Highlights of the episode:

  • Why a 15-minute kicking session is a must for footy clubs
  • Decision making drill for 1 person
  • Common mistakes he has seen with footballers
  • Drills he give athletes after he gave them feedback

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdqLn6TslJwdR70ojbTXAUQ/

Website: https://www.sherrin.com.au/training/skill/precision.html

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Interview Transcript

Jack: Next, we have Mark “Choco” Williams. He doesn’t need an introduction, obviously. He’s been well-known across the AFL industry as a player and a premiership coach, and now currently a head development coach at Melbourne Football Club with his elite kicking program, and creator of Precision Kicking. So, jump on, Choco. Thanks for coming on, mate. 

Mark: So, I did invent this free and it’s got a line down the middle of it. If people want, we will have the links, I’m sure. But if you go to sherrin.com.au/precision or also Marketing Champion teams, there’s a whole lot of free videos there of all the things that I’ve taught over the years.

I’ve got Shaun Burgoyne doing this stuff. They call him “Silk”. He was doing this stuff when he was 18 and a lot of the Giants’ players were doing it. And it’s not like I ended it there. Every week I find something that probably motivates me. It interests me to find something else that doesn’t make it boring for players. And the fact is that doesn’t matter if you’re a young girl who’s first starting, parents get on and help them with it, because it starts with that actual demographic. And then it gets up to Dustin and me, kicking with Dustin Martin and showing him some kicks as well.

And Ben talked about it. Look at the champion, among winning champion teams. It talks about kicking in a bubble. And that’s all the things that happened in the game. Try and be consistent with the kicking, no matter what’s happening around you. Did you pick it up and kick it? Did you rip it off someone? Did the umpire give you a free kick? Was it stopped? Were you lying on the ground? All these things, but in the end you have to do the same thing. And it’s amazing.

In the lockdown I was with Werribee and I was doing some one-on-one coaching and I teach the same for 10-year-old kids as I do for the AFL footballers. I did the same drills. Obviously, we do it a bit faster and all that stuff. But AFL players who can’t kick properly, I bring them right back to what I show the first- day players in regards to handling the ball, making contact consistently in the same spot, hearing it and getting a real feel where it hit on the foot, get the feeling of it. And can you consistently hit the same spot? And if you can, then you can kick.

I’m very much of the idea do know how to kick first, and then we’ll do a thousand different types of kicks afterwards. But learning how to do the basic one first and get that right, and then progress from it. So, I just love the idea. 

Now, since that time, that’s the basic kicking, then I’ll try and work on a decision-making kicking, what is some basic decision-making kicking the people and coaches need to introduce. Don’t bore the players. But if they’re not doing 10 or 15 minutes of kicking at the start of every training session, whether they are little kids or whether they are senior players, women, I don’t care who they are, they must be doing 10 or 15 minutes of kicking, every training station.

And Melbourne Football Club just won the Premiership. And we did it every week, every week with those footballers. So, I’m telling you, I’m not just making it up. Kicking percentage went from, versus our opposition on the same day, under the same conditions, we were 11th last year, we were fifth this year. When it comes to the finals against all these things, we were number one. And I’m very proud with the fact that we improved that and some of the kicks some of the players delivered, it was fantastic. So, I love it.

Can we then make it kicking under pressure, people chasing them? Can we have chaos of people going everywhere? All these sort of drills you need to invent. You need to watch what happens in the game. Stop it a little bit and say how many players are there and make a drill. And that’s probably my expertise, if you like, it’s to try and design drills that reflect the game, that took players in those situations.

So, it might be when they’re under fatigue, we’re going to do this drill. It might be we’re going flat out. So, our highest GPS that we’re getting in a game, we’re going to reflect it and we’re going to do it in this drill. And we’re only going to do it for four minutes, but we’re going to do it as fast as we can. And again, that puts them under pressure. And can they handle it? Once we can tell them to be calm, relax, see the target, then watch the ball, done. Finish, the opposition doesn’t touch the ball. 

Josh: Yeah, Choco. When you said your kicking in percentages was through the roof. Did you find that their physical output was down? Didn’t have to run as much or chasing as much? 

Mark: Yeah. Well, kicking more goals and all those things, say, in the end. So, I honestly can’t give you a definitive answer on that, but when you’re winning, you don’t run as much. So, that would be the case. 

Jack: And when did your passion for specifically focusing on your kicking craft start, as a coach, or was it as a player? Or it’s been a journey of something you’ve always had a fascination with?

Mark: People might know, but my dad was a famous coach in the AFL Hall of Fame. And if you got to add that over, I have one of the grandstands named after him. Coached Port Adelaide for nine premierships and kept coaching South Australia and all that stuff.

So, he was into perfection, if you like, but I’m also a teacher, physio teacher. So, all this stuff that the sports scientists and the biomechanists, and the skill acquisition people, I learned for four years, I love learning from those guys. And I don’t gobble all of it up. But I add a little bit of here, ‘Yeah, I like that bit and I like that bit.’ In the end, that’s what we do. We borrow from everyone and make it your own.

