spot-on free kick will be a valued part of any soccer team. Any free kick specialist has put their time in, don't forget. Not a single one stepped onto the pitch with the ability to be David Beckham. Only their effort, desire, and focus led them to that point. If your drive has you too frustrated with the process, don't give up! Consider booking one of CoachUp's private trainers to help you with free kicks, they'll set you straight in no time! What are you waiting for?