Win 50-50 challenges in soccer

How-to win 50-50 Challenges in Soccer

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

Especially at a younger age. It can be intimidating when you're running towards the ball and a 6ft 5in opponent is running alongside you ready to body check you into tomorrow. A lot of people don't have the determination or bravery to challenge them, let alone make a competitive attempt at winning the ball. It's understandable as it seems like the smaller player would come off a lot worse in a 50/50 scenario. If both players commit 100% to the challenge it is likely that the smaller player will lose it, yet people very rarely commit 100%.
Players that win more challenges than they lose are confident, determined, aggressive, courageous and smart. There is very little technical ability need to win a loose ball, just a full blooded, strong challenge. If you don't already have these attributes, they can be taught.

Analysing a 50/50 – Stack the odds in your favour

While they're called 50/50 challenges, in every challenge one player will always have the upper hand no matter how slight. There is things you can do to increase your chances of winning each challenge no matter how big your opponent is.

Diverse Soccer Info has made a great infographic that will stack the odds in your favour. 

Keep your eye on the ball at all times Doing this shows the referee that your only intent is to play the ball.
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

Depending on your role in the team, you may still need to make a lot of challenges when you're 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.
At the end of the day you don't want to be red carded as that will lead to you missing matches. You should listen to your managers game plan though. If he still wants you to go full blooded into tackles then so be it.

How-To Train players to win 50/50's and Loose Balls

I like to train players in a drill where they're running shoulder to shoulder. It will allow for players to get used to battling and they'll not out-sprint their opponent.
This can be done by setting 2 gates up equal distance from each other and playing the ball down the middle, players will have to run on to the ball and fight shoulder to shoulder. If there's significant speed differences between the players, try incorporating handicaps.
I'm not a fan of training head to head challenges as this increases the risk of players picking up injuries in training and they can be very serious. If you really want to teach your players how to win a head to head challenge I would suggest this drill. Just be aware of the increased risk
Not only will players learn to be confident in their tackling and become braver, they'll also improve their reactions.

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

The attribrutes that a ball winner needs to be successful comes naturally to many people. They can also disappear over time. Someone may be a ball winner at age 13 because they're considerably bigger than their oppositions and that allows them to be more confident in challenges only for him to become scared as he gets older.
Unfortunately kids these days, boys especially are told not to be so rough and boysterous. They're told aggression is bad and this translates onto a soccer pitch too.
How can you encourage this type of behaviour? For starters you can be rough and aggressive in your coaching style. If you're training children, be careful not to go overboard as this could lead to negative results.

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.

Praise Hard Tackles / Hard Work & Players with determination - When there's a player who's committing 100% to every tackle, working insanely hard and are trying to win every header & loose ball, other players will see this.
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.
Be careful not to allow yourself or your players to get too carried away though. Less disciplined and younger players can often lose their heads and may end up jumping into silly tackles they'd never win.

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

Players with poor mentalities can be a burden to their teammates so it's important that they improve on it.

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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