And I’m delighted that Josh and Ben were using my balls. I saw Ben and I was like, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ And he’s up in Queensland and he’s got my balls and he’s using my techniques. I couldn’t be more delighted, because I just want players to be able to kick better. And there’s no way that I can get to everyone. And that’s why I put all those things on for free on the internet. Good luck. It’s a delight.

One of the best stories I’ve got is this guy, he’s known as Beasyouare Baya and he came from Synegal. And someone rang me up and say, ‘Can I do some kicking with him?’ ‘Yeah, I get it.’ So, I turned up and he’s got big glasses on, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, if you remember him. He used to be playing basketball, he comes from Synegal, he’s a six foot nine, and he’s 18, and he’s never played football in his life. So, I had 20 of these one hour sessions with him. And after that he got drafted on Collingwood’s list this year. And it’s just wild! This guy has never ever kicked the ball before. And so we were showing him all the different things, but I got great delight out of it.

And then at the same time I was coaching a kid who was eight and all of a sudden he kicks better than half the team at Melbourne. And that’s how good he was. I could give him any of the drills and try and muck him up as quickly, as much as possible, amazing amount of pressure, and he could still deliver and hit the kicks. And I thought, ‘Well, I can’t wait for 10 years time to see this kid and where he gets to.’ And then I’m going to say, ‘Well, I remember you.’ I love those stories.

And to this day every player that I coach, I love to watch them. And if it’s a bad kick, it’s important for everyone to understand, everyone does bad kicks. I can’t stop them for four years. And a lot of times he does bad kicks, but he’s good enough to understand what happened. You have to recognize what you did wrong, and then let it go. That matures better the next time. That’s all you have to do. Don’t disregard it and say it doesn’t matter. Because what did you do wrong? You forgot to watch the ball at the end, or you forgot to run towards the target or your lip looked up early. There’s only about four or five things. And if you go on relying to those things that I said before, it’s got all those. If you do this, if it looks like this, this is what’s happened. So, I better teach parents, I better teach teachers and other coaches: these are the signs of things that muck up. So that you can get the answer straight away and not sit there and wait.

Vision is so important. I’m finding my pocket all the time at training and I take players doing stuff and just to show them, as he said, players and kids that I believe in, to actually show it, and then they’re onto it. And once they know that you’re there for them and you’re there not just to tell them off or tell them they’re wrong, but give them solutions, then you get great results.

Nathan: Yeah. Just what you said, which I absolutely loved from that. I forget how you worded it. Everything’s got a ripple effect. And where does the source of the issue, if it’s a consistent error, where does the source of the problem come from? And sometimes it’s not the ball drop, that might be, like you said, how your hips move, how your hands move, that shake you out of hand, which gets you out of rhythm, which gets you off line, which creates a hook on your kick?

And about always, is that what you’re saying is, where does it start to go wrong and fixing that problem can alleviate the end result being a problem. Because if it doesn’t go wrong early on, you don’t get out of control along the way, like people often say, ‘I hooked the ball, continue to hook my foot.’ And we’ve got a jewel there with Joshie to say, ‘Yeah, but if I put two metal poles right here, and tell you to throw the ball through it, I bet, you don’t hook it.’ And it’s like, they won’t, because they’ve got an injury, they’ll kick it and it’ll hurt their leg, right? So it’s not that they’ve got a hook for it. It’s just where they’re doing things to put the ball into the spot, to make you hook it. And that’s just the natural way. 

Mark: That’s exactly right. I had a player that instead of kicking this way, his foot would go sideways. And I put him next to a curve and make sure, if he want to keep hooking it, he was gonna break his leg. So, all these strange little things to try and get them to commit to a movement going straight out rather than going sideways.

So, it is up to the coach to think through what he can come up with that might be able to help. And it might be the platform is on an angle when he got a kick, which turns your hips, which then makes the ball guy crazy. And it’s got nothing to do with anything, except get your platform straighter. 

Nathan: Yeah, absolutely. 

Jack: Over the years, Choco, you’ve worked in a few footy clubs. You’ve mentioned, Melbourne does 15 minutes every session. Is that in your mind, the standard now? Is that what every club should be doing for ultimate effectiveness?

Mark: Yeah. Kicking is the key to winning the game. So, you have to do that. You have to do some competition stuff. You have to be smart. Then you have to do some drills that have some decision-making in it. So, there’s three. And if you can’t run, you can’t play either. So, you have to have some sort of fitness or speed training. So, those are the four things that I think get people drafted.

Kick, run, smarts and competitive when one-on-ones, when you are in ball. So, when you decide, what am I going to do for training tonight? Make sure you’re covering all those things.

If you want to do one particular kicking, say decision-making kicking. You can do two people up this end, versus one in the middle, one guy’s to one side, kick it to the other bloke. Same at the other end. So, we’re kicking two on one as we’re running through. Then you can make it three on two, then you can make it four on three up there and two on three here. As you keep doing the same drills, but changing the numbers, it adds to the motivation and adds to the enthusiasm of the players, but you’re still covering the things off that are helping them.

