Scoring more goals than your opponents, whilst conceding as few as possible, is the main objective of a soccer match. Each time a team has control of the ball, the aim should be to create scoring opportunities. However, in junior and youth matches, all too many scoring chances are missed and there is a possibility this is because the managers and coaches may be unintentionally drilling the team out of shooting.
There are five pitfalls that coaches may find themselves falling into and all these may have an effect on the players’ competence at taking shots on goal. This article looks at these pitfalls and offers some advice on encouraging your players to make more attempts at goal scoring – hopefully with success!
- Not making shooting the main aim
Some coaches spend a lot of time working on passing the ball, movement and support during attacking training sessions but they fail to reiterate the key point of these attacks, which is having a shot at goal. What occurs here is that the team are instructed on creating goal-scoring opportunities and are content with this. Not enough attention is given to the shot. Was it weak, well placed, on target, across the goalkeeper, worked the goalkeeper? All the analysis given is whether the shot went in the net or not.
“We played a brilliant game today but we failed to take our chances.” An often-heard comment in soccer matches. However, how can a team play brilliantly if they haven’t scored?
You must reinforce to your players that any attacking play should give rise to a goal scoring opportunity with a shot at goal being taken.
- Supporting the ball being overplayed by commending selfless play
Do you ever congratulate a player who has passed the ball to a team-mate instead of attempting the shot himself? At times, a player will be in a goal scoring position but instead will choose to pass to another player. Usually this is because of nerves or lack of confidence and they opt to give the responsibility to somebody else. The problem here is that a selfless player is not going to win you any soccer matches.
Train your team to be confident and assertive when taking shots at goal. Teach them the importance of accepting responsibility for taking shots, regardless of the outcome. If a goal is not scored, at least they attempted the shot. Remember then to analyse why it was missed.
- Not using correct size nets during practice
It is important to use the correct size goals during soccer coaching sessions. Occasionally this can’t be helped, for example when training indoors during winter but small five-a-side nets are not a realistic comparison of the goals the team will be shooting at during a proper match.
Use portable goals if at all possible. Otherwise, use cones or poles that represent the exact goal width the team normally play with.
- Not encouraging the correct mental approach to shooting
A players mental attitude to shooting at goal is just as important, if not more so, than their technical expertise. Players should be instructed that any attacking play should finish with a shot at goal. Possession of the ball means nothing unless it involves penetration and an attempt on goal. Not all efforts are going to result in goals but failure to shoot means there is no prospect of scoring. Setting up opportunities is one thing; however, not taking on the shot is another.
The next time you watch your team play, whether it’s during a small a-side training session or a full game, observe how many chances there were compared to how many shots at goal were taken. Look at the ratio, then at how well the team are performing by encouraging them to attempt the shot. You should expect 30% improvement at least in the ratio.
- Failing to coach the right technique
Poor technique is the reason most goal attempts do not test the goalkeeper. Often this poor technique relates to how shooting practice during training sessions is run. For instance, how much of the session is allocated to shooting at goal from an assortment of different build-up positions? Positions such as connecting with a through ball, crosses from the left or right, receiving the ball to feet, then turning and attempting the shot. Or the various ball flights the players must get used to such as low shots, a bouncing ball or a dropping ball.
In training sessions, ensure practice shooting is as match oriented as possible. Use the right size nets, vary ball flights and the type of service received.