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How do players lose the skill of kicking straight?


Mel Bourne

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A genuine question, which I’m keen to get people’s opinion on. 

The reasons elude me as to why players who have proven they have the necessary skill and technique to nail shots on goal, suddenly (and collectively) begin to flail at this most basic aspect of the game. 

Is it because it is a neglected area in training? Is it because bad habits creep in? Or is it purely a psychological phenomenon? 

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1 minute ago, Mel Bourne said:

A genuine question, which I’m keen to get people’s opinion on. 

The reasons elude me as to why players who have proven they have the necessary skill and technique to nail shots on goal, suddenly (and collectively) begin to flail at this most basic aspect of the game. 

Is it because it is a neglected area in training? Is it because bad habits creep in? Or is it purely a psychological phenomenon? 

Bad habits or technique.

I think it is easy to fix the technique during training, but under duress we humans tend to go into self-preservation mode and the results is regressing to "old habits".

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Wearing my Phys Ed hat, in a nutshell, its all to do with ball drop, height of drop and leg arc and extention. Tracc is the worst  I have seen from an elite player and Kozzy not far behind!

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Conversely, players can significantly improve over time if they are prepared to put the work in and they receive the right coaching.

Russell Robertson was a player who clearly improved his goal kicking over the course of his career, and went from being a below 50% kick to a very reliable set shot. In his case I believe it was just sheer hard work and repetition that did the job.

Todd Viney was an ordinary field kick for much of his career but was much improved in his last couple of years, deservedly becoming All Australian in 1998. 

I'm yet to see any indication that our current group are willing to do this sort of work.

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It seemed like a lot of work has gone into this over pre season and for those first 6 or 7 rounds was bearing fruit. I saw Max at training before the Anzac game really working on that ball drop and straight line run. I don't know whether it was because there isn't as much time to do this in training during the season but a lot of them seemed to revert to their old habits. That shank 30 out at the Punt Rd end was the old Max all over.

I also think the psychological aspect was at play not only for the inaccuracy but for some of the decision making and execution with field kicking. For whatever reason we were not at our psychological peak in this game. 

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29 minutes ago, picket fence said:

Wearing my Phys Ed hat, in a nutshell, its all to do with ball drop, height of drop and leg arc and extention. Tracc is the worst  I have seen from an elite player and Kozzy not far behind!

The way the ball is held and the ball drop is the main influence on the kick. Some players have the innate skill to be able to "fee" the ball in their hands and adjust for the perfect ball drop. Others can't. It's all in the hands.

Why this fails them in set shot goal kicking is a mystery but I offer three suggestions as a fix. One, before each set shot, prepare as if it is not a set shot. Shorten run up (except BBB), no walking slowly, no  placing the mouth guard where is shouldn't be, no twisting the ball in the hands, no shuffling at the start of the run up and any other distraction. Two, each player should have a simple routine developed at training eg. 3 deep breaths, or count to ten, or bend at the knees twice etc that he is reminded of by a team mate. Three, do not take notice of the 30 second timer. Get on with the job.

I note that when watching replays from earlier VFL times, long before the 30 second times was introduced, kicking for goal was much quicker, although not any more reliable on any given day than today.

Many years ago, the great RDB taught how to kick with the opposite leg. He suggested one hand behind the back, only one hand (coinciding with the leg to be used) controlling the ball and kicking off one step. An excellent, easy kicking drill that perhaps has more relevance with goal kicking today.

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I don't think field kicking is our problem or even necessarily kicking for goal. How many misses are checkside, from the pocket, or through traffic? Pickett and Oliver both had shots from outside 50 on the boundary. Gawn was on the point post. Petracca should have nailed both of his kicks but they were through traffic and rushed. None of our final shots on Friday were high % shots on goal. And they all mostly missed by centimetres or millimetres.

In my view it's about finding space, and taking the opportunity to put teammates into space. I'm confident this is as much a strategic change as it is simply "kicking better". We seem so fixated on numbers around the ball that by the time we win it, which we almost always do, we have no time to find space. There's no balance. 

Our gameplan quite literally seems to be "go to the well as often as you can" but there's no plan to actually extract the water once we get there 

Edited by praha
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6 minutes ago, praha said:

I don't think field kicking is our problem or even necessarily kicking for goal. How many misses are checkside, from the pocket, or through traffic? Pickett and Oliver both had shots from outside 50 on the boundary. Gawn was on the point post. Petracca should have nailed both of his kicks but they were through traffic and rushed. None of our final shots on Friday were high % shots on goal. And they all mostly missed by centimetres or millimetres.

