How to Do a Rainbow in Soccer (6-Step Guide)
A flamboyant and flashy trick, the rainbow is sure to draw gasps of amazement and appreciation from any crowd.
The move involves you flicking the ball over your head and that of your opponent.
It’s the ball's arching trajectory that lends the trick its name.
To master this soccer move, you’ll need to spend quite a lot of time practising out on the training pitch as it demands a high level of technique as well as impeccable timing and fleet footwork.
Let's first take a look at how to do the rainbow in soccer from a stationary position before learning how to do it on the run.
How to Do a Rainbow (Stationary)
While the rainbow is usually performed on the run, it’s worth first practising it from a stationary position as this will help you to master the footwork and the movement that the trick involves.
Let's break it down into small steps for you to work on.
Step #1 - Place the Ball Between Your Feet
At the start of the move, have the ball nestled between your feet, lying stationary on the ground.
Step #2 - Roll the Ball Up the Side of Your Leg
Next, use your non-dominant foot to roll the ball up the side of your standing leg.
To do this, press the ball against your right ankle (if you are right-footed) with the inside of your left foot and then roll it up your leg.
This should be towards the back of your leg and not the front.
Key to this part of the move is rolling the ball quickly and forcefully so that it doesn't have time to drop back to the ground before you complete the rest of the move.
Step #3 - Follow Through with the Movement
Once you have set the ball rolling, you want its force and pace to propel it up your calf until it reaches around knee height.
The ball should then rise into the air just above the heel of your standing foot – not too near to it but also not too high and far away from it either.
This then sets you up perfectly to strike it in the next part of the move.
Step #4 - Kick Upwards with Your Heel
As your non-dominant foot lands back on the ground, the heel of your standing or dominant foot should flick up and kick the perfectly placed underside of the ball upwards.
In theory, this should arch it up over your head (and that of your opponent) with the ball landing in front of you.
This part of the rainbow is understandably the hardest to master, so it’ll take some experimenting and practice until you get it right time and time again.
The trick is to do it as quickly as possible so that the ball doesn't have time to fall to the ground and you kick it backwards by accident.
To make sure that it lands in front of you and doesn't go behind you or simply shoot up into the air, lean forward as you’re kicking.
This should help to propel it forwards.
Now that we've seen how the trick works from a stationary position, let's move on to how you can use it in a match situation while running towards an opposing player.
How to Do a Rainbow on the Run
As aforementioned, the rainbow is primarily used by tricky forwards when they’re haring towards the defender in front of them.
As such, it ‘s very important to learn how to do the move on the run.
While some players do the rainbow from a stationary position, this is quite rare and requires even greater timing and technique.
Now that you've mastered doing it from a stationary position, let's see how you can do the rainbow on the run.
Step #1 - Dribble Towards Your Defender
With the ball at your feet, dribble towards your defender.
If possible, throw in a couple of step overs or feints to keep them guessing as to what you're going to do and which way you're going to try and go around them.
When you've drawn them in to make the tackle is when you want to start doing the rainbow.
Too far away from them and you won't get it up and over them, too near and you'll simply hit it into their shins or midriff or get tackled.
Step #2 - Place the Heel of Your Dominant Foot in Front
As the ball is rolling towards the defender and they've moved forward to meet you, you want to place your dominant foot in front of the ball.
This helps protect it and means that the ball is just about to roll into the back of your heel.
Step #3 - Use Your Other Foot to Trap the Ball
Next, bring your non-dominant foot behind the ball and trap it against the heel of your other foot.
To have maximum control over the ball, you want to use the inside forward part of your non-dominant foot and press it against the ankle of your dominant foot.
Now the ball should be in between your two feet, ready for you to start the swift sweeping rainbow movement.
Step #4 - Roll the Ball Up Your Dominant Leg
With the ball wedged between the front of your foot and ankle, sweep the ball up your dominant leg. This should be on the inside of your leg but towards your calf.
The risk here is pushing it too far to the other side so that you either miss the flick or kick it in the wrong direction.
Alternatively, you may not push it far enough and this then makes the rainbow impossible to pull off.
