INTERMEDIATE SHOOTING (A)
The next step in the soccer shooting progression builds on the instruction provided in basic passing. Players are first instructed to use the inside-of-the-foot and then the instep drive to pass the ball through a goal to a teammate on the other side. After accomplishing this, players are next instructed to align with their teammate in such a way that their passes go inside one of the goalposts. Finally, players are instructed to imagine the presence of their teammate and pass to a spot such that the ball goes inside the goalpost. Coaches should review the Coaching American Soccer.com articles on Introduction to Passing, Introduction to the Instep Drive, and Introduction to Shooting and Goal Scoring before they begin.
This instruction is best performed with a free-standing goal where the goalposts are anchored in the ground and there are no backstays. If a goal like this is not available, any goal will work, but shots (passes) may hit the backstays, causing minor inconvenience and a bit of difficulty in teaching the progression. There must be no net on the goal. There must be sufficient flat space on both sides of the goal to allow for normal passing. Depending on the number of players involved in the instruction, more than one goal may be used or players may be split into two groups where one group is involved in the shooting instruction while the other group performs another activity. The groups can then be switched.
Passing Through the Goal – General
Before starting this activity, it must be made very clear to the players that they are being asked to pass every single ball through the goal, between the goalposts and under the crossbar, in order to score. It is essential that the coach emphasize that each player, 1.) Before they strike the ball, look to see the location of their teammate; 2.) Look down to see their foot strike the ball; and, 3.) Kick the ball directly to their teammate.
Players are set up in pairs with one ball per pair. One player from each pair is placed approximately 10-yards in front of the goal and the other player from each pair is placed approximately 10-yards behind the goal. Players are to be spaced apart from each other laterally to allow for ease of movement. The pairs of players are then asked to pass back-and-forth to each other, through the goal, with a right-foot inside-of-the-foot pass and receive, utilizing a minimum of two touches. In order, players are then asked to switch to 1.) A left-foot inside-of-the foot pass and receive; 2.) A right-foot instep-drive pass with a right inside-of-the-foot receive; and, 3.) A left instep-drive pass with a left inside-of-the-foot receive.
All of the passes should be on the ground. The pairs of players can be switched from the “front” to the “back” of the goal and the passing sequence repeated. The distance away from the goal can be increased based on age and leg strength. Pairs may have to be physically moved to ensure that the passes are going through the goal. Pairs that quickly understand and perform the skill may be allowed to alter their relative positions laterally for a greater challenge, as long as their passes always go through the goal.
Passing Through the Goal – Target Teammate
The transition to the next phase of this instruction is for the players in front of the goal to be recognized and designated as “shooters” and their receiving partners behind the goal to be recognized and designated as “targets.” Before resuming, two cones should be placed approximately two-yards apart in the middle of the goal on the goal-line. Half of the shooters should now be positioned in front of the left side of the goal in order to use their right foot, inside and then instep, to pass to their teammate through the left side of the goal, ensuring that their passes go between the left goalpost and left cone. Similarly, the other half of the shooters are to be positioned in front of the right side of the goal in order to use their left foot to pass through the right side of the goal. The shooters are to then switch sides, left and right. After that, the shooters and the targets are to switch, front and back, with the entire sequence being repeated for the new set of shooters.
As before, the position of the receiving, or target, players is critical to the success of this instruction. The target players must always be in a spot that ensures a proper pass goes through the goal. If this is not happening naturally, the coach must reposition the target players accordingly. If a high rate of success is being achieved, the coach may move the cones in the middle of the goal closer to the goalposts and repeat the exercise and/or move the shooters farther away.
Passing Through the Goal – Imaginary Target
Finally, the transition to an imaginary teammate, or an imaginary target, is the most critical part of this instruction. The receiving players are removed and the shooters are asked to imagine their teammate’s existence and to pass the ball to “them” through the goal. For young players, this is age- and cognition- dependent, with some children understanding the concept immediately and others needing more time.
The preceding activity is repeated with the shooters provided with a number of balls. If it is helpful, cones or discs can be placed behind the goal for the shooters to use as interim targets. The cones or discs are to then be removed as soon as possible. (One of the things that can be suggested is that the shooters look at a particular tuft of grass.) In any case, the imaginary target must be approximately 10-yards behind the goal.
The key to this transition is for the shooter to mentally place his imaginary teammate at a location behind the goal so that the path of the shooter’s pass (shot) will take the ball directly over the goal-line exactly where he wants it to go.
This is where some players will want to start to kick the ball harder. At first, this is to be discouraged because it causes misses. Once again, this is the opportunity to emphasize that accuracy is the key to shooting and that power is added later. The balls are to be retrieved and the process repeated. Coaches may be tempted to place “ball collectors” behind the goal but this is not recommended because it disrupts the transition to imaginary teammates.
Further progressions for this series include moving the cones closer-and-closer to their respective goalposts; shooting a moving ball; shooting from the left side of the goal to the inside of the right goalpost, and vice-versa; adding a stationary goalkeeper on the goal-line inside the cones; allowing the goalkeeper to have restricted movement – one step right, left or forward; and adding a net to the goal.
– Initial passing through the goal can be started with stationary balls at first, depending on the age group, but a touch to create a moving ball should be added as soon as possible.
– If balls are consistently hitting each other, this is an indicator that there are too many pairs of players involved and the number of pairs needs to be reduced.
– Multiple disks in a row or a rope stretched in a straight line can be used to show the expected path of a pass.
– All of the passes in this instruction are assumed to be on a straight line. Other types of shooting are introduced later.
– It can be fun at any age to point out how many goals are being scored during this instruction.
– Coaching stakes may be used if goals are not readily available. A goal-line may be painted in using field-marking spray to add realism.
– Over-emphasize that all passes must score: Every pass is a shot and every shot should result in a goal.
– Players can be challenged to see who can get closest to the inside of a post.
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