Shooting is the most important factor in attacking play. Poor technique or players who are unwilling to shoot often lead to goal scoring opportunities being missed. Even in top level soccer, many shots pass high and wide or players can be seen to hesitate in front of goal. Thus, shooting practice should not only work on acquiring the correct techniques but on developing the right mental attitude.
Shooting practice should always resemble a real match environment. Thus, full size goals should be used as well as shooting in all types of conditions. Some coaches may want to use video analysis of players whether in match or training to study their technique. Video based statistical studies in the past have also shown that a team who has ten shots on target very rarely loses, thus showing the need for accurate shooting. A comparative analysis of 100 goal scoring shots and 100 off target shots in top European Football showed distinct differences in mental and technical skills. Poor shooting often involved one or more weaknesses in each of these domains.
When giving advice to players, coaches should be concise and simple in their explanations and give positive feedback. Generally, advice to players should be based around the following points when analysing technique:
- take a
quick early look at the goal and keeper (if possible) and aim for most
exposed part of goal (choice, awareness...)
As mentioned earlier, many shots are hit high or wide of the target. Players should be encouraged to keep shots low as many goals result from balls being deflected. Many shots are taken from different angles in front of goal. Shots coming across defenders towards the far post can often be turned into goals by attackers following the ball in, even when mis-hit or deflected (provided the shots are low). Thus, players should be encouraged to aim low at the far post. The image below shows the advantage of hitting the far post (put mouse cursor on image to see animated version). Furthermore, a greater percentage of the goal is exposed and it is more difficult for a keeper to knock the ball away into a safe position. Also, lower shots make it harder for the keeper to get down to save.
Other important aspects of shooting are striking the ball with swerve and power, especially from outside the penalty area. It is harder for a goalkeeper to judge and hold a shot struck with power and swerve, especially if directed at the far post. A FIFA report analysing goals scored in the 1982 World Cup, showed that 38% of goals came from shots outside the penalty area. Charles Hughes (former Technical Director of the English FA) lists the importance of long distance power shots as:
- The shot
may score direct as the chances of this are increased due to defenders
and attackers blocking the keeper's field of view
Volleys and half volley opportunities often occur due to the ball bouncing or dropping around the penalty area. These are often "half-chances" and need to be practised. Players must strike through the top half of the ball otherwise it is likely to go high over the bar. The picture below demonstrates the body position when practising a half-volley.
Other scoring occasions involve shots from balls coming sideways across the player. These are difficult to keep down and player should concentrate on accuracy rather than power. Indeed, first-time shots are all important as the player may only have a split second before he is closed down. Thus, shots without controlling the ball must be practised through delivery from all angles (in front, from the side, moving away away or towards the player...) and shot types (ball in air - volley, ball bouncing - half-volley...). Introducing pressure related training where defenders harry the attackers is paramount. The nearer practice is to real match conditions, the greater the possibility for improvement. To see animated examples of technical shooting drills, click here.
Shooting when having got clear on goal is another important aspect of shooting. The player must concentrate on his approach, and choose whether or not to beat the keeper by dribbling or shooting. If the latter is chosen, the player can either lob him, or shoot directly past him either by feinting to create space, by putting it underneath or through his legs. Whatever the choice, the player must stick with their decision and always hit the target.
Other areas which need to be practised include, shooting after receiving the ball and turning, moving one way, checking and then receiving the ball, shooting around opponents and feinting to shoot. The coach must use their imagination to provide realistic and challenging situations to improve player shooting ability. Working on a player's weaker foot is also essential.
As mentioned earlier, the mental aspects of shooting must be worked on by the coach and player. Confidence, assertiveness, courage, awareness, composure and surprise must all be part of a players armoury. Practice makes perfect and mental strength is linked to good technique and vice versa. The coach must aim to develop both mental and technical skills through analysis, constructive criticism (feedback), demonstration, encouragement and further practice. Always analyse the players attitude to missing the target. Missing shots should not deter players, several shots may be needed before scoring. For more information on developing the mental side of the game, go to our soccer psychology section.
The coach must also instil into their players, the various rules on when not to shoot. For example, if an opponent is too close and is certain to block the shot, is too far away from goal or at a too tighter angle. Observe the ability of the player in seeking alternatives when the shot is not on.
Finally, any coach must be capable of detecting weaknesses or errors in shooting. Below is a brief checklist for listing potential problems:
It is hoped that the above points will help provide information to coaches and players at all levels. Top quality shooting will obviously greatly increase the chances of success. To achieve this, coaches need to develop both the mental and technical side of shooting and encourage players to work hard to improve their skills.
Click here, to see animated examples of technical shooting drills in our coaching archive.