The half-volley is a somewhat neglected skill when it comes to soccer practices. This is mainly because while it comes easily to some players, many youngsters find it difficult to understand and even more demanding to master. Usually coaches ignore teaching it in their soccer coaching drills and simply let those that can do it use it in games.
The reason for the high level of difficulty of the half-volley is twofold.
1) First, the timing. A half-volley is when the foot makes contact with the ball as it hits the ground. Actually, the foot makes contact at the tiniest fraction of a second after it hits the ground. It must be exact to be effective.
2) Second, the problem of contact. This applies only to the half-volley when it’s used for power, nearly always for a shot but sometimes for a long pass. The foot needs to be kept pointing down to keep the ball low, and so the contact area is a small ‘arched’ area of the instep round the laces. The contact must therefore be as precise as the timing.
There are young players that seemingly can just perform half volleys and others have to work at it. It can be a useful skill and a great weapon in a game. In a game when split seconds matter, a volley shot can be taken immediately rather than waiting a second or two before trapping and then bringing the ball to the feet for a shot.
Mastering the half-volley comes down mainly to a matter of experience. Determined practice and soccer drills will create the timing and the touch that will build the confidence to apply the skill in games without a second thought.
There are two main types of half volley, the shot and the lay-off. Both are normally first-time reactions to a situation where it’s the only technique able to produce the desired effect in the time available, but both can also be the second or even third touch after control.
1) First, the shot. The action involved in the half-volley is capable of generating great force (perhaps more than any other shooting technique), but accuracy must take priority. If the approach is controlled and the contact good the result will almost always be a strong shot.
As for soccer drills to teach the complicated half-volley, try tossing balls or bouncing balls to players lined up at the 18 yard line and they each should make an attempt in turn. The most important thing to remember is to keep the toes down. The rest, which includes watching the ball carefully, head down if possible and arms out for balance are simply the other basic principles of shooting. But with the half-volley the ball is actually rising as it’s striked, so the ankle must be extended as it is hit through or above the mid-line of the ball to ensure the ball stays down.
2) Second, the lay-off. The half-volley lay-off can be an extremely impressive first-time ball as well as another method of passing over short distances.
Understanding and mastering the half-volley is not merely a matter of shooting and passing, either. A player who grasps the knack can extend the range of his controlling and turning techniques, with both sides of his feet.