Anyone who knows anything about American Football knows that a good pass is an even better pass when it is caught. We have all watched a game where the quarterback steps back in the pocket, sees the receiver wide open down the middle, and then releases a beautifully thrown pass on target only to have the receiver drop the ball. In a meaningful game that incomplete pass could have major repercussions. Over the years I have seen the same thing in foosball. I have seen where games were lost due to uncaught passes. Usually, when the ball is not caught it goes to the opposition and when the score is four to four that's the last thing you want to see happen to you. That is why I feel that it is necessary to have a section on the subject of catching the ball.

In my opinion, catching the ball is as important as scoring or any other aspect to the game of foosball. There really isn't all that much to catching the ball; nonetheless, catching the ball is something that should not be taken for granted. The following are a few tips I hope will be helpful to you on your quest to becoming a good fooser.

Man Positions for Catching Passes

As you develop your game of foosball you should also establish a logical method of positioning your men. What I mean by man positioning has to do with the position your men are in during the course of the game. I have learned that there are certain positions that your men should be in that will benefit your game.

What I mean about the position is the angle at which your men should be in order to catch passes effectively. If your men are fixed at the proper angle then you should be able to catch most passes.

Between 30-45 degrees is ideal

I have found that the best angles to position your men are somewhere between 30 to 45 degrees. When the ball is passed and your men are at these angles the ball usually stops instantly after it has made contact with your man.

Too Low  Too High

If the angle of the man is too vertical or at a degree way less than 30, then there is a good chance that the ball will bounce off, especially if the ball is hit hard. Of course if the angle of the man is way greater than 45 degrees then there is a good chance that the ball will pass on through the man.
The preceding mainly describes how to catch the ball from behind (5-man pass or goalie pass). However, there are times when you will want to catch the ball after the opponent hits it. In other words, instead of just blocking the shot you also want to catch it as well. Chances are if your men are not position right when the opposition is shooting, then the ball will bounce off your men and then go back to theirs, thus providing the opposition with another shooting opportunity.

Man Positions for Catching Shots

When attempting to catch shots done by the opposition you basically want to position your men the same way you would as if you were catching passes. The only difference is that your men are pointing towards the back. Everything that applies for proper positioning to catch passes should also apply to catching shots.

ideal for catching shots

Try doing this the next time you play. You may have to adjust your angles so that the catches can be made. The ideal position to have your men is one that will catch the ball under any condition. In other words, no matter how hard or soft your opponent hits the ball you want to be sure that you catch it.
You should get the feel of catching the ball. When you are practicing on your passes you should practice on catching the ball as well. As you progress you will establish man positioning that is most comfortable to you. 

Man Positions for Protecting the Goal

Another important aspect to man positioning is how you have your men while defending the goal. You may think this is taking the game just a little too serious. Well, that may be; however, if I am going to lose a game I do not want to lose to a slop shot. Proper man positioning will greatly reduce the amount of slop shots during a game.

There are a number of ways you can set up your men in order to prevent slop shots from going in and to deny the opposition another scoring opportunity . I have found that the most consistent method used is like the one in the illustration above. I do not know why, but for some reason most experience players set their men (at every position) up in this position. There is no rule written that says this is the way to do it, but somehow we instinctively evolved to using these types of positions.

The goalie man closes to the opponent's front 3-man rod is usually angled back, almost like a back toe, at an angle between 30 to 45 degrees. Again, this is so that the ball can be caught or to deny the opponent(s) another opportunity to score. If your goalie man is positioned straight down or pointed forward then the ball will bounce off of your man and returned back to the opposition, thus providing him or her with another potential scoring opportunity.

bad position for the front goalie because the ball can return back to the opposition.
ideal position for the front goalie to catch the ball and to decrease the chances of the ball returning to the opposition.

For the back goalie man you want to place the man in the opposite position as that of the front goalie man. The idea behind this is to prevent the ball from going into the hole after it hits your man. That is commonly known as a "slop shot". Also, by having your man in this position, the ball will bounce off and go to the front goalie man.

bad position for the back goalie because the ball can go in the hole.
ideal position for the back goalie because the ball can return back to the front goalie.
Try these positions, I believe you will find them to be beneficial to your game. Remember, you should never have your man pointed straight down. Except maybe in a game of single. Even when playing single it might be a good idea to have all the men pointing forward, with the exception of the front 3-men. You always want the front three to be angle back so that you can either catch the ball or prevent to it from reaching your goalie's end of the table. The only time you do want your front men angle forward is when you are passing from the back.

Man Positions for Catching Goalie Passes

Goalie passes are very effective to use during a game, especially if the person playing front is scoring at will. However, a goalie pass is only effective when it is caught by the front man. In all of my years of playing I have seen very few players (doubles) use goalie passes. In order to have a high percentage of goalie passes in a game there must be a high degree of communication and chemistry within the team. I believe this is the same thing as in Basketball. For a goalie pass to work, both the goalie and front man must know when to recognize an ideal passing opportunity. This is especially true for lane passes.

There are other times when goalie passes can be done and the pressure on the person playing front, of being at the right place at the right time is not that crucial. I call it "zone positioning." Zone positioning is a zone where the front man can position his three-men so he can catch passes, while at the same time leaving the lanes clear for scoring shots attempted by the goalie. With zone positioning the goalie has the freedom to do "pull shots", "push shot", "bank shot", and sometimes "combo shots".

Here is how "zone positioning" works.

As you probably know by now, or if you do not, you will find out soon enough, that most experienced team players use a "zone" type defense when you are shooting from the back. "Zone" defenses work very well at minimizing scoring from the back; nonetheless, a highly skilled player will find ways to get through and score. The way "zone positioning" is utilized is for the person playing front to place their three-men in front of the opponent's goalie men.

The good thing about this is that by placing the three-man in front of the opponent's goalie men is that the shooting lanes remain clear for your goalie to score. Also, if the shot goes towards the opponent's men, then your front man has a chance of catching the ball, because now your man is in front of his or hers and the ball will make contact with your first, thus eliminating the possible turnout. Most of the time if your goalie shoots a good clean shot, then the shot should not be effected by "zone positioning" of the front 3-man.

Remember that these tips are not absolute. Things will vary depending on the table, the competition, and your partner.

Nuff said!

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