How to be Aggressive Without Fouling in Soccer


It is hard to know how to be aggressive without becoming out of control and drawing foul calls when playing soccer. Nonetheless, in the game, being aggressive is critical to success. Controlled aggression can be used strategically, benefiting both the player with the ball and their team. This guide will provide tips, techniques and drills to improve your aggression while avoiding fouls.

So How Do You Be Aggressive Without Fouling?

List below are several techniques and strategies you can use to be aggressive without fouling:

Charge on the Shoulders

The shoulder charge (also known as a shoulder tackle) is a wonderful method to be forceful without fouling in soccer. A shoulder charge is when you bump the opposing player with your shoulder to disrupt their balance. This provide an opportunity to win the ball.

To execute a successful shoulder charge in soccer, do the following:

  1. Run up to the opposing player with the ball
  2. Run shoulder to shoulder with the opposing player
  3. When the opportunity presents itself, lean into the player and bump them, making sure you keep your elbow and arm tucked to your body as you bump the opposing player

It is absolutely essential that you keep your arm tucked against your body when delivering the shoulder charge. If your arm comes up, you will likely be called for a shove and the opposing team will be rewarded a free kick from the spot of the foul.

If your elbow comes up and touches the opposing player, you will likely be called for a foul as well so keep that arm and elbow tucking into the side of your body.

Apply Pressure to the Ball

soccer defender applying pressure to the ball
soccer defender applying pressure to the ball

Putting pressure on the ball entails approaching the player in possession of the ball. They can pick out a direct pass or shoot straight on goal if they have enough room. You don’t want to give them a lot of room.

Be the First to Get to the Ball

When no player has possession of the ball, it is aggressive play to try to get to the ball first. This could entail a lot of sprinting. You could even be hustling for the ball with another player.

Player being first to the ball in soccer
Player being first to the ball in soccer

Maybe you’re running shoulder to shoulder with another player. Using shoulder charges can help you win the ball back.

Keep a Watchful Eye on the Players

This is similar to applying pressure to the ball, except it can be done when the player doesn’t have possession of the ball. It’s also known as man-marking.

Second defender man marking in soccer
Second defender man marking in soccer

Man-marking is all about anticipation and positioning. Being able to anticipate what the opposing player and then aggressively countering is an essential skill for defenders. But how do you build your anticipation and soccer IQ?

Start with watching more soccer games. As you are watching, keep a keen focus on the defenders. Watch how they move, how they attack the ball, and how they cut off passing lanes. This will give you a better understanding of what you should be doing.

Take this new knowledge onto the pitch and work to incorporate what you have learned into your game. I think you will be surprised on much more aggressive you are. This is because you will understand and anticipate your opponent’s actions and aggressively push in to defend it.

Be Sure to Time Your Tackles.

Tackling, especially sliding tackles, is a physical component of soccer, but if you time them correctly, you will be less likely to foul. The keys to performing a good slide tackle:

  • Anticipating where the ball will be relative to the player dribbling the ball
  • Positioning yourself parallel to the offensive player
  • Sliding toward the ball, not the player while keeps the bottom of your cleats facing down toward the pitch
Slide tackle in soccer
Slide tackle in soccer

Following the steps listed above along with consistent practice will help you become more proficient at tackling and will lead to less foul calls against you.

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In Soccer, How Do You Win the 50/50 Ball?

Winning a 50/50 ball in soccer is the key to winning soccer. Becoming better at winning the 50/50 ball takes practice, determination and grit. There are several drills you can use to replicate 50/50 ball scenarios to help your players win more 50/50 balls:

Race to the Ball drill

  1. Place two players 10 yards apart.
  2. Have a coach kick the ball to a spot halfway between the players.
  3. As soon as you hit the ball, the players converge to the ball, trying to win.
  4. Once a player wins the ball, they must dribble the ball to the coach who hit the ball.

