The lofted kick is very useful, especially for defenders. Although it's slightly more difficult to learn than a laces kick, it can be mastered by most players. Very tiny and light players sometimes have difficulty getting good air, because they have so little mass that it is hard to get the žoomph" necessary to get the ball off of the ground. Encourage them to keep trying, as it will only be a matter of time before they can accomplish this. [Coaching Note: It's possible to get air with a laces kick by setting the plant foot well behind the ball, causing the body to lean back slightly since the player will be "reaching" a bit for the ball with the kicking foot. This causes the ball to be struck more on its underside which lifts it up. Be aware, however, that it might be better to reserve laces kicks for low shots in order to get kids used to the idea of keeping the knee over the ball and keeping the head down to keep the ball low.
Key coaching points are as follows:
The position of the foot will vary somewhat, depending on the size of the player's foot in relation to the ball. Players with large feet, especially tall boys at the end of U-12s who may be trying to hit a size 4 ball with a size 11 foot, will need to cock the foot outward and rotate the entire foot inward to get the proper ball contact. The only way to figure out the proper foot position is by experimenting a bit until it "feels" right.
Put the kids in pairs, with one kneeling and holding the ball and one striking at the ball to get the proper feel of where to kick it. The bigger the foot, the more of an angle will be needed to be able to strike it properly. Go around and check to see that the foot angle is correct and that the foot/ankle is properly locked. Reverse, and have the others do the same thing.
Then, put the kids into two lines some distance apart, and have them shoot the ball to their partner on the other side. Watch and check on mechanics. Each kid will have to experiment a bit on foot position, so you will need to make adjustments as you work with them. Most common errors are putting the plant foot too close to the ball, so that the hips cannot swing through; getting too far behind the ball to generate enough power; not locking the foot into position; and not following through.
Now, divide your team by size into about 3 groups and have a shooting contest between the members of each group. This allows the tiny ones to compete among themselves rather than with folks who have twice the size/power. Allow each player to have 3 shots, and take the one with the most distance. Next, have a contest to see who can get the most height. Finally, have a contest to see who can get the most height and distance.
Put a moat in the middle of the field, with some defenders/attackers on each side of the moat. To get the ball to your teammates on the other side, you have to loft the ball across the moat. If the ball goes in the moat, then the other side gets the ball and can do an uncontested shot over the moat. Make the moat fairly narrow at first since you want success and then gradually widen it. Rotate which kid on the team does the shot across the moat. Switch so that the attackers become defenders and do the lofted shots.
Any type of regular scrimmage will be fine. Kids take naturally to lofted shots and will be trying them without much encouragement, so simply praise the efforts that you see.Updated 14 April 1999