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The Secrets to Scoring Goals

The Secrets to Scoring Goals

Well as the title suggests, I can’t tell you much more because if I do the secret to scoring goals would no longer be a secret. I can tell you that knowing how to kick a ball properly to shoot is important but my session was not about the ordinary. For information on that you can pick up any number of great books to provide you the technical knowledge on shooting. Good videos and DVD’s also exist that clearly demonstrate how to kick a ball.

You can also find a host of good books and DVD’s that offer you a great assortment of shooting drills. What I touched on in my two sessions were truly secrets. They are geared for player’s 14 years of age and over. Coaches who really paid attention to the details of what was said in my two sessions will truly improve their teams goal scoring. Those who did not missed some of the secrets.

The key to my sessions was that I dealt with the mental aspect of scoring rather than about the skill/technical aspect of scoring. If coaches were expecting a steady stream of information on how to teach the skill of shooting or to jot down another bunch of X’s and O’s to show a new drill, then they would have been disappointed. But judging by the feedback that I received that afternoon, some did understand what I was conveying.

The first point I make about how to teach your strikers to score more goals is that I have to make them believe in the material. The only way to approach this topic is that the striker must know that some of the specific information they are receiving from the coach truly are secrets. They must “make it their own” to be most effective and the coach must work one-on-one to coach this aspect of scoring. You cannot give out secrets to a whole group. And the coach must tell their players to keep the information secret. This is no different than the unwritten rule that magicians have. They never reveal how a trick is done.

When I was doing research for my upcoming book and lecture series to compliment my own philosophies and methods on teaching players to score more goals, I found out some interesting things that the best goalscorers in the world had in common. Simon Kuper, reporter for the Financial Times Sport wrote an article called “How to score goals” in his column called “On The Game”. For the article he interviewing the top English Premier League strikers and found out that most of the best strikers in the world know how they do it! Fearful of revealing their secrets, they seldom talk about it. The article appeared in the March 29/30 Weekend Edition, 2003 of the Financial Times.

Top strikers know that the mental skills they posses can be easily learned by any intelligent player so they don’t want to let anyone in on their personal secrets. They do not want to lose their position on the team. It’s a competitive world out there and they do not want to jeopardize their advantage.

When I lecture on the secrets of goal scoring I always draw the best reactions from players who are good at scoring. One of my friends, John Williams, who played college soccer at A&B in West Virginia and in the top leagues in Canada during the eighties and early nineties was always one of the top goal scorers in whichever league he played in. I was discussing with him my secrets to power shooting. His first reaction to this secret was amazement, then, shock that I said it, laughter that he couldn’t believe what I said, and finally one of those “how did you know” responses. “Hey,” I said, “I used to play keeper, you know!” Williams plays in the over 35 old-timers league and still is among the leagues top goalscorers every year. He said to me, “no man, John, do not go around telling everyone that. You’re going to make me look bad! It’s my secret.”

“No man, John, do not go around telling everyone that. You’re going to make me look bad! It’s my secret.”

A couple of summers ago I was hired by a coach of a U16 girls team who were struggling to score goals. Early in their season they dominated most games but tied or lost close games because they could not finish. The coach heard about my goal-scoring course and brought his attacking players. After 3 intense days and 16-20 hours in the class and on the field they were done the course. In their first game after the course, they scored 6 goals. Their top striker, Analisa Romano, scored 4 goals in that game, more than she had scored all season up to that point. She went on to win the league scoring title. Last year, they won their league and 13 of their players were offered Soccer Scholarships.

But after the course I was hoping for some word of mouth referrals for my course. Well, that didn’t come till after their successful season. I received this e-mail at the end of the season from Coach Gerry Gentile of Vaughan Azzurri. “Sorry for taking so long but I didn’t want to give away our secret but I will write an article about how your course turned our fortunes around.”

So coaches keep secrets too. I see. Thanks very much. The point is, as I mentioned in the lecture, the word “Secret” is a very powerful word. It’s used in marketing all the time. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurants use a ‘secret’ recipe. There are advertisements about the ‘Secrets of Weight Loss’ or the ‘Secrets of Becoming Rich’ everyday in the media. You feel privileged when you’re let in on a secret. But when you know there is a secret out there and no one is telling you, your hair stands on end and you become frustrated. The brain can emit an emotional/chemical response in our bodies just because of this word and how you interpret it. Is it working for you or against you?

