The old adage “practice makes perfect” is certainly true when it comes to football.
The more practice that the boys have, the better they will be. Forget the Playstation, Wii and X-Box and send them in the garden for fresh air, exercise and some football practice. Here are some inspirational videos for the boys to watch:
The skills that we are working on and which the boys ought to practice as often as practicable are:
(1) Accurate Passing – Inside of the boot, along the floor, firm and accurate to another person. This should be practiced with both the left and the right foot (one will always be stronger but the boys should be able to use both with a degree of precision). Passing should be practiced over various distances from short sharp passes to long driving passes.
(2) Ball Control – when the ball is passed to them they need to control it quickly and decisively with their first touch, ready for whatever second touch may be appropriate (pass, shot, etc.).
(3) Aerial Ball Control – if the ball is in the air they need to be able to bring it under control using either their chest, their thigh or their foot (depending on the height and trajectory of the ball). It must also become a compulsive reflex to use arms for balance but keeping hands and arms well out of the way of the ball (if the ball touches any part of the arm then that is classed as a “hand-ball” and is penalised). Aerial control can be practiced by throwing the ball to the boys and instructing them to bring it under close control.
(4) Heading the ball – contact with the ball should be on the forehead below the hairline and just above the eyebrows. Soft passing headers and firm shooting headers should be practiced by throwing the ball in the air.
(5) Shooting – this is more difficult to practice in a back garden unless you have a lot of space available. Shooting is with the top of the boot and contact with the ball is made with the laces of the football boot (as opposed to passing which is done with the inside and sometimes the outside of the boot)
(6) Volleying the ball – this is great for coordination as there is no room for error. Throw the ball in front of the boy so that it is falling towards the ground. The boy should then run forward and strike the ball before it bounces on the ground (keeping his eye on the ball but leaning forward into the shot to keep the ball down).
(7) Lifting the ball – the art of kicking the ball to give it lift is an essential skill. It is best achieved with the inside of the book, making contact with the bottom half of the ball and leaning back at the point of impact. This is a useful skill for corner kicks, free-kicks, long passes over a defender and placing a high shot in the goal. The “cross bar challenge” is a fun way to practice this skill – boys are instructed not to aim for the goal but to aim to hit the horizontal cross bar of the goal since this is the most useful height that they should be able to achieve during games.
(8) Chipping the ball – this is again achieved with a sharp jab at the underside of the ball with the inside of the foot but leaning into the ball. It is easily practiced in a garden with an old tyre (old tyres are free and easy to come by). Lay the tyre on the lawn and the aim of the game is to chip the ball into the centre of the tyre. This exercise is fun to play alone or in groups.
(9) Dribbling – running (not walking) with the ball, – close ball control so that the boys are able to stop with their foot on the ball on the blow of a whistle. Not kicking the ball ahead and chasing after it!
Above all boys should never kick the ball with their toe. The inside, outside and top of the boot are the only parts that make contact with the ball.
Boys will work on these skills during training and will be assessed on their ability to perform them when team selections are made. Practice at home to supplement training sessions can only help.
Finally, watching professional football on television is also good for the boys as they learn by watching their heroes in action.