Highlights of the episode:

  • When to start different types of kicking techniques
  • Is the kicking technique different for girls and boys
  • Key pillars for his basic kicking technique
  • Video analysis for coaching

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Interview Transcript

Jack: Welcome to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ live chat show. My name is Jack McLean. I’m your host. And tonight I’m excited to announce our third collaborative live event ‘Australia’s Leading Football Kicking Coaches’.

Before we start tonight’s episode, our mission here at ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ is to empower aspiring athletes and staff with practical knowledge from some of the industry’s most inspiring individuals and to empower the developing coaches. If you liked the show, please show support by finding us on Instagram and subscribing to the podcast. We are on iTunes, Spotify and YouTube.

Our first guest for tonight’s show is Ben Stanley. He is the founder of Enhanced Football, located in Queensland. And his topic will be discussing the importance of learning a variety of kicks. So, welcome, Ben. Thanks for jumping on, mate.

Ben: How are you going, Jack?

Jack: I’m going well. Let’s dive straight into it. When should a footballer be starting to learn different types of kicking techniques? When do you typically start? 

Ben: As early as possible. And we just encourage parents really to send their kids whenever they got intrinsic motivation. Whenever they are keen to improve their skills and want to do more, we would love to see them. We just think that intrinsic motivation is so important, rather than parents. It’s okay to push them to come to you and things like that. But when a kid really, really wants to improve and wants to learn some different kicks and do those different variety of kicks, they’re the ones that are going to learn and really progress with their footy.

So, that’s what we’re all about. We’ve got some great stories behind that too, where kids are paying their own way to come and see us and things like that. And they’re the ones that really, really improve. And then they come to dive into all those variety of kicks and learn the correct technique. So, pretty exciting stuff. 

Jack: I love that. So, the parents are getting them doing chores around the house, they get their pocket money, and then they’re investing in their footy. 

Ben: Yeah. There’s some of that. There’s also, I had a girl the other day come and see me, who got a part-time job at a Vietnamese restaurant. She’s only 14 or 15 years old and paying her own way. I actually put it out on social media the other night. Does anyone want to sponsor the girl? And lucky enough, there’s someone sponsoring her and she’s got about 15 free lessons or something like that with me. They’re chipping in because of that. So, that intrinsic motivation to get better. It’s really exciting. It’s awesome.

Jack: You mentioned the girl that’s working with you, how does it differ for girls and boys? Let’s say, brother and sister are going out for a kick. Should the brother be focusing on different things, even at the same age, compared to the sister and vice versa? Or is the game the same for both genders?

Ben: Great question. If you asked me that two years ago, Jack, I would have said, ‘Yes, let’s do it differently.’ But I don’t treat females or males any differently. No matter what age. I think they can all learn at the same rate, just depending on where they’re at with their stage of learning and things like that. But the same way we teach the boys, the same way we teach the girls.

There’s a lot of things that come into play. Like I said, their stage of learning, their age, their experience, and all those types of things. But what I’ve learned over the last couple of years is we’ve got to treat them the same, because there’s no difference. So, we teach the same things and we do it for the boys and the girls. And it’s gone really well. 

Jack: When you’re doing your first early sessions in terms of session plans for the coaches out there, what are some key pillars in terms of kicks that you start with for the basic kicking technique?

Ben: We tend to just look at what they’ve got. So, we’ll film them and just see what they’ve got at the start. And if they’re going really well, we wouldn’t make many adjustments. We might just tinker with a few things. But otherwise, if they need a little bit more help, we always start and look at the ball grip to start with.

Because if they can’t grip the ball properly and they can’t control the ball, down to their boots, we like to use smaller balls. We like to start with tennis balls and things like that. Just to give them the confidence of the motion of kicking. Because once they get that motion, then you can progress them up a size. You might go from a tennis ball to a size one, to two, to whatever age group.

But we’re really big on teaching the motion of kicking first, getting a grip right. And then we can go from there. But it’s all about instilling that confidence in them to be able to do the motion, that is the one that the professionals are using most of the time. We’re very big on that.

And we’re all very big on teaching progression. And I think that’s what a lot of coaches are liking, when we go to clubs and educate coaches, is that here’s a simple progression for someone at the cognitive stages of learning with kicking. And here’s how we teach it step by step, rather than looking at it as a whole skill.

Jack: Awesome, mate. And with that, when you’re discussing with coaches at clubs and you’re running workshops, what are some common questions that you’re getting from coaches and the community?

