The soccer birdie ($6) is a nominee for the AVID Soccer “Innovative Product of the Year” award. As the name suggests, this is similar to a badminton birdie. It is a training tool designed to improve touch and accuracy. It is light weight and fletched, so it must be used indoors or in a protected space. Even small amounts of wind will change the direction and flight of the birdie. This in itself may prove useful to a player looking to improve reaction time and positioning.
The device is essentially a stack of warped plastic discs (to provide spring) stacked on a central shaft. The shaft is fletched with synthetic feathers to ensure true flight. If the birdie is hit too softly, it will just die. If it is hit too hard, it will make a sharp slapping sound on impact and fly away. Because it is fairly small in diameter (about 2 ½ inches), the player must position their body accurately to receive it.
While it is intended as a solo training device, we did find a number of badminton type games where the object was to keep the birdie alive with volleys back and forth. One thing we noticed was that it can not be used for headers. There is a not enough spring in the birdie to return to flight after all but the most aggressive headers. There is also a small stopper at the bottom that could hurt if it hit the wrong part of the face.
The soccer birdie comes in a plastic storage tube. We were a bit afraid that it would be too delicate for aggressive use, but it has held up well.
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