Coaching your strikers and goalkeepers, especially as they get into the higher leagues and into their teens and onward, becomes just as much as a psychological challenge as it is and technical challenge. Most coaches do not deal with this aspect of coaching enough and many who do, work on it as a team. But consider the state of mind of both the goalkeeper and the striker. Both positions have very negative undertones to them. The best way to truly respect these undertones is to be a parent of a striker or goalkeeper watching a son or daughter play.

My nephew, Daniel plays competitive hockey and whenever I go watch him play I find it more stressful than usual. When I ask my brother Mark how he handles the stress of being the father of a goalkeeper he tells me that it’s not easy because it’s the only position on the team where you start with zero and go minus one, or two, or three, or four or more. Even when the team wins, the keeper ends on the minus side of things unless he or she gets a shutout.

As I stated in my lecture session, many strikers find it harder to score as they get older and into more competitive soccer. The number of goals goes down. Often players who scored at a young age because of speed or a big kick can no longer score with such regularity. Goalkeepers get taller and defenders start to become more specialized. At the highest levels there are not as many goals scored in a soccer game.

This statistic from FIFA Magazine reveals the most common results of soccer matches:


Most common result 1-0 (19%)
10% of matches end 0-0
23% of matcheshave 2 goals
20% of matches have 3 goal

To truly understand the negative vibes inherent in playing the striker position, think of it in this manner. If there are 3 strikers per team who share 90 minutes in a game, that means that not one player leaves the game feeling as though they have done their job in 10% of matches. In another 19% of matches only one player of six will leave the game with a goal. Five strikers will have had an unsuccessful game when judged by the final result. And if two goals are scored in a game then only two out of six players will have something to be positive about after the game.

Now what if a midfielder scores a goal once in a while or a defender moves forward to score. …that makes the probability of a striker scoring even less. What happens if the team losses and the striker does not score…who gets the blame? Even if the striker had no good balls to score from, the pressure will still be on them especially from the media. Going into a game the average fan is expecting a goal from each of their strikers. How unfair! Most strikers come away from a game on a negative note when judging their personal performance based on goals.

So if a striker or keeper can’t deal with this pressure, then regardless of their skill level they may fail to reach their true potential. Coaches need to understand this and work on the psychology of their strikers more than any other player on their team. Using secrets as a coaching tool is one way of helping out the striker from a psychological standpoint to help them gain confidence.

Coach Geoff Fleck, who was at one of my lectures, sent me this e-mail: “Loved your presentation and came away both informed and inspired. On your discussion on the secrets that the coach shares with the strikers alone, reminded me of something I’d seen in a movie. The scene was an adventure camp. The time was twenty years later and these thirty-something friends were reliving their summer adventures from twenty years previously. One of them asked if he could remember what super secret Indian name the camp coordinator had given him twenty years previously- the camp coordinator told him “Whispering Eagle”. Another asked the same question and the camp coordinator also gave him the name “Whispering Eagle”. The point being that the secret was between the camp coordinator and kid-nobody else knew the secret or so they thought.”

In the same article by Kuper he stated that former England manager Glenn Hoddle once said Michael Owen, the countries best striker, was not a ‘natural goal scorer’. Scoring goals can be taught. Michael Owen from England said, “Scoring requires a mental quality especially on entering the penalty box.” Part of coaching that quality is the use of secrets.

In the field session at the CYSA conference I worked with a very talented group of strikers from the U18 team coached by Hervi Rualo. In one drill I served very high difficult balls to the strikers with back to goal and wanted them to turn and score as quickly as possible. In the beginning the girls had some problems turning quickly to score. Without giving them any technical/skill related information but rather more psychological feedback to help them with their confidence, they were able to improve rapidly and get the ball at goal quickly and consistently.

The improvement was almost instant and their confidence level went way up as well. All I did was give them little secrets. Player is receiving a difficult high ball with back to goal and she scores on a brilliant turn and shot. Coaches in attendance give her a rousing round of applause after the goal.

Now to find out what some of these secrets really are, unfortunately I don’t have room in this article. Maybe we’ll see you back at one of my future lectures, and don’t expect to get any answers from coaches who were there. First of all I didn’t have time to reveal very many of them and secondly, I did tell them not to reveal the ones I did because they are our secrets!

If you missed the big secret in this article then please read it over again.

John DeBenedictis

Executive Director of The National Soccer Coaches Association of Canada has contributed to FUNdamental SOCCER for decades. Author of the best-selling book "The Last 9 Seconds: The Secrets to Scoring Goals on the Last Touch." and offers a course called "Secrets to Goal Scoring." Goalkeeper for York University, National Title winner in 1977. Semi-professional in the National Soccer League with Toronto Ukrainian and co-ran camps with former English International goalkeeper and Canadian National Team coach Tony Waiters.