Over the years, I’ve taken numerous goal kicks when playing as a goalie or a defender. As it is such a crucial part of every soccer game, let me share my top tips on how to take the perfect goal kick.
To take a goal kick, first, place the ball on the edge of the goal area. Then, step back from the ball and decide where you want the ball to land after kicking it. Next, focus on your run and technique as you strike the ball with your foot and watch it to see that it arrives where you intended it to on the field.
Every part of the process of taking a goal kick is important and will make a significant difference to the success of the set-piece.
Now, let’s take a few moments to understand what is required to take the perfect goal kick and set you up for success out on the soccer field.
1. Place the Ball on the Edge of the Goal Area
The first step to taking a great goal kick is the correct placement of the ball on the field.
A goal kick can be taken from anywhere within the defending team’s goal area. The player taking the kick will decide where within the goal area they want to take the kick from depending on where they want the ball to end up and what foot they want to kick the ball with.
If you’re unsure what the goal area is, it’s the small rectangle in front of each goal on the soccer field. You can find out more in my article answering all your questions about soccer field markings and dimensions.
Although the rules of soccer state that a goal kick must be taken from within the goal area, the exact spot you take the kick from within the goal area is up to the player taking the kick.
Several factors will influence their choice:
- The foot they want to kick with
- Where they want to pass the ball
- How far they want to kick the ball
If you want to kick the ball to the left side of the field, I recommend placing the ball on the left side of the goal area. If you’re going to kick toward a player on the right of the field, I recommend kicking the ball from the right side of the goal area.
It makes sense to place the ball closest to where you want the ball to end up.
If you prefer kicking with your right foot, you may want to place the ball on the right side of the goal area as the ball will tend to curve from right to left if you kick with your right foot.
You don’t want to risk the ball going out of play.
The opposite applies if you kick the ball with your left foot.
You also need to leave room for your run-up.
Make sure you don’t place the ball somewhere where you will walk into the goal post when you step back from the ball to prepare for your run-up.
I did this the first few times I took a goal kick, but I quickly learned from the error of my ways!
2. Take Five Steps Back From the Ball
Once the ball is in the correct position, you need to prepare for your run-up.
To get maximum distance on the ball, you’ll need to take a few steps back to give you a long enough run-up.
I recommend taking five steps back from the ball and then taking two steps to your weaker side.
I find that starting your run-up from this distance gives you the chance to build up the speed you need to generate enough power to kick the ball to the opposite end of the soccer field from where you are.
Of course, if you only want to pass the ball a few yards or meters to a player near you, then you won’t need a long run-up. But for most goal kicks, your aim will be to get the ball as far down the soccer field as possible.
I also recommend taking two steps to your weaker side after the five steps back. The reason for this is to angle your run-up and avoid kicking the ball straight on.
As you’ll see in a moment, kicking the ball at an angle is beneficial to the player taking the goal kick.
3. Decide the Area of the Field or Player You Are Aiming For
Now that you and the ball are in the correct position, you should take a second to focus on where you are attempting to kick the ball.
What area of the field are you aiming for?
Which player are you hoping will collect the ball?
If you just kick the ball as hard as you can and simply hope another player on your team will get to the ball first, you may find your goal kick unsuccessful.
Your success rate will dramatically increase if you start aiming for a specific person or area of the field.
It may take practice to hit that spot consistently, but that’s OK and is worth the time it takes to perfect your kicking accuracy.
If you’re unsure where to aim, pick a player in space and aim your kick toward them.
If you’re feeling confident, you can even score from a goal kick.
I wrote about this in more detail in my article on the rules of a goal kick, but essentially, because a goal kick is a direct kick, nothing is stopping a goalie from scoring from a goal kick if they can kick it far enough and beat the opposition goalie.
4. Focus on Striking the Ball Correctly as You Make the Kick
This step is probably the most important of them all.
Your technique as you strike the ball will affect the accuracy and distance of your goal kick.
There are three elements to consider here:
- The placement of your standing leg and foot
- Your body position
- and the contact between your foot and the ball.
How you place your standing leg and foot is key to how well you will strike the ball.
At the end of your run-up, as you’re about to strike the ball, you need to ensure your standing foot (the one that isn’t kicking the ball) lands approximately one ball length away from the ball and to the side.
The toes of your foot should also be pointing towards the direction you intend to kick the ball.
Also, make sure your standing leg is bent at the knee. This will help you generate power and lift on the ball as you strike it with your other foot.
The next factor to think about is your body position.
The aim here is to make sure you are well balanced, and all of your energy is going into the kick.
Having both arms out to the side with the arm furthest from the ball higher than the other will help you maintain your balance.
You’ll also want to have your body angling away to the side of the ball rather than bolt upright when you make contact. Having your body tilted at almost 45 degrees will help with the power and accuracy of your kick.
Contact With the Ball
The third factor to consider here is the contact between your foot and the ball.
When taking a goal kick, you should aim to strike the ball with the top of your foot (where your laces are) on the bottom half of the ball. Making contact with the ball like this will give the maximum amount of control and power in the kick.
Keep your eyes on the ball as your foot makes contact. It’s too easy to look somewhere else at this moment, but fixing your eyes on the ball will increase your chances of making effective contact.
For a closer look at how this is done, have a look at this video below:
5. Follow the Flight of the Ball
Once the ball has left your foot and is in the air, all there is left to do is follow the flight of the ball.
Hopefully, the ball will land exactly where you planned it would, and another player on your team will take the ball on and create a goal-scoring opportunity.
But sometimes, our best plans don’t always work out.
This is why it is essential to follow the flight of the ball wherever it goes.
If the ball ends up with the other team or in a different area than you expected, you need to be ready right away for the ball to come straight back to you.
Don’t look away and turn your back to the ball after kicking it. You will only end up leaving yourself in a vulnerable position if the other team ends up with the ball.
6. Practice Different Techniques in Training
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that the more you practice goal kicks, the better you will become.
As you spend more time taking goal kicks, you will figure out what works best for you.
You may want to try taking a different amount of steps back before the run-up and see if you prefer that.
You may want to practice aiming for a specific area of the field to improve your accuracy and kicking range.
Because both goalies and defenders can take goal kicks, both defenders and goalkeepers should practice them.
Follow the techniques I’ve laid out here to give you a solid foundation and then progress from there.
For more helpful “How to’s” in soccer, check out one of my other articles: