There are no stringent guidelines in soccer rules and regulations on what is allowed concerning shoulder charges. It goes without saying that any contact with another player should not deliberately be aggressive or dangerous. The laws of soccer state neither the leg nor the arm should be used to push a player with possession of the ball. Lunging at an opponent’s back, forcing him to hit the ground, then looking bewildered when the referee brings out his card isn’t going to work either!
However, the shoulder and the upper arm can be used to tackle an opponent, so long as contact is with the same part of the opponent’s body. For example, shoulder to shoulder or upper arm to upper arm.
Using the shoulder charge when challenging an opponent can be useful if both players are running beside each other or coming at each other from separate directions.
To make a successful challenge, sometimes only a slight push is necessary to unbalance the opponent. The player using the shoulder charge must be in a strong position to achieve this, however.
As players get older and wiser, they become more adept at recognising when challenges such as the shoulder charge are about to be used and prepare themselves for it. An experienced player will even return the challenge, with the one who has most stability on his feet usually winning.
To successfully coach the shoulder charge, your players need to be aware of the following points.
- Keep their centre of gravity relatively low.
- Keep their balance.
- Use their outer leg to force momentum into the charge.
- When the opponent’s weight is on his outer leg, jolt him on his upper arm or shoulder.
- Be prepared to get pushed in return.
- Be ready to challenge successfully for the ball.
- Practice the shoulder charge, enabling it to be used effectively during a match.
The technique can be brought into training sessions in various ways.
- Pair your players off and instruct each pair to run beside each other, taking it in turn to perform the charge. The key here is to carry out the technique whilst the opponent is bearing his weight on his outside leg.
- Advance the challenge with one player dribbling the ball and their partner using the shoulder charge to attempt to push him off the ball.
- Have each player in the pair aim for the ball whilst coming from separate directions, using the shoulder charge.
- Practise the technique whilst challenging for the ball. This differs from exercise two in that the player must successfully tackle for the ball.
When beginning these drills, the player receiving the shoulder charge should use little resistance. This allows the challenger to hone his technique. As improvement is shown, full contact is introduced.
Always ensure your players challenge appropriately, using only their shoulder or upper arm to make contact with the same part of their opponent’s body.