Ask any professional soccer player and they will tell you that your first touch on the ball can make or mar you. The right first touch will allow you to bring the ball under your control as well as give you time and space to execute your next move.
This is where proper cushioning of the ball comes to play. Different soccer players like to play the ball at different tempos. Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappé like it fast and can run from one end of the field to the other—and score.
Jay Jay Okocha and Ronaldinho prefer it slow and entertaining with lots of dribbling. Regardless of which part of the divide you belong to, proper cushioning of the ball can set the tempo for your next move.
Learning how to cushion the ball is an important skill that every soccer player should have irrespective of the position you play. However, it will be most useful for midfielders and defenders because they are the ones that mostly receive aerial balls.
Cushioning a soccer ball has to do with all the techniques a soccer player uses to slow the motion of a ball or bring it to a halt. What are the ways of cushioning the soccer ball? Is there an exercise you can do to improve your ball cushioning skill? We will tell you all about that in this article.
- How to cushion a soccer ball?
- 1. The inside of the foot
- 2. The outside of the foot
- 3. The laces/ the top of the foot
- 4. The thighs
- 5. The chest
- 6. The head
How to cushion a soccer ball?
Cushioning and wedging are the two types of ball controls in soccer. The essence of cushioning or wedging is to reduce the motion of the ball or bring it to a halt.
In cushioning, the soccer player pulls back the part of the body in use as soon as the ball makes an impact. Wedging is the direct opposite where the player keeps the part of the body in use rigid and eventually brings the ball to a total halt.
A lot of analysts compare cushioning a soccer ball with catching a falling egg. You don’t keep your hand firm while doing so because the egg may crack. Rather, you will pull back your hand to absorb the force of the egg upon contact.
Some of the pros of cushioning a soccer ball include;
- Allows the player to bring the ball to their pace
- A proper cushion can fool a defender
- Cuts down the seconds needed for the second touch
- The ball hurts less on impact when using the head, chest, or thigh
A soccer player can cushion the ball using different parts of their body including the inside or outside of the foot, the laces, the thigh, the chest, and the head. You can use the different parts of the body in different circumstances and there are pros and cons that come with them.
Knowing how to cushion the ball with different parts of the body will prevent a situation where the ball meets you unaware and you are unsure of what to do with it. Let’s have a look at how to cushion the ball with different parts of the body.
1. The inside of the foot
This is the part used by most soccer players in cushioning the ball. The inside of the foot has a wide surface area making it harder for the player to miss.
- To cushion the ball with the inside of the foot, bend your planting leg a little and open your impact leg such that the inside of your foot is facing forward.
- Align the inside of the foot with the incoming ball.
- Just before impact, start moving the contact foot backward as if you are sucking out the motion from the ball.
This slow but steady backward motion should take the sting out of the ball.
Cons of cushioning with the inside of the foot
- You may need a second touch to bring the ball fully under control
- Opponents can easily guess where the ball will go after your first touch
- Only applicable when the ball is close to the ground
Drill for cushioning the ball with the inside of the foot
No doubt, most of the instances that will call for cushioning the ball with the inside of the foot will come from aerial balls. However, the right drill for learning how to cushion the ball with the inside of the foot should start with ground drills.
After perfecting the ground drills, you can move up the ladder by trying to cushion aerial balls. One of the best drills for learning how to cushion the ball with the inside of the foot goes as follow;
- You will need 4 cones which you will setup to form a square with length of about 50 centimeters
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- Stand by the left or right of the square formed by the cones depending on the foot you want to train. For example, if you want to train your right foot, stand by the right and vice versa
- Have your training partner (who is standing opposite you) roll or kick the ball towards you on the outside of the square
- Cushion the ball using the inside of your foot so that the ball moves towards the center of the square and play it back to your partner using the outside of the same foot you used to cushion the ball
- Repeat the process on either side of the square to train the left and right legs.
- Once you have mastered cushioning ground balls, have your partner throw the ball at you and try to repeat the process
Ambidexterity is a rare skill that only a few soccer players possess. Having this skill makes it harder for defenders and goalkeepers to predict your next move.
2. The outside of the foot
While using the outside of the foot to cushion the ball is not conventional, it gets the job done in awkward situations. However, due to its unconventional use, it is easy to trick a defender running to make a tackle.
Unlike cushioning with the inside of the foot where the player almost certainly has to stop, cushioning with the outside of the foot can be done while the player is in motion.
- To cushion the ball using the outside of the foot, the ball has to be approaching from the side.
- Just as the ball hits the outside of your foot, drag the foot backward or sideways, almost as if drawing out the force from the ball.
- This allows you to drag the ball from any attacking threat or position it in the right position for a perfect second touch.
- Cushioning the ball with the outside of the foot can set it up for a thunderous strike towards the goal.
Cons of cushioning the ball with the outside of the foot
- Harder to master
- Has a limited application during a soccer game
Drill for cushioning the ball with the outside of the foot
Perfecting how to cushion a soccer ball with the outside of the foot will make a soccer player a great threat to opposition defenders. Similar to the inside of the foot, you have to start your training using ground balls.
- Make a square measuring about 50 centimeters in length using four cones.
- This time, stand in the middle of the square.
- Have your partner kick the ball towards you.
- As the ball approaches, cushion it with the outside of the foot such that it moves outside the square through the space between the cones.
- Play the ball back to your partner using the inside of the foot of the same leg used to cushion the ball.
- Repeat the process several times, alternating the foot each time.
3. The laces/ the top of the foot
Using the laces to cushion the ball is arguably the most difficult part of the body to master. This is because the top of the foot is narrow and it is easy to miss the ball.
Nevertheless, with the top of the foot, you can cushion the ball to a halt. This technique is crucial in circumstances where you need to stop the motion of the ball and decide on a new course of action.
