When practicing soccer, you will often find yourself in need of a stand-in for a defender, and that’s where soccer mannequins come into play. Whether you are honing your free-kick skills or coaching a team, soccer dummies are a piece of training equipment that is exceptionally useful. They are a great device to increase the realism of your practice drills, whether you are practicing set-pieces, passing, or close ball control and dribbling. Though they can’t fully replace a defender for every type of exercise, there isn’t any other type of training equipment that can have such a level of impact on your individual or team skills. Bending a banana shot around the wall, playing give and go, even for improving timings of runs when playing off the defender’s shoulder.
Net World Sports
Crow Sporting Steel
Crown Sporting 4 ft
Soccer Mannequins Reviews
Soccer training mannequins come in several styles and sizes, and I have selected a few of the best on the market. The short reviews should give you information on their advantages and drawbacks, which should help you choose the best for your needs.
FORZA Soccer Free-Kick
FORZA is a well-known brand of training equipment, and their soccer dummies feature the classic silhouette design and fluorescent yellow color. What sets them apart from many other makers is that they have a range of three sizes. The 4 feet Mini-Mannequins are an excellent training aid for U12 and younger players. Though, FORZA has also a 5’4’’ for youth and 6’ version for senior players. They are best used as free kick mannequins, though they can be used for agility, passing, and dribbling training. They are made of very sturdy, but lightweight PVC plastic. And you can expect them to last you quite a few seasons.
I do have doubts about the durability of the senior version. But you can be safe in the knowledge that younger players just can’t hit them hard enough to break. They are secured in the ground with simple but decently long spikes. But if you plan to use them on the artificial turf or hard surface, you should also purchase the weighted bases.
- Needs additional base for turf and hard surfaces
Uber Soccer Free-Kick Training
Uber Soccer’s soccer mannequins are a very similar product to FORZA’s. It has a very similar design but in red color. It comes in the same three different sizes. But, the 6 feet senior soccer mannequin comes in two versions, rigid and spring-loaded. When you are practicing free-kicks, the most annoying thing is a felled mannequin you will need to reset. But when using these for free kick wall dummies, that is not the case. Just under the torso panel, two parts of pipes are joined by heavy-duty springs. If you score a headshot, they will bend and then return to shape, instead of flipping on the ground. Compared to FORZA, these dummies are much more wallet-friendly, especially the smallest 4 feet version. They also can be purchased as singles or 3-packs.
With a lower price tag comes a specific drawback. Uber Soccer states that PVC plastic is UV protected, but it doesn’t look to be very long-lasting protection. After 2-3 years of being exposed to elements, the chest panel will start becoming brittle. And senior players might hit them hard enough to break.
- Chest panel can become brittle over years
Net World Sports Spring Back
These soccer wall dummies are a bit different concept than the classic silhouette type. They consist of a removable mesh sleeve that is held by two FORZA 5 feet spring-loaded slalom poles. And why these soccer wall mannequins are not marketed under the FORZA brand is a mystery to me. They are very affordable and come in a pack of three. So you will get 6 poles and 3 sleeves in the package. When hit by the ball, these will bend and then spring back into shape, which makes them very resilient. By removing the netting, you are getting six handy slalom poles, which you then can use for agility drills, with or without a ball. And this feature only serves to increase the practicality of this product.
They are secured into the ground with decently long steel spikes, but to use them on a hard surface or the artificial turf, you will need to additionally purchase the rubber slalom pole bases. Because of their unique design, they are incredibly lightweight.
- Come as a pack of three
- Based around FORZA slalom poles making them a 2 in 1 product
- Very portable
- Not silhouette shaped
Crown Sporting Goods Steel
Though Crown calls this Penalty Dummy, they are proper soccer dummies for free kicks. They feature almost the same design as FORZA Mannequins but have some crucial differences. First, they come in just two sizes, 5’2’’ and 5’9’’. So they are big enough for youth and senior players, but too big for kids. And you will find these free kick wall dummies for sale only as single units. They are also only appropriate for natural grass pitches, as they do not have bases for hard surfaces included or available separately.
A friend of mine did manage to adapt a rubber base of a different company by drilling additional holes, as these have five spikes instead of the usual four. But that is far from being the most elegant solution, as they tip over very easily. They do so because of their best feature, and they are made out of steel pipes. As such, these are incredibly durable, and you can freely say that they could last longer than average soccer players’ or coaches’ careers. But still, it is steel. They don’t weigh a ton but do come very close.
- Very durable
- Very heavy
Crown Sporting Goods Junior
I know, I’ve said that the Crown doesn’t have the previous model in size appropriate for kids. But, because of the different shape, this one has to be considered as a separate product. It has a bit of an hourglass shape, doing away with the classic silhouette. It is just short of 4 feet, which makes it perfect for coaching U12 and younger players. And that’s everything that makes it different from the previous soccer training mannequin. Everything I’ve said about the previous one applies to this one too. Except that, being shorter, they are also a bit lighter. They also fall in a price range that makes them very affordable, even before you take into account that they will last you very long.
- Very durable
- Very affordable
- Very heavy
Kwik Goal TOM Soccer Dummy
Kwik Goal’s Training Opponent Mannequin, or TOM for short, is a bit different product than all previously mentioned rigid mannequins. While others have chest panels that screw on the frame, TOM is a single piece dummy. This type of design removes one of the potential failure points. There are two different sizes, 5’4’’ and 5’10’’. This makes them a suitable choice for youth and senior players, but not for U12 and younger.
While other mannequins have welded or screwed in the base steel pikes, TOM has molded ones. This design is a much sturdier one. At first glance, it might look a bit flimsy. But this is not a case. It is made of a very sturdy UV protected plastic that can take the beating. And they are very light. Separately, you can purchase a base that can be filled with up to 50 pounds of sand, and has wheels for a smooth relocation. But low weight and sturdy materials come with a penalty of sorts. The TOM comes with a rather high price tag.
How to Choose the Best Soccer Mannequin for Training
There are many free kick dummies out there available for purchase. But not all of them are made equal. When deciding whether some is good for you, there are specific characteristics and features you should be aware of. And base your decision on them.
Size is probably the most important characteristic. Aim of using mannequins, either for the soccer wall or as a stand-in for a defender, is to create a realistic situation as much as possible. Having 6 feet tall dummies for U10 players is far from realistic. Usually, they come in three size ranges. Around 4’ for U12 and younger players, around 5’4’’ for U18, and between 5’10’’ and 6’ for senior players.
The main feature you should be looking for is the way they are propped upright. If they are intended for use on natural grass pitches, they will have steal spikes usually around 4-5 inches long. If they are designed for artificial turfs, they will have some kind of weighted base. Fortunately for ones with spikes, you can usually purchase an additional base for use on turf. Such bases vary from dense rubber ones that weigh few pounds to hollow bases that can be filled with up to 40-50 pounds of sand.
Soccer dummies wall is a thing you or your players will be hitting hard with the ball. So, it is crucial that it can withstand the force of repeated hits. The most durable is the steel, but such may not be the best for you.
The soccer dummy wall should stay in place during the practice. But you will have to bring it to pitch and carry from it before and after the training. And here the weight of them can be a very limiting factor. You will most likely use three, if not more, of them during sessions. And unless you have a sturdy trolley, you should avoid buying steel mannequins.
Because they are used for practicing precision and spatial awareness, it is advantageous to be brightly painted. Which is why they mostly come in a bright fluorescent color. As it is a highly visible one. Even if you have found a perfect dummy for yourself but in some neutral color that is not too big of an issue. A can of spray paint can fix it quite easily.
- What are they used for?
The primary purpose is for realistically practicing free-kicks. When it comes to shooting precision practice, even just a single soccer free kick wall mannequin makes a huge difference. But they can also be used for almost any other drill where you need a defended. When practicing give and go, they are great for building spatial awareness. For drills with forwards, they can be used for practicing timing the runs off the shoulder of the defender. They can also be used as slalom obstacles for ball close control drills.
- Who can use them?
They are suitable for almost all age categories. As soon as the players are old enough to have structured practice drills, they can use them. From a player’s position on the pitch, they are the most useful for set-piece takers. But they can be incorporated into drills for other players too. Even keepers can benefit from practicing defending free-kicks in an obscured view/delayed reaction setting.
- How many do I need?
For practicing free-kicks, you will need at least one, just to simulate the outer-most defender. But having the whole wall simulated in front of you or your players, you will need three. More than three can be useful for some other drills, or for having two or more players practicing at the same time.
The soccer mannequins are a very useful piece of training equipment. They are intended first and foremost as a stand-in for the wall during the individual free-kick drills. As such, whether you are a coach or a player, you will find them extremely useful. But, they can be used for much more than that and can replace a defender in almost any practice drill. They can be used for practicing passing, close ball control, improving spatial awareness, agility. Nearly all individual skills needed for soccer.
My recommendation, if you are not sure which would be best for yourself, depends on the age of your player. For U12 and younger, I would recommend Uber Soccer Free-Kick Training Mannequin. They are simply good enough, and surprisingly affordable. And for seniors Kwik Goal TOM. They are very durable and very lightweight.