By Lawrence Fine
Serving an early ball simply means that, instead of getting the ball out wide, then taking it all the way to the end line before crossing it back out, the ball is sent out wide and served much sooner, so it is served behind the defenders instead of playing in front of them.
The reason serving balls early is an effective method of attack is that the attacking players are receiving the ball with their momentum going toward the goal. Even if a defender gets to the ball first, he or she also would be receiving the ball while facing the goal they are defending. This presents the defender with a difficult set of choices and challenges: receive the ball, then turn it (probably while under pressure), kick the ball over the end line or play the ball back to the keeper while under pressure. In each case, it puts the defending team under a great deal of pressure.
Another advantage to the early serve is that it forces the keeper have to make a quick decision as to whether or not to come off of his or her line to try to win the ball. If the decision is made to come off of the line, the keeper now has to fight both the opponent and his or her teammate for the ball, since this would have to be a quick decision that frequently isn’t made in time for the defenders to get out of the way.
The only negative to serving the early ball is that it’s somewhat of a hit or miss situation. If it works, it creates a great scoring opportunity. If it doesn’t, it causes a loss of possession and can lead to frustration. An example of this is if the early-served ball is hit too high and hard. The ball then sails over the goal and people start yelling “get your hips turned” and other nonsense. What they may not realize is that this might have been the correct ball to play, but it simply was poorly struck. As long as the server is willing to take a chance and also deal with the consequences, this can be an extremely effective ball to play.