Australian Rules Football Coaching

Ball handling skills | Kicking technique correction

Ball handling skills

Football coach Neil Mackay (real name) ran the Palm Beach Currumbin High School Sports Excellence - Australian Football program. In this program talented students spent a lot of time learning about and playing Australian football, a game that has been described by some as the fastest football game on earth.

Neil had spent several months during 1996 working with two of his prize players to correct technique errors they were experiencing with hand ball and marking, two of the key skills of the game. What appeared to be well established faults were still resistant to correction after all this time.

Another football coach had attended a coaching seminar where Neil presented a paper on skill correction and the challenge this presented for all coaches, and this coach contacted Personal Best Academy. A meeting was subsequently arranged and a plan of attack was developed.

The Personal Best Academy facilitator worked with both players and the coach for 20 minutes, using Sports Coaching Protocols® to improve the players' self-awareness of their technique error and then re-programming their old technique with a new, correct, method of marking and hand balling.

Both players and the coach were taught a simple method for self-correcting on those 20% (or fewer) occasions when the error was expected to resurface. The players were told to get as much practice with their new techniques as possible and a follow-up session was scheduled.

When the follow-up check was done 2 weeks later, the coach reported that he had monitored the errors both during practice and in competition and after several applications of the simple post-treatment correction method, the technique problems had not resurfaced.

Kicking technique correction

Mark Woolnough lived and breathed Australian football. He was a star player in the State under-18 team and had a bright future in the game.

One evening in early May 1997 Personal Best Academy was called in to help correct a resistant technique problem Mark was having with his kicking.

Despite being highly motivated to improve and with all the encouragement from his coach, Mark was unable to make much progress with this habitual problem with his kicking.

Although Mark could kick as well as the best of his team mates, quite often he would kick too high, sending the ball up into the air, rugby style, instead of giving it a flat and faster trajectory. The resultant delay waiting for the ball to come down to earth gave opposition players plenty of time to intercept the ball before the receiving player could get possession.

The Personal Best Academy facilitator diagnosed the problem with the coach and with Mark, and then put forward a plan to correct the problem. When all were agreed on the plan they went back out on the oval and started work on the problem.

With input from Mark and his coach, Mark's error was diagnosed as being due to excessive backwards lean while kicking. This leaning backward meant the ball when kicked went up high and came down slower, instead of travelling lower, flatter and faster.

This body posture problem was corrected in 20 minutes using Sports Coaching Protocols®. Mark's coach confirmed 6 weeks later that the problem had not required any additional correction and had not resurfaced.

However, another interesting development had occurred. Mark had developed a new, completely unrelated, bad habit with his kicking.

Being a talented footballer, Mark was always in the thick of the action and often had possession of the ball. While his kicking trajectory was now mostly flawless, the point at which he often aimed the ball was unfortunately not the best.

Quite often, when he kicked the ball to another running player that player was often tackled and lost possession.

Error diagnosis revealed that this was because, instead of kicking the ball to a point ahead of the receiving player so that player would have to keep running to catch the ball and by running fast could keep clear of opposition players, Mark would kick short of this point, so that the player either had to slow down or even come to a complete stop to mark the ball and was therefore easily tackled by opposition players.

Further discussion with the coach suggested that part of the problem was incorrect body orientation - Mark was facing the wrong way when he kicked and this caused the ball to go in the wrong direction. Now that the "wrong" and "right" ways had been identified, the road to correction was clear.

Mark then completed a Sports Coaching Protocols® session. A week later he went to Melbourne for the national competition where he was selected for the All Australian Team.

Update: Mark was selected for the Geelong team.

Sports Coaching Protocols Training Products

Although an iBook for AFL coaching is still being prepared, at this stage the most suitable existing iBook for football coaches and players is Skills Coach Soccer, which deals with a kicking technique problem.

Alternatively, there is an Sports Coaching Protocols online course which deals with technique problems in many different sports, from which it is possible to generalise to AFL football. The email support which comes with the online course greatly assists the preparation and successful implementation of your own skill correction protocols.

Another possibility is the printable How-To Guide, which demonstrates how to use Sports Coaching Protocols with any sports technique problem.

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