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Soccer Skills: The Half Volley (and how to hit a perfect strike)

Soccer Skills: The Half Volley (and how to hit a perfect strike)

Some incredible goals have been scored in the Premier League era since the competition's rebranding in 1992. From long-range screamers like Steven Gerrard's rocket against Manchester United in 2001 to intricate passing moves such as Arsenal's beautiful team goal against Norwich City (finished by Jack Wilshere) a few years ago, we've witnessed some wonderful stuff. And when it comes to crowning the most aesthetically pleasing types of goal around, half-volleys are certainly in the conversation.

But what exactly is a half volley? There's quite a lot of confusion amongst football fans about this soccer skill (and its sister skill, the volley), which is why in this article, we'll be clearing things up and explaining the half volley technique in detail. We'll look at the difference between this skill and a regular volley, we'll examine how difficult it can be to master the half-volley, and we'll give you a step-by-step guide on how to hit a half volley perfectly.

What is a half volley in soccer?

Do you remember Papiss Cisse's incredible strike for Newcastle against Chelsea in 2012? Picking up the ball on the far left hand side, his outside-of-the-boot strike swerved and curved magnificently, stumping goalkeeper Petr coach and rifling into the back of the net to jubilant celebrations — to this day, it remains one of the most brilliant Premier League goals ever scored. And what's more, it remains a perfect example of how to hit the ball on the half volley.

A half volley is a type of strike in which the player kicks the ball immediately after it's hit the ground, when it's just about in mid-air. Crucially, the ball must be close to the ground and on the rise when it is struck. It's a common misconception that it still counts as a half volley when you kick the ball high in mid-air as it drops back down, but that's not the case (and purists will be quick to remind you of the proper technique).

A typical rule of thumb is that if more than half a second passes between the ball's bounce and the strike, it cannot be described as a half volley. Check out Robbie Keane's piledriver for Liverpool against Arsenal in 2008 for a fantastic example of a half volley in action.

It's common for half volleys to be confused with volleys, but there is a key difference between the two types of ball striking. Let's spend some time going through this distinction.

What is a full volley in soccer?

Unlike the half volley, full volleys do not bounce before being struck. With this type of shot, players will make contact with the ball first time, before it has reached the ground. For that reason, it's generally more difficult to strike the ball accurately using the volley technique, but it can also create some absolutely spectacular shots that stick in the memory long after the end of the match.

Kevin De Bruyne's unbelievable goal for Wolfsburg against Lille in the UEFA Europa League in 2014 is one of the best examples of a volley you could come across. And against De Bruyne's current club Manchester City, we recently saw another excellent example of a volleyed shot, with Andros Townsend' strike for Crystal Palace for Crystal Palace back in 2018. Volleys continue to provide us with some of the most stunning goals around.

The benefits of the half volley

Half volleys don't just look good — they're useful for a number of reasons. This type of strike can be a great substitute for a full-on volley when the ball hasn't quite landed correctly for you to be able to hit it before bouncing, or if you simply want to boost your chances of getting your shot on target (allowing the ball to bounce can help increase accuracy).

A lot of the best half volleys you'll see will come from corners and wide crosses, because this type of shot is great for hitting the ball straight on goal when you receive it at an angle. When struck perfectly, the ball's bounce can remove the need for a player to trap and control a ball, which takes time and allows opponents to get into shape and defend the chance. There's also a great opportunity here to develop a level of power that's hard to achieve when striking the ball from the ground.

In a defensive capacity, half volleys (as well as volleys) can be useful for allowing players to clear the ball away from danger. When the ball is bouncing around in risky areas, a half volley can be the perfect skill for surviving a defensive scare. Part of their appeal is that the connection you make with the ball doesn't always have to be as precise and perfectly executed as a long pass from the ground — you don't have to trap the ball or change direction, and whether the contact point on your foot is the side foot or the laces, it doesn't matter as long as you get rid of the ball.

How to hit the perfect half volley

Mastering the half volley can be a difficult task. If you think about the players who have been known to score stunning half volleys at the highest level, these technicians are the cream of the crop, which is a testament to how tricky the perfect shot can be.

At the same time, with enough practice and time dedicated to learning the art of the half volley, anyone can develop the ability to strike the ball in this way. By staying calm and confident and bearing in mind a couple of key points such as keeping your eye on the ball and positioning your body in the right shape, you can make sure that you consistently pull off the type of shot you're looking for.

Here are a few simple steps to make sure you hit the perfect half volley.

#1. Watch the ball closely at all times - It's crucial to remain highly focused and keep your eye on the ball throughout the entire shot-taking process - concentration is the name of the game.

#2. Get your timing right - To hit a good half volley, you need to make contact with the ball just after it has bounced on the ground, as it begins its rise. This will allow you to generate the power and accuracy needed to beat the keeper

#3.  Angle your standing foot - As you lunge in to strike the ball, you need to have your non-striking foot planted on the ground, angled towards the target, to help ensure your strike is accurate

#4. Utilise your arms - Spreading your arms wide as you line up the shot will help you keep your balance and focus. Extending your arms ensures that you stay on your feet, which is crucial when it comes to directing the shot properly

#5. Take the shot - At this moment, fully flex your kicking foot to get power behind the effort, and lean your chest forwards so that you get over the ball and prevent it from being rocketed too high. When shooting, you must strike the ball immediately after it bounces to achieve an effective half volley

#6. Use your laces - When you strike the ball, pointing your toes down and hitting it with your laces through the centre of the ball is crucial. This approach to the shot will increase accuracy, while the laces also allow you to generate more force than any other part of the boot.

#7. Follow through - After taking the shot, whip your balancing arm across your body while also following through completely with your leg. A great half volley will see both of your feet leave the ground as you shoot (to generate maximum power), before you land on your kicking foot. 

If your form isn't perfect as you complete each step of the half volleying process, you'll risk losing accuracy, creating too much backspin, and not getting enough power in your shot. Make sure you follow our step-by-step guide, and you'll be golden.

The half volley is one of many super useful soccer skills we've discussed on the Blog. If you're reading this as a defensive player and thinking "I never get the chance to half a volleyed shot!", don't worry — there are loads of defensively-minded skills that are worth reading about in more detail. Whether it's the complex tactical concept of Catenaccio or the basic defensive technique of shielding in soccer, we've got you covered.

Frequently Asked Questions:

In what positions is the half volley used?

Given that this skill is usually used as a type of shot, half volleys tend to be deployed primarily in advanced positions. However, it's possible that other situations at various different points across a soccer field will call for a half volley, whether that's a long clearance from a defensive zone or a dinked pass in central midfield.

What is the most useful skill in football?

There are tons of soccer skills that can be used to beat opposition players and create opportunities on a football pitch. Our guide to 10 soccer skills you should learn lists some of the most popular, but arguably the most useful skill of the lot is the Cruyff Turn — check out our Cruyff Turn guide for more information.

What is a Trivela?

The trivela is an advanced football skill pioneered by highly gifted players such as Ricardo Quaresma and Joao Cancelo. It involves kicking the ball with the outside of the foot to achieve a curved shot/pass that stumps opposition defenders and goalkeepers by changing direction mid-air.