The most important skill for wide receivers, besides confidence, is knowing how to catch a soccer ball. Make no mistake, catching a soccer ball is not as easy as it sounds. If it were, there would be less defensive running backs in the world of soccer, believe me.
Imagine, Michael Vick throws a bullet pass at you from a few feet away; Something “simple” suddenly becomes a little more challenging and requires a broad approach. If your goal is to be an electrifying wide receiver with the ability to hook any ball in midair when commanded, here are the fundamentals to catching a soccer ball that you must first learn:
- Hand-eye coordination
- Hand strength
- Placement of one’s own hand
- Put the ball in and protect it
Hand-eye coordination it is the foundation for learning to catch a soccer ball and is simply the coordinated control of eye movement with hand movement and the processing of visual information to guide reach and grip. In this case, we are working on hand-eye coordination to successfully reach and catch a soccer ball. The better a wide receiver is at looking at the ball with hand-eye coordination, the better his chances of catching a ball that is thrown at him.
Improving hand-eye coordination is not a complex task to conquer, but it does require extensive focus which is the second key component to catching soccer balls. As we look back at the example of the bullet pass Michael Vick threw at you from a few feet, you need to consider how the focus will allow you to control your body and mind to focus on the soccer ball and see it in your hands. Your goal as a top wide receiver is to focus and fix your eyes on the ball, take a deep breath and see the ball in your hands. This step should be a constant with every ball thrown at him. Note that you do not want to attack football. You want to absorb the ball in your hands and away from your body followed by a strong squeeze, which brings me to the next important aspect of wide receivers’ ability to catch a ball; hand strength.
In organized soccer, the speed of the ball is much more intense than it would be when you play catch with your friends. In addition, the defenses are much more aggressive. To compensate for this, you need strong hands. This can be the difference between catching a soccer ball to make an important finish and not. You won’t always be wide open on a route and rarely will a ball be thrown at you at half speed, so be prepared to squeeze the ball after any and all passes you catch. This will increase your stats and prevent big drops when a defender hits you or hits your arms and hands after a catch.
Placement of one’s own hand is another important factor in knowing how to catch a soccer ball. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest aspects to adapt due to the natural positioning of the limbs. When a soccer ball is thrown directly at you at or above your chest, you want to form a diamond with your hands. When a ball is thrown directly at you anywhere below your chest, you should place your hands with your thumbs up and your fingers at a low angle toward the ground. Another important hand positioning for a wide receiver where you’ll be making big game-changing catches is when you’re catching the ball deep.
You will definitely want to incorporate all aspects of how to catch a soccer ball when the deep ball is thrown. When a deep ball is thrown over your shoulders, you should place your hands with your fingers wide open and the tips of your little fingers overlapping. For a better grip on the ball when catching, try catching the end of the ball before the laces. This type of catch requires strong hands, concentration, and proper hand positioning even more. Big plays equate to great concentration.
The final key to successfully catching a soccer ball is put the ball in and protect it. Once you have completed the steps mentioned above, the final step is to roll up the soccer ball and protect it. You don’t want to take all the right steps and forget about this one. This step is the difference between a thirty-yard gain and a fumble. So ALWAYS, always, always, put away and protect the soccer ball after every catch.
To start improving your soccer catching skill, here are a couple of good exercises for hand-eye coordination and hand strength. Once you’ve mastered all of the key components listed above, you’re sure to be on your way to becoming a top wide receiver.
Tennis ball exercise for hand-eye coordination:
With a tennis ball, you can do several wide receiver exercises to improve hand-eye coordination as a wide receiver. This is a great exercise that has helped me improve hand-eye coordination substantially.
For beginners, lightly bounce the ball on the ground. As the ball bounces, look at the ball at your hands and squeeze it. Make sure to focus on the ball from its descent until it rises into your hands. Be sure to practice this exercise with both hands. Once you have mastered this drill, increase the difficulty level by bouncing the ball harder and at different angles. Also, try throwing the ball from a wall, challenging yourself to catch the ball at different points in the air and before it hits the ground while concentrating on the ball from the moment it is thrown to your hands. After successfully mastering this drill alone, I’m sure you will have more than 80% of what it takes to know how to catch a soccer ball.
Tennis ball drill to strengthen the hand:
The Tennis Ball Squeeze: With a tennis ball, simply squeeze and hold for up to 90 seconds. Train both hands with three sets each. This move largely targets the forearms. This exercise is important because after catching a soccer ball you will squeeze it so that it does not slip away.