In my view it's about finding space, and taking the opportunity to put teammates into space. I'm confident this is as much a strategic change as it is simply "kicking better". We seem so fixated on numbers around the ball that by the time we win it, which we almost always do, we have no time to find space.

I guess when I say “kicking straight” I should have said “kicking to the intended area”. 

You’re right. It isn’t always shots on goal, however, it certainly was a problem in the Qualifying Final, and the reason why we ended up having to play last week. 

Edited by Mel Bourne
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Re set shot kicking, before every match some of us are in our position directly behind the goals for two hours before game time. We watch the warmups and on most occasions we see our players nail shot after shot, from every angle and from various distances, only to see the same players during the match miss what should be easy shots on goal. Clearly this speaks to the psychological aspect of lining up for goal. 

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15 minutes ago, WalkingCivilWar said:

Re set shot kicking, before every match some of us are in our position directly behind the goals for two hours before game time. We watch the warmups and on most occasions we see our players nail shot after shot, from every angle and from various distances, only to see the same players during the match miss what should be easy shots on goal. Clearly this speaks to the psychological aspect of lining up for goal. 

100%. It’s all in the mind.

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1 hour ago, WalkingCivilWar said:

Re set shot kicking, before every match some of us are in our position directly behind the goals for two hours before game time. We watch the warmups and on most occasions we see our players nail shot after shot, from every angle and from various distances, only to see the same players during the match miss what should be easy shots on goal. Clearly this speaks to the psychological aspect of lining up for goal. 

Here are some general comments for the OP. @Mel Bourne

  1. ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) Perspective:

    • Cognitive Fusion: Players might become entangled with negative thoughts during the game such as, "I can't afford to miss this" or "Everyone is watching me." This is in contrast to the warm-up where there's little to no pressure, and they might be more focused on the act of kicking itself.
    • Present Moment: During the warm-up, players are generally more present and connected to the current action without distraction. In contrast, during a match, they might be thinking about the past or future plays, scores, or other pressures, pulling them away from the present moment.
    • Values and Committed Action: The pressure of the game can cause a disconnection from personal values related to teamwork, enjoyment, or skill mastery. Instead, there is a large probability of focus on the outcome, leading to performance anxiety, which alters the biomechanics of the kick.
    • So when BT says its a kicking problem - that's just the outcome..but he is not a psychologist of course.
    • How the [censored] are you meant to be relaxed kicking for goal in front of 90'000 people - irrespective of how much you get paid for it.
  2. Biomechanical Perspective:

    • Fatigue: physical fatigue in game time repeated sprints etc affect the biomechanics of the kick.
    • Environment: Wind, field conditions, and even the pressure and conditions of the ball can change
    • Technique under Pressure: The added pressure during a game can subtly alter a player's technique. Just trying to 'guuuuuiiiide' the ball through.. often results in a swing/drfit away at the end...
  3. Neurobiological Perspective:

    • Stress Response: The brain's response to stress (releasing cortisol) can affect both cognitive functions and motor skills. In high-pressure situations, the amygdala becomes more active, which can lead to a fight, flight, or freeze response. This affects decision-making and motor execution.
    • Focus and Attention: The prefrontal cortex, responsible for focus and executive functions, might be overwhelmed during the game with strategies, opponent behaviors, crowd noises, and personal performance anxieties. This contrasts with the more singular focus during warm-ups.
    • Muscle Memory and Automaticity: During warm-ups, actions might be more automatic and ingrained, leveraging the basal ganglia's role in routine and practiced behaviors. However, during the game, the heightened awareness and stress processes can shift control away from these automatic processes, making the action feel less natural.

Signing off as Dr E.O. 🤣

Edited by Engorged Onion
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Joel Smith doesn't seem too phased by the set shot pressure. I don't think he missed one since Kings Bday. 11.4 for the season and consideration needs to be made for him to retain his position in the forward line next year.

A Carlton supporter I spoke to post game seriously rated his performance last week.

 

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3 hours ago, WalkingCivilWar said:

Re set shot kicking, before every match some of us are in our position directly behind the goals for two hours before game time. We watch the warmups and on most occasions we see our players nail shot after shot, from every angle and from various distances, only to see the same players during the match miss what should be easy shots on goal. Clearly this speaks to the psychological aspect of lining up for goal. 

they're also professional athletes. At this point and at this level, it's half psychological, half strategy. Execution is different to skill. which they all have otherwise they wouldn't be in the AFL.

