By Patrick Morrison
IN the 1968 Olympics Games in Mexico City, the final of the men’s high jump event took place on Sunday 20th October.
As the athletes competed and vied for their ultimate Olympic goal by the end of the event only three competitors remained. Valertin Gavrilov of the Soviet Union, Ed Caruthers from the United States and his fellow countryman Richard “Dick” Forsbury.
When Gavrilov failed to clear 2.20metres it left the two Americans to battle it out for the Gold medal. The bar was raised to 2.24 metres. Caruthers narrowly missed clearing the bar gently brushing it off its perch with his last attempt. Fosbury claimed the Gold medal by clearing the 2.24 metres on his final attempt. To finish the event, Fosbury made three unsuccessful attempts at the then World Record of 2.29 metres.
That day was a special day for the men’s high jump event and indeed for the sport as a whole. This was the night that the ‘Fosbury Flop’ was unveiled onto the world’s stage. Dick Fosbury had developed his own technique of running up to the bar at speed, once close to the bar jumping upwards thrusting with his outside foot (right) while also twisting his body to ensure that he flew over the bar head first facing upwards with his back to the bar.
The genius of Fosbury’s new revolutionary technique was that it allowed the athlete to bend their back around the bar at the peak of their jump causing the athlete’s body to clear the bar while their centre of mass travelled underneath the bar. Before Fosbury’s technique most of the elite high jumpers would have used the Straddle Technique, the Western Roll, the Eastern Cut-Off and/or the Scissors Jump. All of these previously used techniques involved the athlete landing on their feet because previous landing surfaces were either sandpits or low piles of matting. Whenever deeper/thicker matting types were introduced it allowed the athletes to experiment with different landing techniques.
By the mid-1970s, Dick Forsbury’s technique had completely revolutionised sport to the extent that practically all of the top high jumpers were only using his new style. Basically, the Fosbury Flop had rendered all other previously used techniques obsolete and is now the only technique used globally in competition.
The GAA have announced that in the upcoming freshers tournaments they will trial a kickout rule (that has been floated before without any real support) that will mean all kickouts must travel beyond the near 45m line. The penalty being a hop ball on the 21m of the team kicking the ball out.
For me this rule is the solution to a problem that is no longer within our game. Teams now more than ever see the benefits of having a longer kickout strategy and understand the high risks involved with short kickouts far outweigh the rewards. Statistics over this past number of seasons have shown evidence to support that the further downfield you secure your own kickout the more likely you are to score.
The expected skill set of all goalkeepers has now grown to include carrying the ball out of defence, free-taking, scoring from open play, sweeper keeper, marking attackers and becoming a quarter-back on Restarts. And what most people may not know or understand is that there is far more skill and mental intensity involved in executing a short kickout than there is in kicking the ball long outside the 45m line. Being able to consistently execute short kickouts under immense pressure in a championship environment is possibly the greatest skill that a goalkeeper has to offer. Especially if the opponents operate a full press and really go after the goalkeeper on kickouts.
Whenever Dick Fosbury performed his revolutionary technique it of course looked unorthodox, it went against every technique that had been used before and I’m sure that for the crowd as a spectacle it took time to get used to like anything new does. The technique influenced both the then current elite performers which in turn influenced the next generation of high jumpers who continued with the evolution of their sport. The Olympic community did not see fit to draw up motions to restrict/curtail the spread or use of the Fosbury Flop but instead embraced it and allowed it to flourish.
Over the past five years the biggest and most frequent rule changes have been inclusive of the goalkeeping position, mostly centring around the area of Restarts in Gaelic football. In both soccer and our beloved Hurling, teams have been adopting short restart strategies with defenders in both codes either standing on the edge/sides of the 18yard area(soccer) or getting open inside their own 45m line (hurling) respectively. No motions or rule changes to curb this have been introduced and the evolution of the goalkeeper in these two sports has been embraced.
For me, and many other of the goalkeeping fraternity, the issue with this rule change has nothing to do with it being restrictive of the goalkeeper. The problem and what cause the biggest frustration and outrage is that the change is uncalled for and does nothing to improve the overall game as a whole.
Why not choose to incentivise rather than chastise? Instead of forcing teams to go long outside of 45m why not introduce a rule that states “If the team kicking the ball out will the ball through primary methods (clean catch only without the ball bouncing), any resultant score will be worth double what it originally be.”
This would certainly incentivize teams that win their own kickouts from a clean catch to go for goal more especially now that it would be worth six points. By incentivizing positive play you will encourage teams to play positively. By chastising teams by trying to restrict their play you will only encourage negative responses to try and play around the rule rather than exploiting the rule.
If we want to improve our games for the better, “Don’t chastise, Incentivise!”
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