Bulletin 12
The 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).

Right-on Gary!

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’.


 

 

 

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