In my opinion the Catch is more important then the pass. Think about it, you can catch balls from anywhere, you can only pass the ball when you already have it on your 5-bar. Learning to catch and control the ball can make you a foosball machine.
Our goal in catching is to keep the ball in control under the next rod. Remember the loose ball lesson? We want to use the back of the man to slow the ball only 1 time, think of it as a 'chest trap' in soccer. You wouldn't see a soccer player try to use their chest more then one time on the ball right? You have no control with the chest so you try to get the ball down and use your feet. In foosball you want to use the sides of the man and the toe. So the ball is coming to your rod, does not matter where from but let's say a pass for argument.
- Trap the ball: Against the wall or in the middle of the table it is the same. Trap it and take as much of the force off the ball as you can, but never let it get away from you. Two schools of thought here, absorb and angle.
- The absorb the impact theory: Some people think you should use your hand to "take" the edge off the speed of the ball by actually giving to the balls direction. While most good players do this, I find it quite challenging for newer players.
- The angles of the men theory: Physics would say that there is an angle that you can set your figure so that the ball comes into the foot and all the energy is directed down and the ball stops. You need to adopt this in general because you want the majority of the ball energy to go into the table.
- Unified Theory of Catching: Man that sounds impressive. Due to spin and the ball being lifted off the table a bit, neither the "absorb" or the "angle" theory works perfectly, so we use a combined theory. We want to start with the foot in a good position, then when the ball hits the foot of your man, you absorb some of the energy. Some of this absorption is down automatically by your grip and some is done in your mind.
- Grip on the handle: You need to have control of the handle, but you need to be soft. Your hand needs to be able to manipulate the rod and the men, while at the same time being soft when the ball comes in contact with the foot. CRITICAL: DO NOT BOUNCE ON IMPACT. If your hand is "limp", you might bounce when the ball hits your man, meaning the ball will go backwards. Either learn to avoid this, learn to pin the ball as it rolls away or become a graceful loser.
- Finger tips on rod: This is a trick some people use. They actually pinch the rod with their finger tips. This allows for nice absorption, with no bounce. Give it a try.
- Control the ball: So you trapped the ball, now if it is not stopped either pin it to the wall or get it rolling side to side under the rod. DO NOT USE THE FRONT OR BACK OF YOUR MAN! Use only the sides or the toe where ever possible. You must break the habit of using the front/back of your foot on the ball! Only use them when you shoot or pass. This is a good start for you. Remember to learn the loose ball skills.
Click here to read foosball blog on catching.