How to Trap a Soccer Ball

Soccer’s most basic skills make themselves evident in the play of every one of the top field players every week. Of course, those future legends make the skills look like magic, but those athletes can only pull off the thrilling skills through years of regular practice of the fundamentals. One fundamental skill is to trap the ball.

What Does Trapping Mean in Soccer?

Trapping the ball simply means getting the ball under control. If the ball is passed to you or deflected near you, you want to stop the progression of the ball and in turn be able to use it in any way you want. You want to gain control quickly, preferably with one touch, though in certain situations more than one touch may be needed (or desired).

One of the most important basics in soccer is having a good body shape. When trapping, you need to have a good base. You need to be balanced, you need to be slightly bouncing on the balls of your feet, ready to make slight, but important, changes in your positioning. You should be leaning forward slightly so that your weight is balanced over your knees.

When trapping, you should have this good “ready” position. As the ball approaches, move the foot you’ll use to receive the ball into a position to meet the ball as close to the center of the ball as possible. You’ll balance on your plant foot (the foot that is on the ground). This positioning will apply whether receiving a ground pass or lob.

To control or trap the ball, you want to “deaden” the ball. Using the language of science, the ball is coming at you with some energy. If the ball simply hits you on the foot, it will bounce away from you with more force. So then, you need to take the energy out of the ball as it hits your foot.

In a very basic foot trap, you use timing to take the energy out of the ball, to slow it down quickly to a stop. Allow the ball to come to your instep. Then, move your foot back slightly to absorb some of the ball’s energy. Then, if necessary, you can use the sole of your foot to stop the ball completely. The ball is now under your control and you can do with it what you wish.

There are basic means of trapping the ball, though as you advance in your skill, you should be able to trap the ball with any legal part of your body. Remember to keep a good body position and watch the ball as it hits whatever body part you’re using for the trap.

The Types of Trapping in Soccer

Coaches and managers will introduce a few types of trapping to beginners, but there isn’t really one type of trap in soccer. You can use all sides of your foot, your thigh, chest, head and shoulder above the arm. Remember, trapping is not simply about stopping the ball, but about controlling the ball.

How to Trap the Ball with Your Foot

We discussed a simple foot trap above. Most coaches or trainers will discuss using the instep of your foot for this basic trap. You may also learn to trap the ball with the laces of your boot, the studs of your boots or the outside of the foot.

Sole Trapping

The principal of reducing the energy of the ball is always the same, though when using the studs, you may also apply force with your legs to stop the advance of the ball and control it. This requires that you time the application of force perfectly. If the ball is coming at you fast from some distance, you will need more force and great timing. If it’s rolling slowly, you may be able to simply place your foot on top of the ball to control it. You need to be able to judge the speed of the ball to decide how much force to use, and you need to move your feet to get in a good position to stop the ball.

Chest Trap

You can trap the ball with your chest. Again, it is simply a means of stopping the ball’s progression and controlling it. The same principle of reducing the energy applies. As the ball flies towards you, allow it to hit you in the chest. As it hits you, move your shoulder muscles forward and lean backwards slightly. Your body is creating a cradle in which the ball should momentarily stop and drop to the ground. As you advance, you can even pass out of a chest trap using your chest.

Other Types of Traps

You can stick [body part] in front of the word “trap” and call it a type of trap. The principle of reducing the energy so that you can control the ball is the same, whether you are receiving the ball with your inner thigh or head.

There is one thing to remember when using other body parts, especially the head. With the chest trap or thigh trap, the ball is hitting a kind of cushion that helps to absorb the energy. When it is hitting your instep, there is a natural cushion, as well as the thickness of your boot to absorb the energy (along with your perfect technique). When it hits your head, the ball is hitting bone. It’s going to be harder to reduce the energy in that case.

How to Trap a Hard Pass

Whether the ball is coming at you fast or slow, if you keep the principles of good body shape and reducing energy in mind, you won’t falter in controlling the ball. You’ll learn to adjust the amount of energy reduction you’ll need to use to control the ball. If you’re executing a chest trap from a long lob over the top of the defense, you’ll need to lean back more and extend your shoulders more than you would for a short pass.

How to Trap the Ball in the Air

Once you have solidified the concept of controlling the ball by reducing the energy of the ball’s flight towards you, you can conceive of ways of trapping the ball while it’s in the air.

The chest trap is a common means of trapping the ball while it’s in the air. However, you may have to be first to the ball in some instances, or there may be a ball that is not quite a perfect pass and you have to go get it. You may need to trap in the air.

There are as many ways of trapping the ball in the air as there are of trapping the ball on the ground. What matters is getting your body in the proper position to receive the ball in a way you can control it. You must:

  • Sort out the flight of the ball. Where will it be so that you can get into a good trapping position? Position yourself to gain control.
  • Use the ball control skills you’ve learned thus far, like reducing the ball’s energy to control it.

Use the top of the foot

  • You’ll be using the top of your foot, around the bottom of the laces near your toe.
  • Watch the ball and move your foot up to meet the ball.
  • Don’t let the ball simply hit the top of your foot, but cushion the ball by moving your foot down with the ball.
  • You can practice this by tossing the ball up in the air, then controlling it off the bounce at first. As you improve, work on controlling the ball before the bounce.

The steps sound simple, but it takes a lot of practice to develop the soft touch needed to control the ball.

Use either side of the foot

Try touching the ball in a direction away from the defender, to give yourself a bit a more space. You can use the inside or outside of the foot to do that.

When using this method, try to make contact with the ball right as it hits the ground. Make sure your body is moving in that direction so your weight will be over the ball as you touch it.

Here’s great demo of this technique:

Use your thigh

You can take a first touch with the top of your thigh to bring the ball down, then another touch with your foot to fully control and move with the ball. This is demonstrated by Mia Hamm below:

There are examples from superstars like Robert Lewandowski and Zlatan Ibrahimović of making crazy plays to trap the ball in the air. These look impossible, but they simply used their eyes and brains to see where the ball is going, their bodies to get themselves into position, and their technique to control the ball.

In these cases, if they just threw a foot at the ball, they would have no idea where it might go, as the ball would simply bounce off their foot and away from them. Instead, they received the ball, reduced the energy of the ball and got the ball under their spell.

How to Improve Trapping Skills in Soccer

Practice. We can’t escape the need to practice skills in soccer. There is simply no other way to improve.

  • Kick a ball to yourself against a wall or rebounder net.
  • Receive the ball with all parts of the foot. Repeat the steps at least 10 times for each part.
  • Kick the ball to yourself so that it comes back to you in the air.
  • Try chest trapping or using other body parts. Have a friend or family member roll, kick or throw a ball to you.
  • Make it fun. Make up a game to keep score of your good touches. Practice will become fun if you learn to love the game of soccer.

What will the soccer player do to stop the movement of the

A player can trap, that is, control, the ball using any surface of the foot, or even their chest or thigh. They will attempt to stop or absorb the momentum of the ball while making sure it goes in the direction they want, to retain possession.

What does it mean to trap a pass in soccer?

Trapping a pass means receiving the ball when it is passed to you, and controlling it to keep possession.

Check out some of our other guides on improving your soccer skills: