Kicking - Keep Your Eyes on the Ball

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Murray Bushrangers coach Darren Ogier discusses the importance of watching the ball in helping players improve their kicking.

Over preseason, one of the most common faults I see with kicking is players making poor contact with the ball.

Obviously, there is a multitude of factors that can lead to this. One of the more common reasons is simply players not watching the ball on to their boot properly.

I often refer to other sports when discussing this.

In Cricket, David Warner is a great ball striker and more often than not when he gets it right, his head has not moved and he is watching the ball onto the bat. However, with the ones he misses, this is not normally the case.

Adam Scott is number 2 golfer in the world and his head does not move until well after contact has been made. He has a beautiful swing but he needs to make good contact to execute as successfully as he does.

Roger Federer is one of the best ball strikers of all time, and watching him hit balls on You Tube in slow motion is incredible. His head does not move until his racquet head is all the way through the ball and it has well and truly left the strings.

The goal kickers in NFL don’t even look at the goals once the ball has been ‘snapped’, they are focused on making good contact with a particular section of the ball in a very short space of time before they get crunched!!

Wilkinson in Rugby Union who beat us in a World Cup Final with his precision kicking also does not move his head until after contact has been made and the ball is sailing through.

Beckham taking a free kick in soccer has to hit the ball in a specific spot to make it go where he wants. Again, his eyes are the conduit to make this happen.

I know some of these are hitting and different skills and balls, but the underlying basic premise to making good contact is the same.

In AFL football some of the greater kicks that I have seen include Craig Bradley and Greg Williams. Their head movement once the support hand had left the ball was minimal if any and was fixated on the ball at contact. The same can be said for the greatest goal kicker of all time in Tony Lockett.

Very simple action but his head never moved after he had locked his target in and taken his support arm off the ball.

What I find with players coming into our program with greater overall intensity and scrutiny on their kicking, they often miss kicks because they are not keeping their eyes on the ball at contact.  Their desire to hit the target often outweighs completing the kicking process. The head goes up and the end result suffers.

They need to get the process right to achieve the desired outcome. If they don’t complete the skill in its entirety then they will struggle to execute as they know they can.

Ask them what are they looking at when the ball is making contact?

Get them to focus on watching the ball make contact with the boot and then search with their eyes where the ball made contact with the boot after the ball is on its way. This helps to keep the head in place to assist with cleaner contact.

A drill I use is to get them to lock in their target visually then when the support hand comes off the ball, they watch the ball make contact on the boot as above, and they call ‘hit’ or ‘miss’ before they look up regarding the outcome. This can be used for both field and goal kicking.

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