Soccer played correctly converts your kicking leg into an instrument akin to a golf club or baseball bat. While your hip and knee flex and extend during a kick or shot, providing power and momentum, the ankle needs to be locked firmly into place. You can easily master this tactic — essential to top players — and apply it to situations other than kicking as well.
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Stand on one leg. Raise your thigh slightly so you can point your toe down as far as possible and so your foot is nearly in a straight line with your lower leg. You essentially contract your calf muscles to achieve this position of the foot. Swing your leg and flex and extend your knee to get a feel of how to move your leg while keeping the foot immobile.
Place a soccer ball on a kicking tee made of a paper cup with the bottom half cut off. Practice the instep drive, the best test of your locked ankle. Run up three steps to the ball at a 45-degree angle and kick the soccer ball through its center for distance. Consciously stiffen your ankle before making contact. Allow your toe to brush the grass, using the added height of the kicking tee to give you confidence that you can keep your ankle firm. Observe whether the ball travels at least 20 yards and if contact yields an impressive thumping sound.
Hold out your locked ankle for inspection by the coach if your kick lacks power. The coach should be unable to move your ankle. Dig your toes into the sole of your cleats to further increase stability of this joint if needed; your goal is to eliminate any wobble.
Practice a running drill to work on locking your ankles. Place a pair of cones 2 yards apart and 10 yards from a target such as a table on its side. Run up to the cones, drop a soccer ball in front of your foot and kick it to hit the target. If the ball sails high, work harder to lock your ankle so the ball travels more horizontally.
Lock your ankle as you practice trapping with your laces and the outside of your foot, advises soccer great Mia Hamm in the book “Go for the Goal.” She notes that she sees too many toes flopping around when she works with young players who need to master locking the ankle to succeed in trapping. Lock your ankle as well when tackling or stripping the ball from a rival using the side of your foot.