Winning Ball in Air Drill

  1. Position two players side-by-side next to each other 30 yards away from the coach
  2. Have the coach punt the ball high into the air toward the two players
  3. Have the two players attack the ball and attempt to win it
  4. Once a player wins the ball cleanly, have the player pass the ball back to the coach

In Soccer, How Do You Teach Hustle?

Teaching hustle in soccer is crucial as all teams require hustle to achieve wins. Teaching the right hustle involves following the right techniques. Make fun and aggression your top priorities. Let’s walk through the proper techniques to follow in teaching hustle:

Practice Drills that Encourage Controlled Aggression

Look for soccer drills that can assist you in developing controlled aggression. An example might be rolling a ball to a player and having another player attempt to aggressively win the ball back without fouling. If the defending player fouls the offensive play, blow the play dead and start the drill again.

This drill will condition your players to be aggressive while maintaining discipline.

Have a Discussion or Whiteboard Session

Sit your players down and review explicitly what is controlled aggression vs fouling. Provide examples of each. Look up YouTube videos for examples of excellent aggressive play as well as aggression that leads to fouling.

Take your Team to a Soccer Game

Take your team to a soccer game that is at a level higher than the level your team plays at. Point out good aggressive players and discuss foul calls that occur during the game with the team. This will be a fun supplement to your players understanding of aggressive soccer play.

Keep an eye on them while they’re playing.

Monitor your players during practice and games and try to consistently correct errors made due to overaggressive play.

You have complete control over and prioritize what your team learns or works on during practice. Regardless of the drill, emphasizing controlled aggression is a very effective strategy for influencing your players.

A major part of being aggressive in soccer is conditioning and soccer fitness. Check out our Complete Guide to Getting in Soccer Shape to learn how to optimize your workouts to improve your ability on the pitch.

Drills to Promote Aggression in Soccer

Every coach desires their team members to be aggressive when they play soccer. Aggressive players frequently get an advantage by imposing themselves on their opponents to come out victorious in battles. Some athletes are born with the ability to be aggressive, while others require coaching. Let’s check out how these soccer drills can help you learn to be more aggressive.

These soccer drills include:

Playing Keep Away

This drill encourages rapid, aggressive movement toward the ball.

  1. Have four players spaced out 5 yards away from each other in a square formation
  2. Have a single player in the middle of the square whose job it is to win the ball
  3. The four players in the square pass the ball to each other while the fifth player attempts to intercept the pass or take the ball from one of the offensive players
  4. Once the defensive player wins the ball, they switch places with the player who lost the ball

Shield Ball from Defensive Player Drill

This drill instructs players to use their bodies against an opponent when under attack.

  1. Have two players line up 10 yards apart.
  2. Pass the ball to one of the players
  3. Once the ball is hit towards one of the players, have the other player move aggressive toward the player receiving the ball
  4. Have the offensive player attempt to shield the defensive player away from the ball for as long as possible
  5. Actively encourage the defending player to be aggressive in trying to win the ball without fouling
  6. Once the defensive player wins the ball, reset the drill and pass the ball to the player who defended

These drills mentioned involve closing down and pressuring the game. The defensive team scores points for regaining possession of the ball. Every team competes against the other to determine who can win.

How to Coach Timid Soccer Players

Some players will be naturally more aggressive than others. That doesn’t mean that timid players can never become more aggressive. The key is to build the confidence of timid players by putting them in positions to succeed and to provide consistent affirmation and support.

Here are some tips for coaching timid players:

Play “Dribble Across a Square” to begin each practice as a warm-up.

This will help them improve their dribbling and responses while acclimating them to traffic.

At each practice, use at least one drill that is competitive and allows teammates to cheer on the timid player(s)

Timid players need to be encouraged to assert themselves on the field. Use drills that help them come out of their shells and play a more aggressive game. Passing relay drills and one-on-one drills in a coned area help nurture aggressive play.

Be sure to provide enthusiastic and consistent affirmation to the timid player when they are aggressive to reinforce it.

Spend portions of your practice playing a pressing style

Playing the press forces players to be aggressive; that is the whole purpose of pressing. Pressing is putting massive pressure on the player(s) with the ball.

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