This Is How to Stop a Soccer Ball in the Air Easily

By Luís Miguel
Updated on

Trapping a soccer ball out of the air is COMPLICATED.

Is it?

To tell you the truth, it can become far easier if you just learn a few ways to do it successfully…

…and stop any flying ball with mastery.

In our article here, I’m going to share what those ways are and let you know of some drills so you can develop your trapping skills and even excel at it!


One of the biggest factors that separate the good from the great in the world of soccer is how a player traps the ball.

The very best players are able to take the ball down from all sorts of angles quickly and without even a sign of trouble, while other good players sometimes have difficulties.

In the high-stakes world of soccer at the top level, every touch is crucial as possession cannot be given away.

The same can also be the case at youth level but with some training you can get up to speed to where you and your team will be able to keep it like the pros!

What Is Trapping in Soccer?

To begin with, we need to know what a trap is in soccer.

“Trap” is a fancy word for stopping the ball.

I like to call it a way to control the ball.

A trap can be executed anytime you seek to cushion the ball to yourself.

It can come from the ground or air, but today we are mostly going to look at how to trap a soccer ball in the air in the most efficient way possible!

Reverse Thinking

Before we get along any further, it will be helpful to let you know a secret:

Trapping the ball can be confusing when you begin.

The reason why is because the inverse of what you think you need to do is often the true answer.

For example, if I were to pass the ball to someone at a very high rate of speed, they would need to be very gentle in trapping the ball.

However, if I were to pass it very slowly, it would take a harder touch from them in order to trap the ball and potentially stay away from a defender.

How to Trap a Soccer Ball on the Ground

Before you start trying to trap the soccer ball out of the sky, we need to first know how to trap the ball on the ground.

The most effective way to do this is by using the instep.

This will differ in most cases from the air, but it’s a crucial step in learning how to properly cushion the ball.

Drill 1: Trapping the ball on the ground

What you need: You need two players (or one and a wall) for this.

How to:

  1. Simply pass the football and have your players (or you) gently nudge it with the inside part of their foot.
  2. Mix up the velocity of the passes so that they see how hard, or gently, they need to swing in order to keep it close!

How to Stop a Soccer Ball in the Air

There are several great ways to trap the ball out of the air.

Each one has a specific purpose and you need to know how to do each efficiently if you are to reach a high level.
If you master just two of these, though, you will be far ahead of most players you ever encounter.

How to Stop a Soccer Ball in the Air with Your Foot

The foot is our most heavily used asset in the good ol’ soccer, so it is first on the list.

It is a good place to trap the ball because it offers us a ton of different options to do so.

  • On the bottom of your soccer shoes are the cleats. They can be used to dig the ball into the ground if you want it under your feet.
  • If you want the ball to drop straight down in front of you, you can use your laces and pad the ball down.
  • If you want to go left or right, you can use your instep to do so in a very quick lashing motion or,
  • You can you use the outside of your foot to go left and right as well. (Watch the video below to see how it’s done.)

Here’s a quick video that explains how to trap and control the soccer ball out of the air with the outside of your foot.

How to Stop a Soccer Ball in the Air with Your Knee

Using the knee is an interesting way to stop the ball and it’s one that is so overlooked because it is admittedly very tough to master.

The first thing to know about using the knee to trap the ball from the air is that you should not ever use your actual kneecap!

What you need to do is to find the thigh — the meaty part just above your knee — in order to achieve it successfully.

Drill 2: Use the Knee

How to:

  1. Try taking the ball and throw it gently into the air while lifting your knee up. By doing this, you can learn to shield it.
  2. Never swing the knee violently or you will send the ball rifling into the air, making it impossible to control.

How to Stop a Soccer Ball in the Air with Your Chest

Chesting (or stopping and controlling) the football is one of the easiest techniques in the game, yet I see it passed over time and time again.

Boys and girls refrain from doing so for different reasons, but this is a great way to trap a high ball that is not coming in fast.

Back in his day, one of Ronaldinho Gaúcho’s “trademarks” was stopping and controlling the soccer ball with his chest and he did it beautifully.

Besides being a cool soccer trick, it’s also useful if you have some space and few players around.

The chest is literally located at your breastplate.

You do not want to use any other part of your abdomen. If the ball hits your stomach, you will get hurt and/or sick.

Drill 3: “Chesting” the Ball

To practice with your chest, throw the ball up and let the ball roll down your chest while you lean back. By leaning back, you ensure it rolls down.

If you want to move forward quickly, you can lean forward with it and then dribble toward the goal.

How to Practice Stopping a Ball out of the Air

We have already included many mini-drills thus far on how to trap a soccer ball in the air, but the best drill you can do is simply have a coach, or even yourself — that’s the beauty of learning control — throw the ball into the air at various angles.

Practice how softly or hard you nudge the ball into various directions. Learn which of them you are good at and those that you are not.

Always keep in mind:

If you want the ball to stay with you, you need to create an angle down toward the ground.

For the foot, as long as you are on top of the ball you are good to go; but, if you want to go forward, use the foot under the ball.

For the knee, lean it toward the ground to shield it to yourself or lean back slightly to send it out in front.

And for the chest, lean back to keep control or lean forward/upright in order to move swiftly down the field.

Doing this over and over will make you a well-seasoned pro and the envy of many teammates and opponents!


Like I stated before, figuring out how to stop a soccer ball in the air is not that hard. With that said, successfully doing the trap is not something that is difficult to master.

There is no excuse to not being good at it, as you can do this anytime and anywhere with just a soccer ball, a little bit of space and yourself throwing and/or kicking the ball into the air.

Repetitions are what make the good great, so don’t be afraid to fail and keep going repeatedly.

Trapping the ball out of the air is so crucial at youth level because there is a tendency to play boom ball.

On the other hand, if you are efficient at controlling the soccer ball, your team is very likely to keep possession and end up winning the game handsomely!

Guy wearing an SL Benfica jersey holding soccer ball over his head

Article by:

Luís Miguel

As a true soccer enthusiast, I’m Soccermodo’s team captain. My job is to make sure the site’s content is top-notch so that you, our reader, can focus solely on improving your game and reach new heights.