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An Exchange of ‘Striking’ Proportion

by  Don Williams

Hi Koach Karl,

    I thought your readers would enjoy this email conversation that I have been having with the father of a little girl that I have been giving lessons to. As you will see from the original question he asked me, he expected her to have one lesson on “how to strike a ball properly” and then to go out and do it perfectly, or at least be able to, as I call it, “self coach” herself into being better.

    Enjoy, and we have his permission to use this conversation for educational purposes. I just told him that we would omit or change the names of him and his daughter to stave off any embarrassment.


Player had games on both Saturday (indoor) and Sunday (outdoor) and we did a bit of kicking on the turf yesterday.  I can certainly see where additional sessions and a whole lot of repetition is required as I saw some inconsistent kicking.  I remember you mentioning that Player should start to be able to know how to adjust her mechanics based on “ball flight”.

When a ball went high or had a great deal of backspin – I asked her what she had done “wrong”.  She told me “yeah, yeah I got it” – but I sensed that maybe she had forgotten the “keys”.

Can you give me some of the keys for “high balls” or “back spinning balls” so that I can refresh her memory?  I saw some definite improvement in consistency and power after Session-2, but some backsliding a bit after Session-3.  Believe me, I do realize that with some good mechanics training – you need a whole lot of repetition.




Hi Dad,

I’m not sure what to tell you.  There are various reasons why balls do what they do. Some are:

– Plant foot, is it too far back or too far fwd?

– Does the ankle not lock out long enough during or after the strike?

– Is the last step as the plant foot comes down too short?

– Is the kicking foot not coming back far enough?

– Is the body not lifting after the follow through?

– Is the body shape during the strike proper?

The problem is, is that for example a ball that goes over the bar can be caused by 2 or 3 of these items if not a combination of them. Self coaching, which is what I was just beginning to teach Player  will take a long, long, long time for her to fully grasp.

Striking a soccer ball has been compared to a golf swing and me trying to say what is causing a specific spin on the ball without seeing the strike is like me going to a golf instructor and saying that I slice the ball, now without ever seeing me hit the ball, can you tell me why.

Any skill in life, whether it is striking a golf ball, bowling, hitting a baseball or any aspect of soccer simply takes getting expert instruction and then repeating the tasks properly thousands and thousands of times.

What will happen with Player is that she will continually take 2 steps forward and then one step back. Some days she will look like she has never hit a ball in her life and other days she will look like a world beater.

The reason this happens with children has to do with mental and physical development as well as with human brain function with regards to learning capabilities. I see kids that have excellent cognitive learning abilities but then go through a growth spurt for as long as a year or so and they cannot do what their brain tells them to do. My job is to recognize WHY something happens, or goes wrong and address that issue in preparing the player for the LONG haul.

If Player stays with me for the long haul, I will have her prepared to play not only in HS but at the University level. Training takes expert training, lots of hard work from the player and lots and lots of patients from the parents as well as the player.

Our next few sessions will be at the wall so she can learn how to have fun using the wall and get hundreds, if not thousands of reps in a session and hopefully enjoy it too!! If I cannot make it fun for her, then there is no point, soccer has to be fun. Hopefully the better she gets the more fun she will have learning new skills.

I hope all this helps?




This helped a great deal.  As a golfer – I’m continually amazed at my inability to reach a level of consistency with the swing.  I’m a bit surprised that I didn’t catch on to the fact that the soccer “swing” has a number of variables which can make it as difficult to “groove” as a golf swing.

I have liked where we’ve been so far and am excited about where we are headed.

Thanks for getting back to me Don,


Don Williams

Don Williams is a veteran college coach whose coaching career spans 30 years. He coached at virtually every level in the United States, including a pro stint in the USL, the NCAA, NAIA, and at the Junior College level. Most recently, he coached the men and women at Feather River Junior College in California, where he was able to transfer 92 players for $4,375,000 in scholarships having his players recruited by many distinguished schools such as Penn State, UMass, Florida State, UCLA, Lipscomb, New Mexico State, North Carolina, University of Washington and many more. Before coaching at Feather River, Don spent 12 years coaching at California State University at East Bay. Don has also been the men’s head coach at Ohlone College and the goalkeeper coach for the Bay Area Seals of the USL. There he coached such notables as Jon Conway, who went on to play for the NY Red Bulls, Chicago Fire, and Toronto FC of the MLS. Don also served as the inaugural Director of Coaching for the Northern Nevada State Olympic Development program, where he helped 67 players get invited to the US Regional Event. Don is Head of Operations with Sports Recruiting USA for The Americas, the most successful and connected college placement agency in the world. He has earned his "A" License from the United States Soccer Federation.