To be able to score in soccer, you need to have the ball in possession. Winning the ball back from your opponent is incredibly important.
Keep reading to find out what exactly makes a ball winner & how you could improve your success rate when it comes to winning 50-50 challenges in soccer.
Winning Loose Balls & 50/50 challenges is mostly mental
Analysing a 50/50 – Stack the odds in your favour
A player that focuses on his opponent has an increased chance of committing a foul. Watching your opponent will make it seem as if you're trying to hurt him and it will also distract you from the challenge.
Brace yourself – As you compete in more challenges you'll learn what works for you. That being said, bracing yourself can mean many different things.
If you're running shoulder to shoulder with your opponent, you'll most likely want to tense up and lower your centre of gravity to maintain your balance and win a shoulder barge. Shorter players have a lower centre of gravity & normally have a better power to weight ratio.
Head To Head challenges are a little more difficult. There's no way to brace yourself for these, some players will try to toe poke the ball, others will commit to a powerful swinging kick that may break their own ankle. If you get to the ball first, there will be 0 injuries. If you're equal to the ball, there's a significant chance you end up like this.
Whatever you do, don't have a dangling foot which is too far away from the ball. Doing this will significantly increase the chances of you getting an ankle injury. This could be anything from a slight ankle pain to a horrific snap. Instead lock your foot and follow through with momentum. This will increase your chances of winning the ball and minimise injury potential
Going to ground – This is incredibly risky. Sliding in will run the risk of significantly injuring yourself, your opponent and will increase the chances of getting red carded. If you get this right, you'll be the first to the ball and you'll win the challenge. Get it wrong and you may end up on a horror tackle compilation like this:
Making challenges while yellow carded
If you're the main ball winner in midfield or are an aggressive Centreback you'll need to talk to your manager. Does he trust you and want you to continue going in for 50/50's or only favourable challenges? Does he need to substitute you for a fresh player? One slightly mistimed tackle and you could be sent packing.
How-To Train players to win 50/50's and Loose Balls
I find that players get enough 50/50's in training matches and official matches and they'll be a lot more beneficial as they're represent a proper competitive challenge. You don't necessarily need to train the challenges, rather train the mentality.
How to instil the ball winning mentality
Give/Take responsibility - It's a players responsibility to pick up their opposing player, put him under immense pressure and scare him into making mistakes. If you're a coach, tell your players not to be scared to rough the opponent up as long as it's within the rules of the game. Make it sound as if they're going to war and each player needs to win their individual battles.
When a coach is praising him for his play, it will become even more obvious. It's infectious. Players will strive to be like him, they'll instantly be motivated to go into challenges they may not have done before. With a couple of successful challenges in the bag, these players will become even more confident.
Players should take part in a harder, more contact sport - You may think this will make your players more injury prone but you'll be surprised at how well the body adjusts. I performed at my best when I played rugby & football and was training every day. The aggression and hard hitting I learned from rugby transferred over to football and I was winning 50/50's for fun. Never too scared to back out of a challenge.
Not everyone needs to be a ball winner
While it's great for every player to have an element of aggression and physicality to their game it's not mandatory. There's many different ways to play soccer which allows for many different playing styles in each position. Ideally you'd have at least 1 ball winning midfielder to martial the midfield.
If you're a player that's looking to add a more physical side to their game or just improve your work ethic overall it's great that you've noticed this and are taking responsibility. You'll need to be mentally strong to play to your highest possible level.
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