Punt Kick – Time to Give the AFL a Torpedo!
Cop this letter from an observant fan:
‘Considering the result of any AFL game is decided by the scoreboard,
I’m amazed at the inability of the modern footballer to kick
goals, particularly within 30m and directly in front’ (Gary King,
Koo-wee-rup, Herald Sun, 50/50, April 13, 2010).
We are living in a technological era where sport science has
taken huge steps in making athletes ‘run faster, jump higher
and throw further’. And, the results tell us this is true! Most
elite sports embrace sport science, want to know about it and
in fact invest in it. So, if we now include in this list ‘kick
accurately and kick further’ do we have the same motivation to
learn everything there is to learn about kicking science? Certainly
for the ‘round ball’ sports, much has been written, discussed
and implemented. For the oval ball sports, certain codes are
receptive to innovative ideas and are very keen to listen and
learn. How we wish this were true across the AFL.
Recently we received a visit from a skills coach at a Melbourne
AFL Club. He sat in our office and announced that his aim was
to be recognized as the League’s ‘top skills coach’. An admirable
ambition. However when quizzed about the strategies he already
had in place to target the two principal kicking muscles, iliopsoas
and rectus femoris, he simply gave us a blank look. Here was
an AFL skills coach who had no idea what these muscles were,
not to mention their anatomical position, attachment points and
lines‐of‐pull. And herein lies the problem. Does he not understand
that the line‐of‐pull of the muscle determines the alignment
and pathway of the kicking leg? How would he expect to apply
any kicking technique without this understanding? It seems that
here we have an unqualified person who could be perpetuating
errors simply because he lacks knowledge and continues to coach
the way he himself was coached.
Which brings us nicely to the article written by Michael Gleeson (‘Wayward
Pies working on goal‐kicking: coach’, Melbourne Age, April
21, 2010). In this article, Coach Mick Malthouse expressed
the views that ‘Collingwood’s goal kicking has been “unacceptable”
and goes on to declare however, that Collingwood is “proactive
in addressing the issue”. So, how is this apparent inability
to kick straight being addressed? Well, Coach Malthouse declares
that working on kicking when players are fatigued is important
because they need to replicate match conditions. No, no,
no emphatically no, Coach!
While it may be applicable to the very few elite players who
have mastered the art and science of kicking, and have developed
positive muscle memory, coaching strategies are markedly different
at the junior and developmental stages. Practise under the same
physiological fatigue can be dysfunctional and the principle
espoused by Coach Malthouse is counter to all good teaching/coaching
principles recognizing that tired muscles produce distorted lines
of pull, just as tired brains produce irrational thoughts. When
grey matter cannot absorb additional information, we rest it.
Skeletal muscles, Coach, require the same rest, if accurate movement
patterns are to be established and enter the muscle memory via
repetition and consolidation.
A question was posed at the higher levels of a certain AFL club
regarding the implementation of innovative techniques in kicking,
and received the following response:
‘The AFL is steeped in tradition; this is how we have always
done it, and this is how we will continue to do it’.
Thepuntkick.com has been privy to many such responses and can
only surmise that the AFL is mired in a time warp where past
players and coaches can only reflect on how they did it, to the
detriment of novice players who will learn, in some instances,
incorrect technique and outmoded kicking strategies.
Of course, the problem goes back much further than this. We
must emphasize that nothing is more important than players acquiring
the correct technique from the time they enter Auskick, through
to senior level. Are they receiving this? Well, if the in‐house
philosophy of ‘…I don’t want to know’, let’s keep with tradition’
attitude in the AFL persists, any improvement to kicking technique
is destined to be a slow and torturous process. The ‘Ostrich’
syndrome will ensure that the skills of the game will remain
stagnant, while those of the more progressive and enlightened
sporting disciplines will flourish.
In the words of former United States President, Harry S. Truman
‘…It’s what you learn after you know it all that really counts’.