The idea is to roll the ball quickly and forcefully up the back of your dominant foot's heel so that it sweeps up the calf.
It should then spin into the air and occupy the space above your heel.
Step #5 - Kick Upwards with Your Heel
Now that the ball is in place above your heel, you want to kick upwards and strike the underside of the ball.
This should then propel the ball up into the air.
To make the ball arch up over your head and that of the defender marking you, you want to lean forward as you do the move.
This then means that the ball should shoot up over you both and land in front of you, ready for you to run onto it.
Step #6 - Run Around the Defender
Now that you've got the ball up and over your opponent, you want to dodge past the dazed and confused defender and control the ball as it comes down.
With your touch, you ideally want to take it further away from the defender and into space.
You then have more time in which to put in a deadly cross or get a shot off at goal.
Tips and Tricks to Maximise the Rainbow
As you can see, the rainbow is quite a tough move to master and its difficulty is why it rarely gets used in proper matches.
But the high level of technique and daring that it requires is what makes crowds so appreciative when they see such an impressive trick pulled off successfully.
The opposition can get irate though if you do the rainbow as it’s often seen as a showboating trick. So it’s a good idea to watch your ankles when you next face the same player!
To help you make the most of your new-found mastery of the move, here are some tips and tricks on how you can take the rainbow to the next level.
1. Practice Your Dribbling
As the rainbow rarely gets used and there are so few opportunities when you can or should use it, it’s well worth having lots of other tricks and flicks in your locker.
This means that your opponents will never know what you'll hit them with next and this uncertainty gives you more time and space in which to pull off the rainbow.
By learning other moves such as the elastico, step over, Cruyff turn, and rabona, among others, you increase your danger level and help improve your technique and speed of footwork at the same time.
2. Increase Your Acceleration and Stamina
While it’s all well and good executing a perfect rainbow over your opponent, there’s no point in mastering the trick if you don't have the acceleration to get to the ball first and speed off with it.
As such, it’s well worth working on your turn of pace to make sure you can get away from your defender and run into space.
Conditioning and stamina are also key as you don't want to be too tired to put in a good cross or get a dangerous shot off after pulling off the rainbow and winning yourself some time and space.
3. Work on Your Decision-Making Skills
Rainbows are seldom used during proper matches and there’s a reason for this.
They’re very tricky to pull off, demand a high level of technique and, more often than not, there’s a better option for you to take.
Consequently, many players simply use them to showboat when their team is ahead and opposition players can get very angry when you dance around them using this intricate bit of skill.
But there’s certainly a place for the rainbow in your repertoire of tricks.
The secret is knowing when to use it and when to keep things simple and pass the ball to a teammate.
4. Be Confident and Get Your Timing Right
When you've decided to do the rainbow and are approaching the opposition player, you need to be confident and make sure that you get the timing of the move right.
If you hesitate, you're liable to mess up the move and start the trick too late.
This will then see you get tackled or the ball cannon off the defender and away from you.
If you mistime it or start the trick too early, you’ll then find yourself challenging your opponent in the air for a header rather than racing in on goal behind them.
As such confidence and timing are key to successfully pulling off the rainbow.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
As we've seen above, the rainbow is a very tricky skill to master and so you'll certainly want to practice time and time again until you always get it right.
After having practised with the ball in a stationary position, you can then practice doing it on the move before finally incorporating it alongside some other deadly dribbles.
Take it in turns with a friend to practice the skill and remember to lean forward when doing it so as to launch the ball up, over and in front of you.
A mesmerising piece of skill, the rainbow is a great trick to have in your repertoire – particularly if you want to impress onlookers and demoralise your opponents.
As it’s so seldom used out on the pitch, it’s highly unlikely that defenders will be expecting you to attempt it and this gives you the element of surprise.
While it takes a lot of practice, technique and skill to get right, nothing is so satisfying as seeing the ball arch elegantly above your opponent's head, leaving them flustered and confused.
Its high difficulty level means that while working on mastering the rainbow you'll also improve your technique and footwork at the same time.
A real show-stopper of a skill, the rainbow is well worth learning if you want to dazzle and daze your opponents.