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Chest Traps

Ages: 8+; Equipment: Cones, balls; Players: 4+


Players will be working in pairs for much of this practice, so do a warmup which requires pairs. A nice version is to have partners link arms (with hand of outside arm on hip to form an extra link). Create two rovers who can replace one of the partners by linking his/her arm thru the available outside arm. When the rover has "adopted" a new partner, the old partner becomes the rover and must go find anothe partner. This develops into a fun game of chase, and gets the heart rates up. Intersperse stretches with this game.

Individual Work

It is a good idea to cover chest traps and heading in consecutive sessions. Why? Because, when an air ball is coming in around chin high, the player usually has 2 options. One is to back up (or jump up) and chest it down - and the other is to bend the knees slightly and head it. Often, just a slight change in positioning (under 1 yd or so) will be all that is needed to switch the surface being used to control the ball.

This type of receiving should be taught after some work on basic gallops and cross-over running (covered in the section on 1st defender skills). This footwork is important, because the player has to be able to move into position to receive the ball while keeping his eye on the ball - so he has to be able to be confident in his footwork. So, if you haven't worked on the footwork, do it as a part of your warmup.

Chest traps are pretty easy to learn to do, and most players can get moderate success in just one session. Key coaching points are:

  1. Put the feet about shoulder width apart or a bit wider, knees bent, pull arms/elbows back to flatten the chest as the ball arrives.

  2. The chest is quickly collapsed inward to make a tunnel by bringing the arms forward quickly - which causes the ball to channel down to the feet.

  3. As the channel is made, take a step forward with one foot which will help to redirect the remaining momentum of the ball in the new direction.

Variation 1: You also can trap the ball with your chest (which is a type of trap which is often not taught - and should be). Often, a player can "catch" the ball with his chest and simply walk it into the goal, which is a very nice way to score (even if not spectacular). .

Variation 2: More advanced players may want the ball to pop back up/out in order to volley or juggle it (but, of course, it is pointless to try to learn this skill until you know how to juggle). They do so by simply keep the chest flat, although they give slightly to take some steam off the ball, which allows the ball to pop off the chest; and look to play the ball with a volley of some type.

After demonstrating the basic channel-type chest trap, scatter the pairs of players around the field, and have them gently toss balls to one another to practice the technique. Then, once they have got the idea down, put them in mid-sized grids; station the receiver on one line and the tosser on the other end; and require the receiver to have to move into position to manage the trap (as this is the realistic situation in games).

Small Group Work

Split up every other pair, so that you now have 3 players in one group. Assign the 3rd player to act as a shadow defender, who simply lurks along behind the receiver. Now, put the shadow player about 3 yards to the front and side of the receiver, and allow the shadow to close in as soon as the ball is served. The shadow is not trying to steal the ball - just to illustrate the point that this chest trap takes TONS of time, so they need to be careful about when/where to use this technique.

In general, chest traps are okay outside of your final third of the field, and are quite useful if the D is behind you or you are unpressured. However, because chest traps take so long, they may not be a good idea in your final defensive third if an attacker is close by. The better decision may be to head the ball farther upfield (or towards the sidelines).

Large Group Work

Put 8 players around the edges of a large circle, each one with a ball, and put the rest inside of the circle. The outside players will toss a ball into the inside player, who chest traps it and passes it to any outside player who doesn't have a ball. Once the concept is down, add a shadow behind each receiver, who just follows to add some pressure. Progress to half-pressure and then full-pressure (in which the shadow can become the new receiver if he wins the ball). Tip: Use plenty of space -- you want success.


End with a regular 3v3 scrimmage - but award an extra point to a team if their players do a successful chest trap (i.e., you can score a goal the regular way - or by doing a good chest trap from either a throw-in or a lofted ball).

Teaching The Run-Thru Trap And Turning Trap

The running thru trap works nicely with bouncing balls. Simply have the partner throw a ball at the ground hard enough that it will bounce up, and practice running thru the ball and controlling it with the chest and/or trunk of the body. Take care to keep the lower arms/hands well away from the ball - as it is easy to get a handball call otherwise.

The turning chest trap is a variant of the running thru trap, but is a bit harder to learn because of the timing. Just as the ball is making contact with the chest, a quick step is made to turn the body sideways by stepping into the path which the ball has just taken, and redirecting the ball to the side and down by using the angle of the chest and by continuing to move in the new direction with the ball. This turning trap can be useful when there is heavy pressure on one side, but plenty of space into which the ball can be directed (and an available support player to whom the ball can be dropped as soon as it is controlled). Once again, care must be taken to get the arms out of the way to avoid a handball call.

Updated 3 April 1999
Overview | Principles | Resources | Guidelines | Practices | Game Day | Very Young | More Reading