Pro Tip: Stop Thinking About Goals

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Editors note: I know this seems to contrast with my other post this week about imagining the goal, but I’m talking about a different aspect. YOU JUST CALM DOWN OVER THERE, INTERWEBS. 

Polo players are obsessed with getting goals–and that’s probably the worst thing to obsess over in the game. Sure, it feels great to make them, and it feels great to take those hard, power-house shots; but you’re sacrificing a lot of the game if that’s all your thinking about.

Consider this suggestion: the though you have before shooting on the goal should be something like “oh, there we go!” Shots on goal should happen because the opportunity to score is there–not because you are just hoping for luck and a daydreaming goalie. It should feel like the natural progression from every other thing you’ve been doing: getting past a defensive player, passing to your team-mate, receiving the pass back, etc.

strategyI’ll present it this way: when I was a lacrosse player (back when I was more fit and weighed something like fifty pounds less  than I do now), we had a play where the three mid-fielders triangulated around the opposing goal. From there we passed between each-other while moving so that we had multiple opportunities to shoot on the goal, and the goalie couldn’t quite be sure which of us three would do it.

Well, there was a way we practiced it, so that everyone in that triangle could be aware, inherently, of when the ball was going to come to them. I, however, was an overly excited kid, and I totally avoided following the series and passed to the guy who was supposed to shoot. He managed to pluck the ball out of the air and take a shot, sure, but the coach was none to pleased with me.

He explained that I was too excited to get a shot on the goal (granted, I wasn’t the guy who was shooting, but I knew who was most likely to make it work and tossed the ball to him) and that excitement made the play too predictable. After that day I made it a point to find the players who just loved shooting on the goal, and made sure to cover them more than anyone else. It limited their ability to do the one thing they were focused on (which frustrated the player and delighted me).

In much the same way, bike polo has this over-emphasis on getting the ball and making the goal (at least in my club, and I presume other clubs as well) – but you won’t see that happening with tourney-winning teams. Podium teams take their time and wait for opportunities to open up, they don’t necessarily force those opportunities or bludgeon their way through to the goal.

What I’m saying is this: making a goal has as much to do with passing and positioning as it does with actually shooting the ball.

I think it’s time we start practicing more on the whole picture rather than just the shot on goal.

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