Checking your shoulder in soccer is a trait that’s common among most elite players of the sport. And Barcelona’s Xavi is a particularly celebrated player for this attribute.
If you watch him play, you’ll notice how masterful his off-the-ball movement is—always distancing himself from his markers and knowing where to go or pass the ball as soon as it reaches him.
While that looks clever and sublime on the field, it’s a tough habit to build as a young player.
You, too, may look around and distance yourself from your markers to receive a pass. But that doesn’t count as checking your shoulder. All you’re doing there is creating space!
Checking your shoulder in soccer language is to scan the field around you and plan your next move/moves. So, when the ball does finally reach you, you don’t hog around but initiate a move right away.
Because if you start thinking about your next move after receiving the ball, you give your marker all the time to reach and cover you. Other than that, you also allow your opponents to get into position.
On the contrary, when timed correctly, checking your shoulder gives you a head start from your nearest opponent and lets you exploit the gaps in the other team’s formation.
And now that we know the theory behind the move let’s learn to execute it in a game!
Can You Shoulder-Check Someone in Soccer?
You can observe players shoulder-checking their opponents in all forms and levels of soccer. Players execute it in futsal, indoor soccer, and long-soccer alike.
So yes, you can shoulder-check another player in soccer.
However, we need to establish how different checking your shoulder is from shoulder checking another player.
Checking your shoulder is knowing the position of your teammates and opponents on the field and planning your next move. But more on that later in the article!
Meanwhile, shoulder-checking another player is deceiving a defender close to you. In simpler words, you know it as faking a run.
How to Shoulder-Check Someone in Soccer?
Executing this is fairly simple as well. As soon as a teammate passes the ball to you, you fake a run in a direction opposite to where you want to go at.
And when your marker takes the bait to follow you, you press hard on brakes, turn back to the ball, and head in another direction. Your fake run needs to be realistic enough to deceive another player.
And to make sure you get the defender to follow you, a last-minute glance over your shoulder should give you an exact location of him and his next move.
How to Check Your Shoulder in Soccer?
Checking your shoulder throughout a soccer match marks a clear distinction between an amateur and a pro player. It shows how intelligent a player is on the field as he knows the game’s theory.
But bringing this into practice takes a bit of training, so you need to be patient with this. However, there are four easy ways to help build the muscle memory for executing this in a live game.
You can try them all for an all-around grip over the movement. Or, you can cherry-pick the drill that you think is most effective on the pitch.
So, let’s not waste more time and head right into the practice tips for learning how to check your shoulder in soccer!
Scan Your Surroundings
Make it a habit to never stand idle when the clock is still ticking in a soccer game. Wander around with a light jog or a brisk walk to keep yourself at a distance from your nearest opponent.
Now, this is something you might already be familiar with. But the difference this time is that you’ll be planning your next few moves, too, along with it.
Look around and mark the gaps that you see. And keep planning your next pass or where you’ll run to when you get the ball.
You’ll have to make yourself plan your moves all the time when you’re off the ball until it becomes a habit.
Free Yourself for a Pass
A big part of checking your shoulder is making space around yourself. It makes you open to receiving passes and gives you a good view of the field around you.
If you’re fluent at scanning your surroundings, like mentioned in the first method, this will come easily to you.
When you get a picture of the players around you, you can lightly tread away from your nearest players while looking over your shoulder. And possibly, closer to your teammate to get a pass.
You can do this by going around your marker, launching a fake run, or even just slowly stepping away when he’s not looking.
Shoulder Check Before Receiving the Ball
Once you have scanned the field and distanced yourself from nearby opponents, the only thing left to do is to catch quick glimpses of the players around you. And that’s checking your shoulder in its essence.
Move freely around in the free space you’ve created while keeping one eye on the ball and the other on the players around you.
Look out for any movements from your opponents around, and if you spot them moving your way, change direction and try to lose your marker.
And when you finally get a pass from your teammate, do a quick shoulder check again before receiving the ball and plan your next move accordingly.
Wall-tapping is a great drill to practice several skills for soccer. And learning to check your shoulder is one of them.
Stand at a distance of 10ft from a wall and tap the ball at a modest speed against the wall. Now before you receive the ball again, look to either side and spot an object.
You can keep colored cones to either side, which will make the drill a little easier. And every time the ball rebounds off the wall, quickly look over your shoulder and say out the first color you see.
This builds a habit of checking your shoulder every time you receive a ball.
Learn From Professional Players
Learning skills from professional players is an age-old recipe for success as a soccer player.
And since we’re talking about checking your shoulder, let’s get back to the best in business, Xavi Hernandez of Spain!
Dive deep into soccer archives and cherry-pick the major games Xavi has played for Spain and Barcelona. But instead of following the ball in these matches, always keep your eyes on Xavi.
Watch his positioning and movement off the ball. And it won’t take you more than a couple of minutes to notice how much the player checks his shoulder.
Watch what he does right after checking his shoulder and also keep an eye on the players surrounding him to see how their positioning and reactions impact his decisions.
But if finding old soccer fixtures sounds like too much effort, you can tune-in to any live game and spot a player who checks his shoulder the most, and then follow him through the game.
This will give you a good insight into checking your shoulder on a pro level. And will be something you can learn to execute yourself too!
Soccer is a simple sport made difficult only by players and coaches sometimes. Checking your shoulder sounds like a complex theory. But as you’ve seen, it’s a common and simple move on the pitch.
With the right set of drills and practices, like the ones mentioned above, you can train yourself to execute this with perfection in a live game.
And that’s that for reading up on it, now’s the time for you to pick up your ball and get started with learning this cheeky trick.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!