Ben: I guess, the most common question is: how do we break it? There’s a lot of coaches out there that have been fantastic footballers and that can demonstrate the kick really well, but they are just lacking those teaching skills of how to break it down into small parts and just look at it like that. And it’s a matter of finding, when you’re looking at the athlete, where’s your biggest bang for your buck. Is it ball grip? Is it their approach to their kick and things like that?

But we try to help them with the progression first. Here’s the progression. And then we also help them with, if we are filming them, what feedback can we give them? Because one thing I learned off Mark Williams early. And, Choco, thanks for coming on, mate. It’s pleasure to be on. Is when I first started, Choco rang me and just said, ‘Mate, you’re doing a great job.’ And I actually thought it was someone taking him off, because I thought, ‘Why would Choco ring us?’ But he did and just said, ‘Ben, you’re doing a really good job.’

And he gave me some advice: ‘Just don’t overload them with information.’ And I think that’s where I’ve got better as a teacher and a coach is we don’t want to overload them. We just want to give them one or two things to work on to start with. Let’s get them right. And then you might introduce some things later on. So, I think that’s a good message for coaches. Let’s teach the progression and not overload them with information too early. 

Jack: You mentioned the importance of recognizing what’s going to really affect their kicking development, like picking out one thing. Obviously, that takes experience and a coaching eye. For the coaches, is that a video analysis, is that one way that you find that you’ve developed that to accelerate your coaching eye? Or is it just putting time in the game, coaching field sessions? Talk us through that. 

Ben: There’s nothing like video feedback for me. You can see a kick live and you can break it down and think of some things. But for me, filming them front on, filling them side on, putting it in slow mode, it really does make it pretty obvious of where you can get your best bang for your buck for the athlete.

So, what are the one or two things that I think can help them progress with their kicking? And it might be just their approach, or they just might need more of a consistent stride pattern. It might be their ball grip, that you’re looking at their ball grip and you decide that ball grip is not going to promote a great control. And that’s going to affect the other things as well.

There’s lots of things you can look at. But, as I said, pick one or two and using video evidence for yourself will give you confidence, but it’ll also be great for the athlete to show them. Because most of the kids we work with have never seen themselves kick. And when they see it, they’re like, ‘Oh, yes, I understand what you’re saying, Ben.’ And they believe in the process. 

Jack: And what about for the parents listening in, what are some of the ways that they can help the process? 

Ben: For me, I encourage parents to come along to the sessions. And when I do coach education at clubs up here in Queensland, I encourage coaches, but also we try to get the community of parents to come along as well. Because, as coaches, we don’t have a huge amount of contact time. It’s about promoting that consistent message at training with me and at home.

So, when parents are there contributing and out in the lesson with me, that’s when I see the greatest progression with kids. Because they are listening to my teaching cues and the methods and the progressions we teach. And then, when they have a kick at home, they’re basically repeating and going over exactly what we did in the lesson. So, they’re getting that extra tuition.

And sometimes kids don’t listen to their parents as much as coaches, but just to get that message repeated is really valuable. So, I think it’s a really good lesson for coaches and people that are doing coach education is that if you can get the community and the parents involved plus the coaches, it’s going to spread even further.

Jack: You’ve mentioned video analysis a few times. Is that smartphone? Do you recommend coaches invest in a handheld camera? What does it look like?

Ben: Nah. For me, it’s all smartphone. If you’ve got an iPad, that’s okay too. But we do most of ours with a smartphone. And we’d probably get 5 to 10 video analyses a week with people, mostly in Australia, some around the world where they send in their footage. And we provide a detailed video report that we share on an unlisted YouTube link. And then we give them a report with some drills as well.

So, as a co-chair, that’s a part of what we do as well, is to just show coaches how easy it is to actually film on an iPhone. You can do a whole team from the front. Just get them all to kick, and you might be able to do that in a minute thirty. And then yes, it’s going to take you some time to review it and give them feedback. But it’s really valuable feedback that I think is going to make a big difference. 

Jack: Awesome, mate. Thanks for sharing your processes and philosophy behind it. We’ll go back onto the topic now. So, variety of kicks. What are some kicks that you think are underutilized in junior football development? And you’re working with obviously the elite as well. Working back from the elite back down to juniors, what do you think is missed? 

Ben: I think our traditional way of coaching, when I go around to junior clubs and when I watch training. And I do love watching junior training, I learn a lot from going to watch. There’s some amazing coaches out there, where you just watch and learn at any club you go to around Australia. But I look at a lot of coaches and I listen to them and a lot of the drills they are doing are very straight line and very in that approach where it’s all straight line work.

