How To Improve Your Ball Striking

Hitting everything but the back of the net? Stay calm. Ball-striking guru Dave Alred, who helped Jonny Wilkinson perfect his kicks, reveals the secrets to finding that sweet spot.

Enter the ugly zone

“Identify what it feels like to strike the ball perfectly. That’s your starting point. Now you have to work on reproducing that technique without having to think about it. I’m a great believer in saying, ‘You will succeed, now let’s work out how,’ rather than ‘let’s see if you can succeed’. Most people are frightened by the prospect of something challenging. Throw yourself into the ‘ugly’ zone where you feel uncomfortable, but you’re willing to try.”

Get your kicking foot down

“You have to learn to get your kicking foot down on the ground once you’ve struck the ball. To master this technique go back to practising the running half-volley. Once you’re comfortable with this and zipping the ball along the surface, focus on creating a cleaner backspin. Progress this by putting the ball on the ground, pushing it out in front of you and striking it. If you do this for five days in a row, you will improve your ball-striking ability. The most important ingredient is practice. There’s nothing like repetition.”

Don’t follow through, follow along

“When people talk about following through it creates an image of the foot swinging up high, whereas following along generates an image of a swift and clean movement through the ball. If you look at Cristiano Ronaldo, he follows along with his body. You have to go after the ball rather than just swinging your leg without any thought towards your body shape. Think of a snooker player – to make a clean impact and force the ball to go where they want, they must aim and follow along.”

Put your body into it

“You can’t shoot a canon out of a canoe. The moving parts are below the waist so you want to keep your upper body stable because this will make you more powerful. If you kick with your right foot, lead with your left shoulder as much as possible and try and finish straight on, rather than with a spin. Get your shoulders back and don’t let the chin dip. This will engage your core, making your body stronger.”

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