Even though you might only know punting as a term in American football, it is also a skill used in soccer. A punt is kicking the ball in the air as it is dropped or thrown from your hands. That means that only one position on the field can perform this skill—the goalkeeper. We’ll walk you through the step by step process for how to punt a soccer ball.
Why Punting in Soccer?
Punts are a necessary part of soccer, as the goalkeeper has this opportunity each and every time they catch or receive the ball with their hands. Depending on the style of defense your team plays, and the style of offense the opposing team is playing, this could happen quite a bit.
Controlling your punt for pinpoint accuracy is a skillset that is increasingly difficult to find. Nowadays, partly because keepers don’t have very good control on their punts, teams are starting to play out of the back. This is initiated by the goalkeeper rolling or passing the ball to a teammate nearby, rather than punting it.
A goalkeeper who knows how to punt a soccer ball well, put it where he or she wants to, and can do so with accuracy is a valuable resource.
If you are a keeper and want to work on getting your punts farther and higher, you’ll need to practice—a lot. However, practice is worthless without direction. If you are looking to learn the basics, let’s start with the fundamentals.
The Rules of a Soccer Punt
Before you learn how to run you have to know how to walk. If you’re a keeper and punting it back down the field, you should know the rules behind punting the ball:
A punt can only take place by a goalkeeper inside their 18 yard box. The ball cannot be carried outside of the box to make a punt, even if the ball was caught inside the box.
When the goalkeeper has the ball in their hands, they can only keep it for six seconds.
While he or she has the ball, the other players cannot try and take the ball away from them.
The field players also may not interfere with the play. Impingement of this rule will result in a free kick and possibly a yellow or red card.
Another rule is that the ball is no longer in possession of the keeper as soon as the ball hits the ground. This means that if you are doing a drop-kick punt (letting it hit the ground before you kick it), it’ll then be back in play. Be aware of any players in your vicinity because once it touches the ground, it’s fair-play.
In youth soccer, a goalkeeper cannot punt the ball from her or his penalty area into the opposing goalkeeper’s penalty area. There have been some other rule adjustments in recent years to promote fair play, child safety, and an increase number of kids touching the ball.
However, adults can punt the ball as far as they like.
How to Punt a Soccer Ball
To get you started, here are the basics of the foundation of a punt. The punt encases the entire step-by-step process from the ball leaving your hand to the point that your foot makes contact with the ball.
This process is a lot to take in at first. However, working on that fluid motion will help you kick your punts high, far, and purposeful.
To perform a punt, first, start out with the ball at your waist. You’ll need to have adequate time for your leg to wind up, but you don’t want to put the ball too high, as the drop will create more inaccuracies.
Take several steps leading up to the punt so that you build momentum. This will help your kick generate more power, allowing it to travel further and higher.
Use your non-kicking foot to plant, push off, and generate energy which will go into the kick.
While planting, arc your kicking leg back to begin the kick. This is known as the back swing, and typically speaking, the further back you wind your leg, the more power you’ll be able to generate.
Aim your punting leg in the direction of where you are about to throw the ball.
Drop the ball from your waist height towards where your kicking leg will intersect it. This is not a toss, but more of a controlled drop of the ball.
Once the ball is in the air, you can strike it in one of two ways: a) Let it drop to the ground and hit it when it’s coming down after the bounce. Or… b) Make contact as it’s making its way down the first time. (more common)
Strike the ball with your cleat laces and point your toe. Keeping your ankle locked as you strike through the ball.
Follow through with your foot in the direction you want the ball to go.
Better Soccer Punting Tips
To some degree, you can’t replace practice when it comes to punting. It is not easy to do at first, and the more you practice, the better you will get. Here are some tips to get better at soccer punting.
Practice Makes Perfect
Just like with a skill in any sport, you should practice and train the fundamentals so you can make improvements on your own. Perfect punting takes a lot of practice.
Every keeper will have their own style and they might have to figure it out on their own. A way to practice punting is punting the ball directly into the net. That way, you don’t have to waste time chasing the ball around.
The Higher, The Better
The goal here is to make contact with that sweet spot on your foot. Generally speaking, the higher the area is on your foot where the ball makes contact, the higher the ball will travel.
Find the perfect distance because higher is not always better. Although you’ll want topspin, kicking the ball too high will just get you height and not distance. If you start too low, it won’t make it past their first line of offense without an interception. Regardless of the method you choose, coming prepared with high quality soccer shoes for kicking will ensure an even better punt as it guards your feet with the right amount of protection.
