Steven Poacher

STEVEN POACHER: Kicking is the key to success

IF you go to a coaching course looking for ideas on developing the punt pass you will be extremely disappointed as there is very limited material or ideas for coaches regarding the punt pass.

If you go to a coaching course or witness a sample session you will see multiple games and drills that use the hand, and it’s certainly not the same for the foot.

The greatest team in the country and last year’s All-Ireland champions Dublin are a fantastic example for any young players watching the game who want to see how to implement the kick pass effectively.

Dublin’s use of what I call the double kick, is a wonderful example of how to transition up the field efficiently with pace and precision – using simple 25/30-metre punt passes to then play the game in the opposition’s half.

This, for me, is still one of the reasons why Dublin will continue to stay ahead of the pack as the ability to kick pass the ball at Croke Park is the secret to success.

Obviously, the volume of kick passing will be determined by the system or style you as a coach feels best suits your team. However, at underage level there should be no excuse for not encouraging younger players to kick the ball more.

In the modern game the average ratio of hand pass to foot pass in a game is approximately 3:1, although in some games this ratio is probably much greater particularly during spells of strategic game management or if the opposition set up with a deep-lying defence.

In those instances most teams will take the easy option of a hand pass sideways rather than try to be decisive with a piercing kick pass from distance. Even a high risk pass seems to have been erased from the game at senior level.

Instead of complaining and moaning about too many hand passes in the modern game and coaches feeling too much of the modern training sessions are spent hand passing, it is up to us as coaches to try and change the mindset, especially that of the younger generation.

I always use the simple advice to youngsters of a ‘Wall and a Ball’ i.e. all they need is a wall and a ball to practice their kicking and first touch.

How though can we implement punt passing into a whole training session? I thought it would be difficult, but after running a number of successful sessions on punt passing, I have changed my mindset and it can be done.

Over the last few years I have carried out a large bit of coaching spread between school, club and county. A few weeks back I was taking a session in school where I had 26 outfield players and the large majority of the session revolved around kick passing and good movement. Two things are very important in a kick passing game – the quality of the pass but also just as important the quality of movement, particularly from your forward line.

Remember coaches, coaching the kick is not a quick fix, it will take patience and time, but the younger you start with your players the easier it will be to integrate them into a more confident kicking approach at senior level.

A top university coach recently told me that the volume of elite footballers who arrive at university from all over Ireland who can’t efficiently kick pass the ball is very concerning.

Be patient when coaching the kick pass, accept there will be mistakes and don’t forget to tell the young players, a bad ball early is sometimes better than a good ball late or as the great John Morrison use to say, hit spaces not faces.

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