Five Important Skills Needed to Play Soccer

African woman kneeing soccer ball

Effective ball handling makes you a better soccer player. But that's a broad brushstroke of the skills necessary to excel at soccer. You must be able to capture the ball when it gets close to you and send it in the right direction when necessary. This takes several skills using different parts of your body -- not just your feet.

Fancy Footwork

Controlling the ball with your feet is essential during soccer play. Dribbling is more than keeping control of the ball as you run toward the goal. You must be able to execute fast starts and stops, as well as quick directional changes without the ball leaving the area near your feet. Juggling can help. To juggle, kick the ball with the top of your instep so that it creates a backspin on the ball -- this turns the ball back toward you while getting it out of the way of an opponent. A short juggle gets it over an opponent's feet, while a high juggle can toss it over his head without giving him the chance to steal it away.

Play Nice and Take Turns

Because you aren't the only player on your team, you must learn to play well with others. That means passing the ball when you can't get past your opponents and paying attention to your teammates who might be passing the ball to you. Effective passing requires you to be able to shoot the ball straight in every direction, often when looking out of the corner of your eye; this keeps your opponents from knowing where the ball is going. Receiving the ball means watching the ball at all times and being ready to take control of it before your opponents can. With ground passes, that means catching it with your feet, but air passes mean using other parts of your body -- everything except your hands.

He Shoots, He Scores!

Shooting into the goal takes slightly different skills than passing, although they both require the ability to shoot straight. Timing is key when attempting to score; you must watch the goalkeeper and find just the right time to get the ball past him. He can catch the ball with his hands, so master ground shoots as well as air shoots. Instead of straight-on shots, practice coming in from the side with a sharp-angle shot, which can be more difficult for the goalie to catch.

Using Your Head

Heading the ball is important in soccer. You can't use your hands, but your can stop high balls with your head and send them toward the goal or your teammates to keep the ball in play. This doesn't have to hurt; hit the ball with the top of your head near your hairline for accuracy without pain. Heading can be especially effective when it's time to score, as the teammate the goalie is focused on suddenly high passes the ball to you so you can head it in before the goalie has time to readjust.

Setting the Trap

Trapping the ball means gaining control of it by stopping its forward motion. This is often done with your feet, as you stop a pass from the opposing team or from one of your teammates. However, you also can trap balls with your knees, thighs and chest. With your foot, this means stepping on top of the ball or tipping your ankle upward to block the ball with the top of your foot. To stop it with your knee or thigh, get under the ball and bounce it straight upward, giving you control of it. With your chest, arch your back a bit to create a softer landing surface for the ball. That way it won't just bounce off your chest, and you have a chance to guide it to the ground at your feet instead.