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If you haven't got your kicking action sorted by 14 or 15 years old, it is hard to make a poor kick into a good kick.  It might improve but under pressure your old bad habits will come out.

On goal kicking pressure no question, your arms get tight which effects the ball drop.  I hate seeing players that move the ball from side to side, keep it simple, you always ball in hand will have a little bit of the left to right movement prior to ball drop but the last couple of steps everything needs to be straight and relaxed.

The other thing know your limitations, nev jetta is an example of this 25m to 40m great kick, kept it simple and knew this was his idea range

Edited by drdrake
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I agree with most of the above comments.

One thing that really irks me is the missing of easy goals.

I understand that AFL players have a limited time at training.

But the phrase "practice makes perfect" rings true.

If each Melbourne player dedicated a mere extra 30 minutes or an hour to goal kicking practice 4 or 5 days a week it would make a huge difference.

Our goal kicking accuracy was one of the major reasons we lost our finals matches.

The average AFL player makes about $400,000+ a year, which is a lot of money compared to the rest of us.

I don't think an extra 30 minutes or an hour before and/or after training is that big of a deal. Especially if you wish to do whatever is required to win a Premiership for your team.

Anyway, plenty of food for thought.

Edited by Supreme_Demon
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I think the theme developing is mental fragility. It makes sense on a lot angles. How many games did we lose this year under 10 points? Too many for mine. And whilst all of those didn’t scream chokes, the lack of a killer instinct is evident. For years we couldn’t really put teams away. We’d cop 4+ goal runs, start games slowly. 2021 was the only exception? or did the lack of crowds play into our hands?- won’t be long till this narrative is permeating in footy circles.
 

The club needs to do a lot of investment in addressing the mental shortcomings of this group in addition to the list rejuvenation. I don’t even know if it’s something we can recuperate in 1 season or even through the same list. 

Being mentally fit and full of confidence is just as important as being physically fit. It is like the golfing world - there are many many talented golfers playing off +6,+7 that could make it on the PGA or other professional tour but melt like butter when the stakes get big. The edge that some athletes have can be largely attributed to self belief and confidence to execute in the big moments. 
 

The straight sets exits in consecutive years will be a massive burden now for this team and even the club to carry. 

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4 hours ago, WalkingCivilWar said:

Re set shot kicking, before every match some of us are in our position directly behind the goals for two hours before game time. We watch the warmups and on most occasions we see our players nail shot after shot, from every angle and from various distances, only to see the same players during the match miss what should be easy shots on goal. Clearly this speaks to the psychological aspect of lining up for goal. 

I watched us do the pre game warm up on Friday night and Joel Smith could not hit the side of a barn. The rest all nailed every shot. Didn’t that work out during the game 😂

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Whenever goal kicking comes up, I think of the famous stories about Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant just shooting ridiculous amounts of balls before/after training.

Our guys could fix it if they wanted to and I think after the manner of exit this year, they will be asked to.

Must be infuriating for the coaches to have guys on $400k-$1m a year and we have to waste time on goal kicking

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8 hours ago, Mel Bourne said:

 Is it because it is a neglected area in training?

We were kicking well mid season, after Williams got on a roll with training drills.

I wonder if he threw away effective drills as he searched for a bit variety.

I remember set shots down the alley. There were also snap drills as stations, and his general kicking program.

Find out what drills help, and repeat and repeat.

I thought we were on the right path with Williams.

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26 minutes ago, kev martin said:

We were kicking well mid season, after Williams got on a roll with training drills.

I wonder if he threw away effective drills as he searched for a bit variety.

I remember set shots down the alley. There were also snap drills as stations, and his general kicking program.

Find out what drills help, and repeat and repeat.

I thought we were on the right path with Williams.

Just confirming did you see less emphasis on the goal kicking drills in the second half of the season, Kev? I thought we had finally fixed the set shot problem in the first 7 games this year. I think we were the most accurate in the first half of the year, only to end up near the worst. It’s a crucial part of the equation for us as we usually generate more inside 50’s and more shots on goal than our opposition. Convert and that’s a win! 
 

And the coaches should be all over Petracca. For a guy with his ability it is just ridiculous that he misses so many. I am not talking so much about his set shots, it’s his shots on the run that infuriate, so often too rushed when he needs to steady and does have the time & space. If he gets that part of his game right he becomes truly elite. 

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