Scoring goals requires technical skills – the ability to dribble, run with the ball, receive a pass, find space and strike the ball correctly with the appropriate part of the foot or body.
But goalscoring also requires a certain mental attitude.
Top class players such as Lionel Messi play with the certain knowledge that they are going to score goals. It’s just a question of when and how many. This “goalscoring mentality” is what separates Messi (and players like Rooney, Ronaldo, Drogba, David Villa, and Ronaldinho) from players who have similar technical skills and has made him into one of the most valuable players in the world.
But even if your players are as young as eight or nine they can be helped to develop the self confidence that will allow them to perform to their potential in every match and for a striker, that means converting scoring opportunities into goals.
Hans Westerhof – a respected Dutch soccer coach – says:
“If you want to improve an individual player, you will have to work on his self-confidence. Self-confidence is really nothing more than knowing what it is you have to do (your basic tasks) and knowing that you can do it. The coach must send his players on to the pitch with the right basic tasks. Players must not be given orders they are unable to carry out.”
This is true for players of all ages but especially true for young players.
Children have to be taught the mechanics of football but they also have to be given the self-belief to use their skills on match days.
That means allowing players to take chances and express themselves without fear. To do that you have to manage the pressure that children inevitably feel on match days.
The message from you to your players before they take to the pitch should be simple: If you are within range and you can see the goal – shoot! It’s OK to miss. If you don’t shoot, you’ll never score.
The confidence to act on this instruction to “shoot on sight” can be given in training sessions by playing small-sided games (SSGs), involving 4v4 or 5v5 matches on a short, wide pitch that has really big goals at each end. Award two points for a goal scored from within your own half and one for a goal scored in the opponent’s half of the pitch.
You can also encourage a shooting mentality by only playing possession games such as keepaway if they include an element of goalscoring.
Teaching your players how to keep the ball is essential but possession without an end result – a goal – is pointless. So play 4v2 or 6v3 games by all means but always allow players to shoot at a goal when they have completed a set number of passes.
If you teach your players the skills they need to need to score goals then lower their anxiety level in matches by making it clear that you value attempts at goal as much, if not more, than actual goals you will soon have a team that thinks “this isn’t so hard!”.
Once that degree of self confidence is reached, goals will follow.
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