Ball hogs are the most dangerous threat to a soccer team in competitive matches. They sabotage the creativity of the team and make fewer goal-scoring chances for others.
But that’s more of a remark of frustration than it is a reality!
New players, especially kids, earn the notorious title of a ball hog when starting to play soccer. Though a ball hog might initially drag the team, it is often the mark of a talented player.
A ball hog is usually independent and confident enough to take on the opponent’s defense single-handedly. While he may not succeed all the time, a ball hog still makes up for a spectacular show at times!
But considering the team spirit of soccer, a ball hog exposes critical defensive and offensive lapses on bigger platforms. That’s why you don’t get to see any professional soccer player sticking to the ball excessively.
So, today, we won’t necessarily look at a ball hog through a critical lens. We’ll uncover how to coach such a player and encourage him to involve the team more in his strategy.
And we’ll kick off by outlining what ball hog really is in soccer and whether it is okay to be one!
What is a Ball Hog in Soccer?
The term “Ball Hog” is mainly native to the courts of basketball. The quick-paced and compact-spaced gameplay requires a strong sense of team spirit.
Hanging on to the ball a little longer than necessary can switch possession and score points for the other team in the blink of an eye.
On the contrary, such a maneuver does not have such immediate repercussions in soccer. The large field of play and the defensive placement of players make it easy to recover from such errors.
But too many of these times can definitely turn the match around!
Ball hogs in soccer are typically sighted in beginner games. When soccer players are learning to play the sport, they tend to stick to the ball for longer than other players.
It helps them get acquainted with various touches, situations, and dribbles. However, a competent soccer player playing among newbies may also become a ball hog.
When passing to incompetent teammates is as good as losing the possession in the first place, a skilled player takes the reigns of the game into his own hands to save the team.
So, a ball hog in soccer is either an unskilled or new player starting out who isn’t familiar with the dynamics of the sport. Or, he is a skilled player playing among noobs.
Is it Okay to Hog the Ball in Soccer?
It is a common misconception to discourage ball hogs in soccer just as they are.
If a player is single-handedly devastating the opponent’s defense and putting the ball in the back of the net, what seems to be the problem?
The general reaction players, coaches, and parents give such players is quite damaging. It limits such a player’s ability to move on the pitch and shatters his confidence in showing up in certain situations.
As a player, coach, and parent, we need to understand that every player goes through the ball hog phase.
There’s a particular flyer on the internet shedding light on how Ronaldinho caught eyes as a young kid. The 13-year-old fifth-grader scored all 23 goals in a match to hand his team a 23-0 victory.
Now, will you call that a negative impact on the team and bench such a player?
Of course not!
New and young players should be encouraged to play along with their entire team but also given the freedom to perform as they like.
After all, a player’s individual skills impact a soccer game and not the other way round. The only way to deal with a ball hog as a coach is elaborate training and patience.
Let a player discover his place on the pitch and then bring him in on coordinating and communicating with other teammates for improved all-around performance.
If you can stick to the ball and back it up with goals and assists, you’re meeting all the game’s requirements. But if you’re only a drag on the team, it might be time for a few training drills!
Read more: How to Beat Man Marking in Soccer?
How to Deal with a Ball Hog in Soccer?
Hogging the ball is not always the lack of team-play by the player doing it. Maybe he just can’t find a player in a better position to pass the ball to.
And that makes dealing with a ball hog more of a team effort. With a bit of talk from the coach and coordination from the teammates, a player will eventually start passing the ball to others.
You can position yourself in a better spot, communicate with the player on the pitch, and pass back to such a player often to constructively help him overcome the syndrome.
But if none works, stop passing the ball to such a player and wait for the manager to bench him soon!
Now enough with the brief theories, let’s see in detail how you can deal with a player hogging the ball in soccer as a teammate and a coach!
Improve Your Positioning
Before we start pointing fingers at other players, introspect your position in the game. Are you open for a pass, or are you in a comfortable position for the ball hog to see you on the pitch?
Because if not, the blame doesn’t go entirely to the player sticking the ball to his feet!
Make adjacent runs along with such a player so that you’re visible to him in the game. The more quickly he can point you out near him, the more likely he will pass the ball to you.
Move around the defenders and distance yourself from your opponents, so you’re in an open position for a pass. If a ball hog runs into a dead-end on the pitch, he’ll look out for players that can open up the spaces.
And if you happen to be vacant, you’re probably getting the ball!
But if you’re surrounded by defenders every time such a player looks up, he’ll likely try to get out of the situation by himself rather than risking a pass to you.
The key is to make it easier for a player to make passes and not the opposite.
The advantage of this strategy is that it helps a player overcome hogging the ball as a team. It presents new and open opportunities for a player to play alongside his teammates.
However, the downside is that it may be utterly useless if the ball hog barely looks up, which is the case most of the time. And that brings us to our next tryout!
Call Out for Passes
Communication is crucial in soccer matches and team play!
You need to be aware of the game scenario as a team and following the same strategy as everyone else. It also means calling out for passes and strategizing runs with a teammate when the ball is out of play.
Because a big reason for you not getting the ball is that maybe you’re not asking for it!
Although a talented player keeps a sketch of his team and knows who to pass the ball to without looking up, not all soccer players can do the same, especially non-professional players.
If you’re silently moving up and down the pitch and making hand gestures behind the defenders hoping for your teammate to spot you miraculously, then I think you already know where the problem lies.
So, drop the silent spy act on the pitch and be more vocal. If you’re in an open spot and are clear for a pass, call out!
A soccer game is too intense for every player to keep track of their teammates on the pitch. But that can be overcome with communication and calling out frequently.
