How can a player improve their ‘football smarts’ and become better decision makers?
Players who can sum situations up quickly during games and make effective choices with their decision making will have a greater chance of surviving at the top level, than those who constantly turn the ball over through poor decision making. Is it too late to improve a player’s football smarts? The short answer is no. Players develop at rapid rates.
That is why game based training is so important when structuring training programs. Players need to be exposed to the types of situations confronting them on game day, at training. Players need to experience pressure and the opposition attacking them from all angles.
The days where players can just turn up and play football at the higher levels have disappeared. More and more planning and preparation in the lead up to games goes into the opposition and in many cases, game plans/styles can change from week to week depending on the opposition.
Therefore, players need to be well drilled so that they can carry them out on game day instinctively. Football smarts is a player’s ability to read the play and to decide on what option to take and when and how the best time to undertake it is.
In today’s game, the players who can play a number of different roles are looked upon more favourably.
Australian Football is comprised of 3 phases and the great players are those who can adapt/adjust to any of these new situations they are faced with. The phases are:
- Your team has possession
- The opposition has possession
- Nobody has possession
As a player, you need to know your role within the team at these different times and implement, act and in some cases, sacrifice your own game for the benefit of the team.
As an up and coming player who is aspiring to play at the highest level and perhaps being groomed as a defender, midfielder or forward, please find enclosed a useful checklist for you to refer to and question yourself if you are up for the challenge of being a part of this unit. If you can tick many of the boxes listed, then you are well on the way to achieving your dream.
Selection Criteria for the Defence:
- Strong Concentration power (Stop opponent)
- Good athleticism (Rebounding capabilities)
- Sound judgement (Consistently make the correct decision)
- Courage (Put your body on the line with on-coming traffic)
- Good skill level (Use the ball to advantage: consistently hit targets)
- Organisation ability (Make decisions on opposition match-ups)
Selection Criteria for the Midfield:
- Strong Mental Strength (Continue running when your body says that it has had enough
- Very Good Endurance (Carry out responsibilities both in attack and defence)
- High Skill Level (Need to consistently hit targets/create scoring opportunities)
- Courage (Get back and help out the defence by filling space)
- Selflessness (Draw out the opposition to create space for others)
- Discipline (Rotations and knowing your roles around stoppages)
- Leadership – Strong Instructive Voice (Direct traffic)
- Reading Signals (Ability to read all players’ cues)
Selection Criteria for the Forwards:
- Speed/Agility (Need to win the football)
- Skill (Kick accurately, strong marking, quick hands at ground level and crumbing 50/50 situations)
- Concentration (Must play in front and not get led to the football)
- Selflessness (Create space for others by blocking or leading out of the space)
- Quick Reaction (Desperate, defensive efforts when the opposition gain possession)
- Reading the Signals (Ability to read team mate’s cues)
Key ‘Football Smart’ Tips:
- Ask questions if you are unsure about something. Just remember that there is never a ‘dumb’ question.
- Do not pigeon hole yourself into just one type of player who can only play limited positions. Versatility is very important. Don’t be afraid to ask your coach to play in numerous positions.
- Study and analyse the top line players in the AFL or in your own team, who reflect you as a footballer and who you aspire to be. This is a wonderful learning opportunity. Shadow them at training or just pick their brain regarding how to play that position.