Ball control is a very important aspect of foosball, which is why it’s sad that most people forget about it. Most new players exploit the method of just trying to shoot every ball that comes near their rod at goal very fast, but that’s wrong. Against another newbie it might score quite a lot of goals, but once you play a bit longer you’ll notice it’s not the best way.
What you need to learn before you can do anything, is being able to quickly control any ball that comes near your rod. This not only means that you can efficiently defend any ball coming towards you, but it also makes you able to set up certain kinds of shots or passes.
In ball control, we can distinguish 2 styles. The one is just moving the men around the ball so that it stays in your possession, the other one is called ‘pinning’. When you pin a ball, you trap the ball between the toe (or heel) of your man and the field, so that in a split second the ball is stopped completely. Many people recommend you learn this method first, but actually I’m against it.
Why? Because pinning a ball is a one-chance thing. If you miss your pin, the ball just continues to move towards your goal/opponent at the same speed. And to make it worse, the defender of your team probably expected you to have the ball, but you don’t, so that’s one goal against you. Therefore I recommend that you first develop a feeling for how much pressure to put on a ball, and how a ball moves and behaves with different touches.
But remember: ALWAYS keep a ball in your possession. Once you have a ball, never let go of it, because in foosball your opponent can score from any part of the table. In real soccer, losing a ball to your opponent is already quite bad, but imagine what could happen in the dangerous game of table soccer…
Ball Control Exercises
1. Knowing where the ball will end up.
The first skill in ball control is, of course, actually getting the ball in your possession. To be able to do so, you must be able to instantly put your men where the ball will end up. This requires some training, for which we have the following exercises:
- (randomly) Passing the ball back and forth between two of your rods. Of course, if you can’t pass at all this is good because then the ball is moved in random directions. However, once you get better this exercise is useless, as people can’t be completely random. One way to fix this though, is to put a small book or something under one of your table’s legs, so that every ball you shoot is curved into a certain direction, making everything a bit harder (and more random).
- Ask someone to shoot balls at goal, and try to save them.
- Push/shoot the ball against the wall with your man. This way the ball bounces off in a random direction, and then it’s your turn to quickly stop that ball.
- Something a bit more advanced: ask someone to shoot at your goal from their defense. Try to position your midfield and attackers in such a way that you can stop every ball.
A tip: angle your men a bit backward, so that a ball is slowed down very much when it hits your players, that way it’s easier to control the ball and it doesn’t bounce away.
2. Keeping a ball in your possession
The next thing you want to learn is keeping the ball in your possession after you’ve had your first touch.
The basic rule is that you always keep in mind where a ball will go. If a ball from the right is stopped by your man, it will of course bounce back to the right a bit. If a ball is traveling diagonally downwards the table, you know that once you hit the ball it won’t just neatly bounce back in front of you, so prepare for that.
A really good defender will always be able to make any ball coming towards him bounce off in such a way that (s)he keeps the ball. For example, I once played against a really good defender, and every angled ball that hit his defenders, would bounce off vertically to his other defender, so that he almost always immediately had an open shot at goal.
- Put the ball down before the feet of one of your man. Now just start moving the ball back and forth, left and right a bit, but keep it in possession. If you feel really kinky today, try moving the ball from one of your men to another (still making sure the ball is never lost!)
- Ask someone else to shoot balls at you (or try to roll them in yourself, but it’s quite hard to do properly), from all possible angles. Your task is to immediately adequately stop a ball.
A tip: there are basically 2 ways to keep a ball in your team. The first one is the safest one, the second one is harder but much more difficult for the opposing team to handle.
The first method can be applied to all types of shots: angle your men backward, and just follow the path of the ball until it stopped at your feet.
The second method is different for every shot.
- Shots coming from the side (angled shots): hit the ball with the side of your man, so that it is immediately passed to another men of yours.
- Straight shots: these can be shot back immediately. Why? Because usually when somebody shoots a straight shot, performing the shot doesn’t keep his men in the same position. Therefore, if you’re quick, there should be some easy shots (either straight or slightly angled (most shots aren’t perfectly straight)) you can just shoot.
3. Pinning a ball
Once you’ve mastered the basic controls, and you (almost) never lose any balls anymore, it’s time to go advanced, and make sure every ball coming towards you is immediately in your possession. This is where pinning comes into play.
As said earlier, pinning is when you trap the ball between the toe/heel of your man and the field. As long as you don’t lift your man, the ball isn’t going anywhere. Therefore, if executed properly this is the best way to catch any ball and then keep it in the team. However, at first it’s very hard to get the right timing when trying to pin, but with the following exercises you should be able to master this craft!
- Move the ball back and forth on one of your men. Choose a man, and put the ball under it in ‘back pin’ position. Now try to let go of the pin, and move the ball a bit forward. While doing so, rotate your man and do a front pin. Now do the same thing but backwards. Repeat.
- Shoot the ball from any rod on the table to your next rod. Try to immediately pin the ball on the receiver side. NOTE: Try it from both sides. For example, first shoot with your midfield to your attackers (and let your attacker pin the ball with a front pin). Then shoot from your attackers to your midfield (and let the midfield do a back pin). Why should you try it both directions? Because the first direction is for when you’re attacking, and the other way is useful for when you’re defending.