The upside for using this method to deal with a ball hog is that you encourage him to look around when in possession. It forces the ball hog to look out for you and realize that you might be in a better position to take the game forward.
On the contrary, it can give up your position and make it easier for the defenders to mark you. Losing your marker is essential to get passes in soccer, and calling out frequently just makes the defender’s job easier.
This is a rather unorthodox thing to try with a ball hog, but it does work sometimes!
I know that most people would instead not pass the ball to such a player, which we shall come to later in the article. But if you make a player feel more like a part of the team, he’s likely to respond in the same way.
If it’s a skilled player that’s hogging the ball, it might even be a good idea to pass the ball to him in the final third as he’ll be more driven to get past the defense and score.
You can also try the infamous one-two passing with such a player as he’s bound to return the ball on the first touch. This will build good chemistry between players and avoid either of them sticking to the ball for longer than they need to.
An excellent example of this is Barcelona’s tiki-taka. The team’s playing strategy is planned in a way that players are encouraged to pass the ball at the first touch.
Though they have players like Messi, Neymar, and Suarez, who can handle some defensive lines on their own, they still end up passing the ball and playing the entire team because of the general strategy.
If you’re passing the ball back to a ball hog, you’re implying that you expect him to do the same later. This hugely benefits your team’s chemistry and brings such a player closer with other teammates.
But the flipside to this is that he might just continue clinging to the ball and ruin the game even further. So, you have to be careful about trying this in important matches.
Avoid Passing the Ball to a Ball Hog
And we finally arrive at the most predictable and common way of dealing with a ball hog. Don’t pass him the ball at all!
When a player clings to the ball and doesn’t drive results either, he’s only holding the team back. It translates into fewer chances created for scoring a goal.
And it might even give the opposing team an upper hand if they’re smart about double-teaming such a player. Fewer chances for your side and more for the opposing team is a recipe for disaster.
The only way some players might see a solution is to exclude a ball hog from the team’s passing game. If you don’t pass the ball to such a player at all, he won’t have the chance to hold on to it.
And sometimes, there really doesn’t seem to be any other way around it!
However, doing so will let the other players on your team, including yourself, get more time with the ball. Still, it also puts you at an immediate disadvantage.
Since you’re not passing the ball to a player, you’re playing with a man-down on the other team. And that is a decisive disadvantage on the exhaustive field of soccer!
Moreover, it may even build a grudge as the ball hog will intentionally do the same for when he does get the ball somehow. Your team will be disorganized and at a battle with itself.
There is an advantage that maybe the remaining players of the team can make something better of the match.
But the risks and cons of doing so severely outweigh its benefits. You’re left with fewer players to play and move up the pitch and even risk havoc on the field.
We are now strictly stepping into the domain of coaches and managers.
A coach gets the most transparent view of what’s happening on the pitch. He can see who is clinging to the ball and what might be the reason for it.
Nothing else will make a coach happier if the ball hog is tearing down the other team’s defense and slamming goals. That’s probably the only time when a ball hog is justified, according to a coach.
But if a player fails to do so, a manager might have a rather strict response than the teammates of such a player. He has the veto to bench a player, which he definitely will!
However, as I highlighted earlier, ball hogging may not always be the player’s fault for doing it.
If the rest of the team is not positioning themselves and calling out as they should, the manager might deal with it with a lenient hand and instead, pep talk the team into being more involved.
But if that isn’t so, which it usually isn’t, the bench really is the last option!
It is much better than not passing the ball to a player at all and playing at a disadvantage. Benching a ball hog gives you room to sub another competitive player who’ll have a positive impact.
And it also works as a lesson for the ball hog to try things differently the next time. Because if he repeats the same pattern, he might have to get used to the bench and lose his place in the team.
The drawback is that you might not always have another player to substitute a ball hog. You might end up playing a defender in an attacking position, which kills the purpose of the move entirely.
Come Up with a New Tactic
As I mentioned already, ball hogs don’t always have a negative impact during a soccer match. If the player is skillful and knows what he’s doing, a manager can plan his team’s strategy to favor him.
The best way to do that is to make the passive players of your team create space for the ball hog. It can happen through encouraging the one-two passes followed by a quick run by the ball hog.
Or when the other players stretch out the defense to make clear lines of sprints for the ball hog. A glaring example of such a strategy was Ryan Giggs’ monumental run against Arsenal in the 1999 FA cup semi-final.
Giggs notoriously flew past the gunners like a fish through the water while his teammates made way for him by occupying a defender each.
Other than Robben, Neymar and Hazard are considered prominent ball hogs in soccer. And if you look closely at their team tactics, they passively position themselves to create more space for these players.
When executed correctly, such tactics backfire when your opponents might be thinking of double-teaming on your ball hog.
Using the remaining players of your team to aid a ball hog in soccer draws its inspiration from football.
In football, the team pushes their opponents out of the way for the running back to complete his sprint and make sure there is enough space for him to pass through.
This way, you can make your biggest weakness your biggest strength. After all, soccer is all about team play, one way or another!
Ball hogs in soccer are frustrating for teammates. They claim the entire field for themselves and nullify the effect of the team as a whole.
Playing such a player on your team is not the best way to bag wins. And eventually, you’ll have to deal with it in mainly two ways.
You either encourage the player to pass the ball more often and work on his development as a team. Or, you exclude him from the squad and save yourself the headache during a fixture.
The team and coach have a pivotal role to play in transforming a ball hog into a team player. And while that may take some grinding and effort, the result can be an exceptionally talented player in most cases.
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!