MOST aspects of our game are coached to us from a very young age and when I say this, I mean the basic skills of the game. We are taught how to toe-tap a ball, how to catch a ball, how to control a ball, how to solo and how to deliver a pass using the fist and the foot. All elementary skills that are critical to the success of any team or any individual.
When games are analysed at the highest level by pundits on Sky Sports or The Sunday Game , it is no coincidence that these simple but very effective skills are to the forefront of every passage of play. Good habits are a great thing to have when you are involved in sport and developing your skills can be something that can be done even during down-time.
We often hear it said that you only ever need a ball and a wall to develop your skills and this is quite true, but skills can be developed and improved on by just using a ball. You can improve on toe-tapping or catching when this is all you have. All it takes is five or 10 minutes a day to achieve this. I’m a believer in being able to use both feet when kicking a ball. This is a skill that is often spoken about but not always coached. I have often mentioned one of my old coaches, Thomas Mallon, as being the man that encouraged me from a very early age to use both feet. He was an excellent underage coach and a great advocate of a player being able to use the left and right foot as well as the left and right hand when fist-passing. Being a forward and having the ability to turn onto either side and deliver a pass or kick a score must be a nightmare for any defender and it’s only now that I’m in a management and coaching capacity that I really appreciate the importance of this skill.
In 10 or 15 years’ time, I would love to see the majority of players in the game equally confident using both feet. We are always looking for ways to improve the game and to speed it up. Coaching players to use both feet and both hands is an opportunity that has always been there for our coaches, is still there and should be utilised.
The Killeavy club grounds are packed most evenings, from juvenile teams right the way up to senior teams training and playing games. One piece of advice I always offer the young players is to keep practicing using the left and right foot.
Getting as many touches of a football before a training session can really determine how the training session is going to go for you. I’m not talking about taking pot shots of a ball before a warm-up is even done, but maybe partnering with a team-mate and practicing left and right foot kick passing no more than five metres apart. This is a great skill to get your ball control going and to improve the direction of your delivery.
To improve yourself as a player and to take your game to the next level, you should always set yourself a target for each and every training session. If that target is not achieved then let it carry over to the next training session until it is achieved. The type of thing I am talking about varies depending on the player and the position they are playing but, as a corner-forward, it could be something as simple as taking a man on and scoring a point. It could also be to create a turnover or two for the team that leads to a score. Small but achievable targets each time, that as well as the help and guidance from the coaches, will go a long way into the overall development of anyone’s game.
One other area that I would love to see coached and improved on is awareness. To have a knowledge of what is going on around you. Look at the movement of the Dublin forward unit, for example. There is a method in how they drag their opponents over the pitch and it is simply to create a pocket of space for a player to generate a scoring opportunity.
Not every move or run has to lead directly to you as a player getting the ball. It could be to drag one or two players away to open more space for your team-mate and while you might think you are not impacting the play, you are probably the most important player in the move here that ultimately leads to a score. Being a decoy, being less predictable – they’re both huge assets to have as a footballer. A two-sided player is a rare commodity but it’s no coincidence that Peter Canavan, Diarmuid Connolly and Colm Cooper are rated as some of the best the game has ever seen.