Make a Ritual
A ritual can help get you into the rhythm and tap into your muscle memory. Punting is such a precise skill that takes a whole lot of concentration. Depending on your unique style, the ritual will look different from player to player.
One goalkeeper might bounce the ball a certain number of times or one might tap their toe behind them before they walk up for the punt. These non-thinking movements will help your body transition into its muscle memory and help you perform a perfect punt, every time.
Same Side Punting
Keep everything on the same side and don’t make it more complicated than it has to be. If you are a left-footed keeper, drop the ball with your left hand. You will then approach the ball straight on with your shoulders square. Your punt should easily go in the direction you want it to go.
Relax and Easy
It’s okay to be nervous. During the game, you’ll have time as your team sets themselves up to prepare for the kick to be able to prepare yourself for the punt. Sometimes, however, your team will want you to quickly counter in the other direction.
Either way—try not to rush into your routine. If you have the time, use all six of your seconds. A delayed but well-performed punt will reap much more benefit than a rushed, poorly executed punt, and that’s something you can learn from the best players in the game.
Tactical and Strategic Uses of the Soccer Punt
Quick Punt to Spur the Counter
Often times, when an opposing team is attacking your team, they will be throwing a large number of their players forward. In an effort to move the ball around and find space, their players can be all over the final third of the pitch, which leaves them out of position for a quick counter by your team.
When you receive the ball as a goalkeeper in this situation, you can quickly punt the ball up the field towards one of your strikers. Often, they will be given the ball in a 1-on-1 situation, or perhaps a counter strike where your team has numbers and an advantage.
Counters can allow a team that has been forced to absorb pressure all game to quickly strike and find a way to score (without having to build up possession). Your striker can make a run at the goal with few players standing in his or her way.
In turn, counters can also be used by teams that have held possession for most of the game. In these situations, often times the team with less possession will throw numbers forward when they see a scoring chance, which leaves them vulnerable for the quick fast break.
In the 2017/2018 Premier League season, Leister scored 7 goals on the counter, which accounted for almost 13% of their total goals scored during the season.
Speed is vital for this type of punt, as you want to get the ball out quickly before the opposing team can recover. If you can get the ball off your foot fast, you’ll allow your attacking position players to have a good chance at scoring.
Use Open Space for Deep Runs
You can also punt the soccer ball into open space, which is an area of the soccer field that isn’t occupied by anyone. This allows your athletic teammates to run onto the ball with momentum and space.
This could turn into a counterattack, or create a mismatch on one side of the pitch. It can also be a great opportunity to create overlapping runs by other teammates, or even a drop back pass with an open shot on goal.
You’ll want to have really good accuracy for this strategic punt. It might be best to do a low, direct punt, or you might want to go for a high, looping kick. Either way, you need to have developed the accuracy to put the ball into the open space.
Clearing Out to Give Your Team a Break
If your team has been absorbing a lot of opposition pressure, or hasn’t had much of the possession all game, then they might be pretty tired. As such, your strikers might not be ready to make their traditional fast-paced sprint towards goal, as they have helping out in defense a lot more.
In this case, sometimes it’s best to kick a long, high punt far into the opposition’s side of the field. While you are basically giving the other team possession back, you are also giving your team a small period of time to rest.
Strategically speaking, this obviously isn’t going to get you any closer to scoring. However, if the facts are that your team is too tired to make these runs, then clearing the ball out might be the best scenario.
Don’t Punt – Throw or Roll the Ball Instead
Sometimes punting the ball isn’t the best scenario. As we mentioned before, sometimes coaches prefer a strategy of playing out of the back, which involves stringing high possession passes together to work the ball up the field.
It is true – a soccer punt sent into a field of players typically results in the opposing team regaining possession. If you can’t take advantage of a fast break or putting the ball into open space, it might be best to simply roll the ball to an open central midfielder or defender.
First and foremost, learn the punting basics. Once you’ve developed a foundation, you can find your punting style. Practice it over and over again until your ritual is written in your muscle memory.
Once you cover all of those steps, you can then tweak your punting to make it perfect. It doesn’t matter if you started playing goalkeeper last month or ten years ago. There is always something you can find in your punts to improve upon. You can always kick them stronger, further or higher.
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