Very rigid approach, where our game is nothing like that. Our game is a 360 degree game, and I think there’s something like 446 different kicks in it. That’s a lot of variety of kicks. So, if we’re getting our athletes just to run straight and kick straight and tell them never to kick around their body, well, I’m sorry, that’s not what’s happening in a game.

We need to let them express themselves at training. Yes, we want them to kick straight and be able to keep your hips and shoulders square and hit that target. I think that’s a really good place to start. Once they get that, then I think, okay,  it’s time to open it up and let them express themselves a little bit and encourage kicking around the body and encourage kicking into space, dribble tricks, snap kicks, stops… Let them express themselves.

Look at Dustin Martin. I’ve got a great video of him. Like two minutes of highlights. There’s not one kick that’s straight. It’s all around the body. It’s all snaps. You know, that Caney* the other night? Did you see how many goals he kicked?

Jack: It was five of them.

Ben: Yep. How many were on his right foot? 

Jack: I think around three on his left, left foot snaps. 

Ben: Mostly on his left, snap kicks. He’s one of my favorite players. But then it just shows that most of his kicks were on the left foot and snaps. So, we got to give our kids the chance to express themselves and use a variety of kicks. And that’s, I’m not seeing that a heap in junior training at the moment. But I think that’s something we can learn about. 

Jack: And what is this actionable steps for coaches that are listening in and they’re looking at their session plan and they are, ‘I think, Ben’s got a fair point. We’re doing a lot of line work.’ What would be some starting drills to add into the session plans?

Ben: I do watch and I saw it on IMAX on, but Choco, when he’s training his athletes. You look at the stuff he does with Melbourne at the moment, and you look at the stuff he’s done with Werribee and all the stuff in his coaching career. It’s think about what happens in a game and then try to replicate it at training. 

So, if you’re kicking in pairs, don’t just… And Kevin Ball is the same. Don’t just kick to each other at the start of training, getting into bad habits, five meters away and letting the momentum go backwards and all those things. Think about what happens in a game. So, maybe roll it behind you, pick it up, turn around and kick; get on the ground, on your stomach, get up, pick it up and kick; throw it up in the air, catch it and kick; go side to side, organize your feet in a kick. Just think of as many different things. Take a mark, push back, real and go and kick.

There’s so many things you can do to be creative, even when you’re just kicking to a partner. And even if you’re kicking yourself against the wall or a net, try different things, don’t just run straight. Think of different things to test your grip when you’re picking up your footy and things like that. So, that would be my main advice is think of what happens in a game and try to replicate that when you’re at training and kicking in pairs and doing a drill work and things like that.

Jack: And you mentioned a video analysis in training. What age would you like kids and parents to start filming their game, so they can start to do that and then see what their habits are?

Ben: Good question. Well, again, we do some game reviews for people and the youngest I’ve had is probably about 13 or 14. And I think that’s about right. Like we want our kids to be having fun when they’re playing footy, and that’s number one. But again, if your kid’s super keen and they’ve got that intrinsic motivation and they want to see themselves playing and want to get better, why not give them a look at a game review and just show them what they look like?

Yes, as they get older, they’re going to get that through the programs and the academies and things like that as well. But I think it’s really important that they do see what they look like with the ball, and more importantly, what are they doing without the ball as well, off the ball movements and things like that.

Jack: Fantastic. Well, thanks for jumping on, Ben, and sharing with us your philosophy, some actionable tips for parents, kids, as well as coaches to take away. For those interested in following you, I know you’re doing some great things on YouTube with Enhanced Football. Where’s the best places to check out Enhanced Football?

Ben: On Instagram, that’s where we put most of our work into. And we try and put up little quick clips of drills and skills and tips for all the young athletes out there. So, give us a follow on Instagram or Facebook. And if you’re interested in more of the longer training sessions and seeing what we do with different age groups, then jump on YouTube as well. That’s where we like to put those longer videos up and things like that. So, that’d be great.

And, Jack, can I just say? It’s a pleasure just to be on with the likes of all the boys on here. I watch what everyone’s doing and I’m learning a lot, just watching everyone here. So, it’s a pleasure to be on with everyone. And I think you’re doing great stuff too, Jack. So, I appreciate it.

Jack: Mate, you’re dedicated to the industry, when you come on during a mate’s wedding. So, well done.

Ben: I do love it. I do love it, mate. Thank you. Cheers, mate.

Jack: Enjoy the night.

Ben: All right, guys. Thank you. See you, guys.

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