Changing of Direction


Changing of Direction

By Posted In Soccer Ball Control Skills, Soccer Skills 


What is the change of direction in football?

As usual we start with elaborating on terminology in order to get a clear understanding.

Agility vs. Change of direction

From a sport science perspective there seems to be a debate about the definition of agility – see references below and somehow for change of direction (COD) as well. “Quickness” and “cutting” are words that were also to be found in the literature with regard to agility and change of direction. Therefore we feel we need to define the two terms first before we go into testing.

The difference between the two was seen that change of direction (pre-planned and therefore a close-skill) was thought to be part of agility. Agility itself on the other hand incorporates perceptual and decision-making processes and can be seen as a response to a stimulus and therefore as an open skill (and not pre-planned).

Why is that important?

Depending on the goal, testing and training (for agility) needs to incorporate the two mentioned things (perception and decision-making), or not (for COD).

Change of direction: elaborated on the qualities of change of direction.

The factors were: Technique, Straight sprinting speed, Leg muscle qualities (reactive strength, concentric strength and power, left-right muscle imbalances)

Anthropometry – only small body of research investigated the connection between anthropometry and COD, however it seems logical that players with higher lean leg muscle mass are more likely to be faster than players with higher amount of fat.

As it can be observed at least the first three components are very important and trainable and therefore important to test.

Technique – we feel that technique (foot planting during cutting, low center of gravity etc.) is important; however the testing is rather complicated, most of the time based on qualitative methods and therefore somewhat hard to accomplish.

Straight line sprinting speed – sprinting is always needed in football. Although it was mentioned that COD and straight line speed seemed to be distinct qualities (5, 18), we feel that straight sprinting speed will affect COD performance.

Leg muscle qualities – might build the foundation of COD performance (and also injury prevention. It would be expected that a player with good concentric strength and power can apply more force to the ground with each leg, accelerate faster and as a result is quicker.

Anthropometry – should be tested anyway with regard to weight and body fat. It seems logical that with high percentage of lean leg muscle, COD should be better compared to lower percentage of lean leg muscle. However, there is no great deal of literature with regard to anthropometry and its effect on COD


Quick changes of direction will allow you to elude defenders when in possession of the soccer ball. Constant unpredictable movement and effective dribbling techniques will leave your opposition dreading the day they have to defend you again. If you are serious about becoming a better soccer player, you will have to be committed to developing the ability to change direction quickly and smoothly with the soccer ball. The quicker is the better.

Dribbling can be a very useful technique in the game of Soccer when executed properly. It is an effective means of keeping possession of the ball, surpassing the opposition, and creating scoring chances. At a lower level of competition, players may have some success simply running in a straight line with the soccer ball. But as the level of competition rises, players will quickly realize their dribbling techniques will have to get better if they want to continue to be successful.

Sudden changes of direction will make you unpredictable, hard to defend, allow you to beat defenders, and create space for yourself. Changing direction also allows you to change your options, find new openings, and keep the play moving. Never stop moving when you have the ball! If you find yourself in a situation with no reasonable options, change your direction, and find new opportunities to exploit.

Dribbling Tip 1: acceleration.

A change of direction is relatively useless if it is not followed by a quick acceleration in a different direction. Changing direction is used to create space for yourself when you have the soccer ball. If you fail to move away from your current position with a burst of speed, you will make defending easy for your opposition and eliminate possible openings for yourself and teammates. Focus on accelerating into new space with the ball after a quick change of direction.

There are many different dribbling techniques that can be used to change direction. As you gain experience you will realize which techniques work best for you and which techniques to use in certain situations. Whichever technique you choose to use, remember to focus on keeping your body between the ball and the defender.

Dribbling Tip 2: Body between the ball.

To ensure your changes of direction will be successful, concentrate on always keeping your body between the defender and the soccer ball whenever possible. If you show the defender too much of the ball, he/she won’t hesitate to steal possession of the soccer ball. By placing your body between the ball and the defender you will either force the opposition to lunge out of position in attempt to get the soccer  ball (at this point you can take advantage of their undisciplined defending by beating them one on one) or foul you (giving possession of the ball to your team, hopefully in a dangerous area).

Watch professional soccer players when they dribble the ball. They rarely move in a straight line. Quick changes of direction will allow you to evade the opposition as tackles. Never stop moving when you have the ball at your feet.

As with any other soccer skill, it is important that you are comfortable using both feet. This will allow you to do exactly what you want and go where you wish with the soccer ball. Being able to do so will make life very difficult for your defending opposition.

Keep changing direction. When you let the ball come to a standstill, or simply dribble in a straight line you become predictable and easy to defend. Implement these tips and advice into your game and you are on your way to becoming a better dribbler and a better soccer player. Keep changing direction.

In conclusion, For effective change of direction, you have to keep on your balance and rhythm with dribbling first. At the same time, you can efficiently perform the change of direction with agility on a defender.   


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