And if you have too many people involved in the drill, only one person’s making decision and only one person’s kicking it. So, you have to break down the drills, have small numbers, usually uneven numbers of groups and you’ll get the best results. So, if you had 15 minutes of doing that, you might do a 10 minutes where you have just very small numbers. But then the last five minutes you might do with a full game-like thing. 

Josh: What’s the decision-making drill people can do when they’re just with one other person?

Mark: Well, it’s difficult and, as being said, I certainly always say, ‘Bring me a dad, mother out there or sister, brother. Have someone there to help you.’ But in the videos again, if you watch, I often use the cricket net, so you don’t have to kick and then go and pick up the ball. And I have colored bits and just get someone to call a bit color and hit those things. So, that’s good enough. And you don’t have to chase the ball all the time. So, you can do it by yourself and not find an excuse for it.

Josh: I think that’s great. For some of my one-on-ones, I just have some agility pose. And then I either ‘Go like left or right.’ Or I just point, so they’ve got the visual. And then I might go down and I’ll go to one pole, and they have to then kick to the free pole.

It is hard, obviously, when you’ve only got a couple of people, but there are things that people can do when they’re by themselves or whatnot. 

Mark: It’s certainly more difficult. Probably three, if you have, five people, it’s pretty damn good. It’s for sure. 

Josh: Yeah, get your mates involved.

Jack: And what about when you get the camera out during training, what are some common mistakes you’ve seen over the years with footballers? 

Mark: I showed them the hand on the ball stuff. Obviously, when this sort of ball is dropped, you can see it. It’s quite easy for players to then get direct feedback. And that’s the reason why we use this ball. Players adjust themselves because they like, ‘Yeah, I can see it’s not up straight.’ So, can I get the ball up straight? Because when the ball’s up straight, it spins violently and then it gets to the target. Some other people might look up, they want to check their kick. They’re not quite confident enough, so they stop and look up. Other people after they kick, they run off on an angle instead of running towards… If someone’s running to the left, you should kick it and run to the left as well, and then your hips, and the body, and the ball, all go in the same direction. So, it doesn’t tail off at the end and just fall short and all that sort of stuff.

So, that’s mainly it. Honestly, there’s only about four or five things that people do wrong. And not like they do them all wrong, but there’s one of those four or five things. And if you can fix those things and they are aware of it, but kicking is not easy and it takes a long time. And don’t think, if you’re listening tonight, you’ve got it fixed or you get out and practice it for a week. It won’t work, it’ll come back. You need to be very, very consistent with it. And it’s not an easy skill. 

Jack: The last one, Choco. You mentioned you’ve given feedback with players during their training session. You’ve showed them the video. And they are now aware of an area that they’re working on. Are they just focusing on that at their next training session? Or do you give them craft drills that they’re supposed to do on their own time? How does it look? 

Mark: They have those little balls a size one. And people probably know about it. Adult male’s a size five and female’s a size four. So, you can get size one. It’s a lot easier for people to hang on to. It makes them really have to attain to it. And it’s another drill that kind of interests the players that are pretty good. They want to be really good at a small ball as well. All of those things are good. It might be kicking a tennis ball on a string, so that you get a consistent hit on the same spot on your foot. It might be kick the ball and spin it in the air as you walk along.

There’s a whole lot of different things that if you’re poor at something, you have to go backwards. You can’t just keep going. Just stop it and say, ‘Right, I’m going to practice this way, way, way over the top. So that it becomes a natural thing and something that’s relearned.’ You have to really dump what you know and relearn again. That’s what happens. 

Jack: Love it. Fantastic. Thanks, Choco. For those that want to get in touch with you, mate, you mentioned some one-on-one coaching and working with people of all ages to help them get drafted. Is that still happening or are you too busy at Melbourne?

Mark: Really, Kicking Consultant. Honestly, I haven’t got any time with Melbourne. It’s really busy. It’s really exciting. Pretty nice. You know, I might get fired next year and I’ll be looking for something to do. But I can see myself doing this for years to come. I know what I’m doing. And I know that they get great success out of it.

But as I said, the videos are free. You can get on and look at them, teach yourself, teach your kids. It’s like you get the same thrill like you taught your kid how to ride a bike. You teach your kid how to kick a footy, and you get that same thrill.

You know, the girls are getting into it now. I’ve gone out with Daisy Pearce. I’ve gone out and helped the girls at Melbourne. It’s a wonderful thing. And now you get such delight to have someone that knows a lot of stuff, and being around, and give them some help as well. I see the young girls coming through now. And they’re going to be so much better kicks in the original AFLW girls, because they just started younger and they’ve got better coaching. So, looking out for it in the future. 

Nathan: I agree with you, Choco. I work with the Richmond Women’s team and, absolutely, the effort and the attention they put into the stuff, it is amazing. And there are some girls who legitimately keep so well and work on their craft and they’re sponges for information too. So, I totally agree with where that’s headed.

Mark: Alright, lovely to talk to you. 

Jack: Thanks, Choco.

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