Steven Poacher

Steven Poacher – The key to good shooting drills

WE had a very exciting opening weekend to the National Football League with some enthralling encounters including five draws across the 16 games.

To me it proved once again that the best competition we have is our leagues. If you look across the top three divisions, 15 points or less wouldn’t have gotten you any points bar in the Down and Tipperary game that ended 0-10 to 0-10.

Every other game was won by the team scoring 16 points or more, further proof of the importance of getting your team to make clear and calculated decisions in front of goal.

If you looked at the end of the Croke Park game on Saturday evening, there was great patience and discipline shown by the Dublin team deep in injury time to work a scoring opportunity. Nobody decided to take a pot-shot or shoot under pressure or from a silly angle. This isn’t a coincidence, it is rehearsed religiously and practiced in training.

Personally when I take a training session, whether it’s underage, school, club or county, I don’t like giving players access to footballs until we officially start the session.

It is hard to restrain the players at times because they all love a kick around before the real session starts, but it’s more just a concern that someone will hurt something coming out and kicking a ball when not properly warmed up.

Next time you take a training session hand out a few footballs to the players who arrive early and watch what they do. How many of them will all head straight for the goals and start shooting? Answer, probably every one of them. Why do players instinctively do this? Well, it’s simple, they all love shooting and scoring no matter what age they are and it’s a massive part of the game.

How many managers this weekend or last weekend will be lamenting the fact they failed to convert chances in front of goal?

Here is a simple fact of the GAA – a team’s aim going into each game is to win, and to do that they must score more than the opposition.

As a coach you have responsibility, regardless of your coaching philosophy, to include some form of shooting game or drill into all of your training sessions no matter what stage of the year it is.

It is critical that any shooting game or drill performed in training is done at a game-related speed. Players won’t get a leisurely four or five seconds without pressure to steady themselves during competitive action. Introduce pressure and allow players the opportunity to shoot under pressure from a direct opponent.

Encourage players to also take individual responsibility to work on their own, particularly free-takers. Encourage them to find a routine that they’re comfortable with and to stick to it.

Coach the players the correct form and eliminate bad habits such as shooting with the outside of the foot. Also make players practice shooting when they’re fatigued and tired towards the end of sessions as the majority of game-changing moments tend to happen late on when players tire.

I personally like to also include some form of shooting drill or games into my pre-match warm-up as it’s also a good way for players to find their range in an unfamiliar ground. It will also allow the players to gain some confidence with a couple of scores.

Try some overload shooting games in favour of the defence as most forwards in the modern game will have to simulate scoring against crowded defences or scoring outside the normal scoring zone. Keep the drills and games varied and challenging so players won’t be allowed to just drift through the motions.

Here is one scoring game you might like to include in your sessions:

Break Out and Score!

Cone off three 10m x 10m boxes about 30 metres from goal and put two v two inside each box with one ball.

Players must keep the ball for approximately five seconds then on the whistle the player in possession breaks out and scores. This could be running at both ends of the field to accommodate 24 players.

Variations include a late runner coming from the box and scoring, introducing an extra defender outside the box, a time limit, increasing the distance, and working a goal.

There is a huge variety of ways to make the game relevant, challenging and fun.

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