There is something special and exciting about kicking the ball into the back of the net. A goal feels more meaningful. It is just not the same when a goal is scored with no net or when cones are used instead of goals. A goal without a net is the same as draining a three-pointer without a basketball net or hitting a home run without the ball flying over a fence. It is simply not the same.
However, players should realize that hitting the back of the net is often not good enough. What is more important is what part of the net the ball hits. In real estate, the three most important words are, “location, location, location”. The same is true of goals.
Take a look at the diagram below. If a goalkeeper knows how to dive properly, the yellow area represents the goal area that he/she can easily save. A goalkeeper’s height and how far a goalkeeper plays off the goal line will also impact how much area a goalkeeper can cover.
There are four areas off the goal that are difficult for a goalkeeper to reach: the two top triangles (red) and the bottom two triangles (green). As I wrote in the article entitled, “2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Penalty Kicks“, a player should always attempt to shoot the ball in the two lower corners. The reasons are:
- It is very hard for a goalkeeper to get to the ground quickly to save the kick.
- If a player shoots low, the ball will never go over the goal. When shooting for the upper corners, there is a good chance the ball will go over the goal.
To help emphasize the bottom corners and reinforce effective shots, a coach should augment a regular goal with either small pop-up goals or cones/discs. My suggestion is to use discs since a series of well-placed, hard shots will quickly destroy the pop-up goals. With the cones in place (see same diagram), instruct the players to aim their shots between the cone and the post. Even the best goalkeepers in the world will have a tough time reaching these well-placed shots.
I have several tips for coaches to help give their players an incentive to shoot for the lower corners:
- Award points for well-placed shots (and deduct points for poor shots):
- 5 points for a goal shot between the cone and post with the weaker foot (4 points with the dominant foot).
- 2 points for a goal not between the cone and post with the weaker foot (1 point with the dominant foot).
- 1 point for a missed goal shot lower than the goalkeeper’s hips with the weaker foot (0 points with the dominant foot).
- 0 points for a missed goal shot higher than a goalkeeper’s hips but lower than the crossbar with the weaker foot (-1 points with the dominant foot).
- -2 points for a missed goal is shot higher than the crossbar with the weaker foot (-3 points with the dominant foot).
- When a shot misses a goal, players should always shag (or retrieve) their ball. When the player returns, he/she should go to the back of the line and not the earlier position in line.
- If a player has kicked the ball over the crossbar twice, you now have a player to help clean up after practice.
I strongly suggest that coaches add cones to shooting exercises. The better the shots are placed in practice, the more goals your players will score in games.