- To achieve this technique, plant your non-dominant foot, bending it a little at the knee
- Raise your dominant or receiving foot to form a small letter ‘h’ with your body.
- Curl your toes to point upward and lock your ankle.
- As the ball moves towards you, raise your toes to meet the ball with the laces just at the base of the toes.
- Just at the moment the ball hits the lace, lower your leg to cushion the ball.
If properly done, the ball should rest on the laces. Drop your feet on the ground and level your toes on the ground so that ball rolls out of your lace and onto the ground.
Cons of cushioning the ball with the laces
- Hard to learn and perfect
- Not suitable in fast attacking scenario
Drill for cushioning the ball with the laces
While cushioning the ball with the laces is a difficult task, it is not impossible to learn. Unlike the drill for the inside and the outside of the foot that requires the aid of a partner, you can practice the drill for cushioning the ball with the laces on your own.
- Stand with your legs slightly apart
- Move your dominant leg as if you want to step on the thigh of someone in front of you.
- Repeat this a couple of times to make your muscles get used to the motion.
- Drop the ball straight up in front of you and try to cushion it with your lace by applying the movement you have just practiced.
- As you get better, increase the height of the throw.
- Once you have mastered cushioning the ball falling from a vertical height, have a friend throw the ball at you and try to cushion it with your laces.
- Take the practice a step further by cushioning the ball and allowing it to stay on your laces.
4. The thighs
The thigh has a larger surface area compared to the foot making it easier to use to cushion the ball. Using the thigh is the best choice when the ball is too high to use your foot and too low to use your chest.
The most significant advantage of using the thigh to cushion a soccer ball is that it leaves the ball suspended such that your second touch can be a powerful shot using the same leg.
- To cushion the ball with the thigh, arc the thigh so that it will be perpendicular to the body.
- Just as the ball makes contact with your thigh, lower the thigh gradually to draw out the force from the ball and get it to rest.
With the thigh, you can cushion the ball to come to fall to the ground or give it a little vertical elevation that sets you up for a powerful second touch. It will be harder for a defender to dispossess you of the ball if your first touch is with your thigh.
Cons of cushioning the ball with the thigh
- Can only be used for balls traveling at a certain height
- You may need a few more touches to properly align the ball for your next big move
Drill for cushioning the ball with the thigh
Just like the drill for cushioning the ball with the laces, the drill for cushioning the ball with the thigh can be a solo experience.
- Stand with your feet slightly apart.
- Throw the ball vertically in front of you.
- Raise your striking leg so that your thigh is perpendicular to your body.
- Immediately the ball hits your thigh, lower it gradually to cushion the ball.
- Repeat 5 to 10 times, alternating the leg after each cycle.
- Once you have perfected throwing up vertically, tell your partner to throw the ball at you and try controlling it with your thigh.
5. The chest
Another part of the body that soccer players frequently use to cushion the ball is the chest. Perfecting the use of the chest will allow you to cushion the ball while in motion.
One soccer legend that had a mastery of cushioning the ball with the chest was Didier Drogba. In most of his goals, he will cushion the ball with the chest and move it away from the closest defender. Next, he will deliver a thunderous strike beyond the reach of the goalie.
It is easier to learn how to cushion the ball with the chest owing to the fact that the chest is broad making it harder to miss the oncoming ball.
- To cushion the ball with the chest, face your chest to the oncoming ball with both of your feet on the ground.
- Upon impact, move your chest backward so that your posture tilts backward with your knees pointing a little forward.
- Arching your chest properly will allow the ball to roll down your body rather than bounce off your chest.
Cons of cushioning the ball with the chest
- Defenders will rarely allow you to cushion the ball properly with the chest
- May take a few more steps to get the ball to where you want
Drill for cushioning the ball with the chest
- The drill for cushioning the ball with the chest will require the help of a partner. Let your partner throw the ball at you.
- Arc your chest and move backward as the ball makes contact to suck the force out of the ball.
- Repeat as much as possible until you perfect the trick.
6. The head
Most times when soccer players use their heads, they are either trying to head the ball into the net or out of the net rather than trying to cushion it for their next move. You will see soccer players using their heads during a corner kick.
Cushioning the ball with the head is the hardest of all the methods we have mentioned so far. Perhaps, that is why most soccer players are reluctant to learn it.
You can easily execute the head ball cushion during training. However, in real games, it may be hard to get the opportunity to do it. That doesn’t mean you will not find it in competitive games.
- To cushion the ball with the head, align your body with the ball
- When the ball gets close, use your forehead (just under your hairline) to make contact with the middle of the ball.
- Simultaneously, bend your legs and go down in a squatting position to take the force out of the ball. This allows the ball to drop in front of you.
Cons of cushioning the ball with the head
- Difficult to master
- Opposition defenders may not allow you to use it in gameplay
Drill for cushioning the ball with the head
- Have a friend throw the ball at you. The elevation of the ball should be the height of your head.
- Align your body and cushion the ball with your forehead following the steps we highlighted above.
- Repeat as much as necessary until you perfect the trick
Every now and then, we see soccer players perform incredible ball control using different parts of their bodies including their heels.
To move from amateur to professional soccer player, you must learn how to cushion the ball using different parts of your body—you can never tell when it will come in handy.
When it comes to cushioning the ball with the chest or the head, you have to put aside fear. Most amateur soccer players will close their eyes and miss making proper contact with the ball.
Others will raise their hand awkwardly—in an attempt to protect themselves—and end up handling the ball and drawing a foul. Executing most moves in soccer takes a lot of guts and to be the best you have to be ready to do whatever it takes.
The starting point should be learning and perfecting how to cushion the ball with at least three different parts of your body. You never know the height or angle the ball will meet you.
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!