When a ball is shot on goal, 5 things could happen:
- A goal is scored
- The goal is missed, resulting in a goal kick
- The goalie makes a save and retains possession of the ball
- The goalie makes a save by deflecting the ball out for a corner
- The goalie makes a save and the ball rebounds back into play.
#5 happens a number of times during a game. As a coach, whether your team took the shot or your team was shot on, you always want the appropriate players to follow-up the shot. On the offensive end, following-up shots will result in easy goals. On the defensive end, following-up an opponent’s shot by clearing it out of danger will result in fewer goals being scored against your team.
Yet rarely, especially on the offensive end, does this happen. There are several reasons why players don’t follow-up the shot.
- The ‘Spectator Factor’. Once a shot is taken, many players become spectators. They wait to see the result of the shot and then will react accordingly. This is a very natural reaction and happens at all levels of the game and in all sports, even at the professional level. In baseball, players assume that pop-ups will always be caught and simply wait for it to happen. In basketball, rebounds often go uncontested. In football, once the quarterback throws the ball down field, many players assume the play is over for them.
- The extra work/effort is rarely rewarded. When a shot is taken, the attacking player does not know the outcome in advance. Therefore, on every single shot attempt, the player needs to ‘crash the goal’. If after several games there has not been a rebound for the attacker, that player will be less inclined to look for the rebound.
- Since the follow-up needs to be done at full-speed in order to be effective, players need to expend extra energy. After several efforts a player may get tired.
- Shots are often taken from a long distance (refer back to the ‘dribble-on-goal‘ post). When a shot is taken from a great distance, rarely will an attacker be able to get to a rebound.
In theory, the solutions are easy. But because the ‘spectator factor’ is a natural human reaction or simply a bad habit, it will take a long time to recondition and reprogram the players to follow-up. Here are some tips.
- As a player, assume that every shot will be saved. Start your follow-up as soon as the shot it taken or even better, when you anticipate the shot will be taken. That extra step or two, as long as you are not called for offside, can make all the difference in the world.
- As a coach, incorporate a follow-up drill into all shooting exercises. The one I recommend which will reward and condition the attacker yet not compromise the goalie training is that every time the goalie makes a simple save, have him/her drop the ball in front of the goal that the shooter must follow-up and score. This follow-up can go uncontested by the goalie.
For players who follow-up shots, the rewards can be tremendous:
- Attackers will score more goals; defenders will save many goals
- Players will be in better shape
- Coaches love effort. When a coach sees extra effort being put forth by a player, I guarantee you that the player will get more playing time. If you are not a starter or are not happy with your playing time, start following-up the shots and see what happens.
- Effort is contagious. If you are a captain or aspire to be a captain, effort (and leading by example) is the quickest way to earn the respect of your teammates.