Teach your players to take more shots

Soccer players who hesitate to shoot on goal even when it appears that they have a clear shot are obviously holding onto the ball too long. There are many drills that can help forwards and midfielders to take more shots on goal even if it doesn’t look like they have a clear shot. A common misconception that many players have is that they can only take that “perfect shot,” and many will wait for that very rare moment when they have a perfect angle and a perfect touch on the ball. Unfortunately, if all players waited to score until the perfect moment, we’d end up with a lot of scoreless games …

The first drill to get your players shooting more frequently is the Four Goals Square drill. On a half-field area, set up goals on each of the four sides of the square. Divide the players into two equal teams of 4-6 players. Place the ball in play. Whichever team has possession may try to score on any of the four goals, and the opposing team has to defend the shots (no goalkeepers). This drill, taking place in small space, keeps your players focused on the shot rather than keeping the ball away from the opponent. If the players are still having trouble going for the shot, make the playing field smaller.

A second drill that can help the players to go ahead and take the shot is a two touch drill. Again, use a half-field space but only set up two goals, one on each opposite end. Divide your players into two sides of 4-6 players each. Again, the object is to score goals, but each player can only take two touches on the ball before either passing it or taking a shot. If a player takes a shot with only one touch on the ball, that goal counts for two points rather than one. See how your players perform in the Two Touch drill; if they are still having trouble taking a shot, again, make the playing field smaller.

Now teach them how to finish!

While watching my son’s high school team tonight I noticed just how bad a “finishing” team they are. They out-shot their opponents 15-4 but lost the game 1-0. They had several opportunities for easy goals when the keeper muffed his catches but they failed to capitalize on them because they never followed up their shots. In two cases the football rolled across the face of an empty net but the forwards had already turned back up the field when they wrongly assumed the keeper had an easy play on the ball.

In the past when I watched their practices I noticed that they practiced shooting – but not finishing. They always ran good shooting drills and 2v1+keeper passing and shooting drills BUT once they took a shot neither the shooter or his teammate followed up the shots.

I’m a firm believer that no matter no good a shooter you are you have to practice finishing not just shooting. There will be games when the opponent’s keeper is just too good or lucky for you to rely only on your shooting skills – no matter how good a shooter you are.

Here’s a good practice tip that can be used with most shooting drills/games:

Tip #1:

Use a parent or field player in goal and ask them to intentionally muff, drop or parry any shots. Don’t use your regular goalkeepers because you don’t want to ingrain the bad habit of parrying or muffing shots that the keeper should catch. When an attacker shoots they know that the “bad” keeper will drop the shot somewhere in front of the net. It is their responsibility to put that muff into the goal.

Tip #2:
This can be used in any games or practice drills involving a goal. Lazy attackers have a bad tendency of watching their shots when they “know” that the shot is going in. They then miss the opportunity to score when the ball hits the posts or bar or is batted down by the keeper.

So we add this requirement for a goal to count: On any shot that an attacker takes, that attacker has three seconds after shooting to enter the goal and touch the net or the goal is disallowed. This ingrains the habit of going to the goal every time they shoot. Once you start doing this, the defenders will learn to count out loud at every shot. It also teaches the defenders to follow up and clear missed shots!

Tip #3:

Enforce the habit with positive and negative feedback. If disallowing a goal doesn’t encourage them to attack the goal you can add an immediate “punishment” of having the attacker run a short distance (100 – 200 yards) if they don’t follow their shots.

If this is in a practice game or drill such as 4v4, 6v6 or 8v8 that means their team will have to “play down” at least one man for the time it takes for them to run to a cone placed 100 yards away and back.

Positive reinforcement would be giving two points for a goal scored off a “put back” instead of the one point for a normal goal.

Remember: Great shots, no matter how pretty, only count once the ball enters the goal. There are no style points in soccer. That toe poke “put back” from one yard away counts the same number of points as that beautiful 30 yard scorcher that hits the top corner of the net.

Ingrain this habit of attacking the goal early at U8 or U10 and your team will pick up at least one goal a game by following their shots.

Ken Gamble