I love the challenge of this type of photography and every weekend for the last 6 months i have been taking photos of my lad in his Junior team or my local non league football team in the Northern Premier. Real football that is - with a round ball
Over the course of the last 6 months i have found the following generally suits me best.
1) In order to freeze the action i set my camera on shutter speed priority and look for 1/1000s. If i go much lower than 1/800 i generally get a lot of motion blur
2) As the guys above have noted i switch the autofocus to continuous focus point. As yet i have found little difference between the servo settings on AF-A or AF-C. Therefore i will usually leave it on AF-A - automatic
3) For the ISO i will switch this to automatic as it is one thing less to worry about when trying to get a shot.
4) I generally find the best images are when i am able to catch two players doing battle for the ball - preferably running towards me
5) Usually i leave the metering on area. However, recently i have been getting better exposure results using centre weighted - particularly when the sky is bright
6) The images which are less pleasing are when i do a "general" shot and capture too many players without any main subject
7) I find shooting in low light extremely difficult but the guys on here are helping me heaps now i have Elements 9 to improve some images
I am finding with more practice i am getting better and now i know what to look for i am getting more keepers from less shots. Initially i was coming back with 400 shots but now i'm down to the 100 mark.
Keep up the good work. It's frustrating but really rewarding when you get that great image you long for.
PS I would love a 300mm lens.........