By Eric Odhiambo

I met a friend of mine who is a football coach in the grassroots and during our tete-a-tete; he intimated to me how his strikers are not sharp in front of goal. Before we parted ways, he urged me to recommend a good young striker for his team. So I thought to myself, it appears there’s a dearth of good strikers from the grassroots level up to the top tier BetKing Premier League. Why are homegrown strikers not banging in goals? Why do we have to import strikers who come here and top the scoring charts? Well, let’s dissect this striking problem.

What is the root cause?

Goals often decide games- it’s why prolific strikers cost a fortune in the world of football. But what baffles me is how goalkeepers are afforded specific training and strikers are left to their own devices and still expected to score during the weekend. Thus, in my view, the lack of specialized striker training is the root cause for the dip in quality as far as homegrown strikers are concerned. If you cannot buy a proven quality striker who will hit the ground running, then you have to improve the strikers currently at your disposal. This requires intense prescriptive coaching. This is where the work is.

Training drills centered on the attacking skill set

Attackers rely on specific set of skills including movement, timing, positioning, chipping, shooting, crossing, sprinting, and heading among others to bang in goals. Therefore, besides the normal training sessions involving the whole team, coaches need to develop daily training sessions that are centered on practicing striker specific drills or moves.

Imagine an attacker playing possession based games with no finishing goalposts or rondo whole week and being expected to score during the weekend? Remember, you play how you train. While midfielders are playing rondo and the defenders are practicing heading out crosses, the attackers should be having finishing drill sessions. It is the one-size-fits all approach to training that is impeding homegrown attackers.

Repetition

Ask any striker and a good number of them will tell you that the only time they have finishing drills is probably on the last day preceding match day. It is laughable but sad. We all know the adage, ‘practice makes perfect.’  Research has shown that practice creates a neuron in the brain named Myelin. The more you practice shooting and finishing every day, the more this neuron grows and allows you to execute and replicate the same more reliably and quicker on match day.

A striker cannot coach himself. Yes, he can come in early and shoot at least 50 balls. He can learn from watching other world class strikers but still he needs hands-on coaching. He needs to be coached on the right movements, positioning, how to strike the ball, how to head a crossed ball, where to place the ball. Both coaches and the attackers have to put in extra time. There are no shortcuts.

Here’s a quote by Sir Alex Ferguson when describing the striking ability of David Beckham; ‘David Beckham is the finest striker of a football in Britain not necessarily because of God-given talent but because he practices with unrelenting application that the majority of less gifted players would not dare try.’

Confidence

With strikers carrying the massive weight of expectation to hit the net regularly, confidence becomes the gateway to success. Goal droughts often invite ridicule from fans and this may lead to self doubt. To combat the issue of low confidence, the solution lies in specialized striker training and daily repetition of the attacking skills. A striker must believe that they can make the shot count when they hit the target. This self-belief stems from incalculable hours of shooting and scoring drills in specific striker training which consequently builds more confidence on match day. Team training is not enough to build the confidence that an attacker needs.

Conclusion

If goalkeepers have a goalkeeper trainer, then why don’t we subject strikers to specialized striker training? It is their goals that win matches. If we do so, we wouldn’t have this lazy talk that in Kenya there are no good strikers.

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