By Patrick Morrison
THE evolution of re-starts has been paramount to the success of teams over the past 20 to 30 years. They have evolved in their nature, their purpose, and their principles. Even the jargon used has evolved through time (kick-outs to re-starts).
The humble kick-out has grown from second thought set play into the crucial attacking springboard that provides teams with a scoring chance on over eighty per cent of their own restarts.
With the increased progression of re-starts, there has also been a mirrored rise in the importance of winning the majority of possession in the re-start stakes especially from a team’s own re-starts. It is this importance that has driven coaches and goalkeepers alike, to create and design more and more innovative ways of gaining possession from their own restarts.
Re-start principles, routines, kicking techniques and re-start roles have all been introduced within the modern era in the never-ending struggle for gaining possession of the football.
In Gaelic football, the purpose of any re-start is to gain possession of the ball as far down the field as possible. There are two main ways that possession of the ball can be obtained from a re-start and these are primary and secondary possession.
With primary possession, the main aim is to win the ball cleanly with as little disruption from the opposition as possible. By winning possession in this way, it allows the team to create scoring chances much easier by placing players into favourable positions while disorganising the opposition’s defences.
Gaining primary possession gives any team a significant advantage over their opponents in regard to the outcome of the game. This is why so many teams now pay a heavy focus on this area practicing re-start routines and creating restart principles for the players to follow once out on the field of play.
In contrast to this, secondary possession is any ball that has been obtained through a non-primary method. This could be from an over-hit kick, deflection, sideline ball, free kick/infringement, and/or a break ball.
It is the break ball that has been the most common form of secondary possession a team will obtain the football from, but it is an area of the game that not many teams pay much attention to. This could be due to a reduction in the amount of 50/50 restarts found within the modern game. That said, there are still plenty of opportunities from restarts to gain secondary possession from breaking ball.
Often referred to as ‘the dirty ball,’ it is of course still a part of our game and as such a major part of the area of restarts.
Although it may be thought of as an outfield area, it is housed within one of the most important areas within goalkeeping (re-starts) and as such needs to be worked upon in team training sessions for improvements to be made. If your team is training restarts, then a section of the session must be allocated to working on the principles surrounding breaking balls.
There have always been notions of a ‘luck’ mindset when it comes to talking about the winning of breaking ball. Even within today’s game there are still elements of this mindset still present whether conscious or sub-conscious it is seen unlucky if the ball does not break favourably for a player. For me luck does not come into the equation, you are either prepared or unprepared.
“There’s no such thing as Luck. It is merely the place where opportunity and preparation meet.” – Roman philosopher Seneca.
The quote is highlighting to us that if an opportunity arises and you are prepared for it then the chances of a favourable outcome are good. It is one of my late father’s most favourite quotes because it was a constant reminder to him that the less of the game he left to chance, the more control the team would have over the outcome. If he thought a situation would/could happen in a game a training drill/exercise was created to ensure the team had experience of that situation ensuring that if the opportunity arose, they were fully prepared.
The same needs to be done for break ball situations. These need to be replicated in training as best as possible and up to competition intensity to replicate the split-second decision making that occurs within the game. In these break ball situations, there are two types of player and they are ‘Shielders’ and ‘Stealers.’
Shielders are those players who find themselves in the immediate vicinity of the drop zone of the break ball. The drop zone is the five-metre area that encircles the two players competing for the ball. In most break ball situations, they find themselves static underneath the ball awaiting for it to drop into their favour acting in a more reactive way rather than anticipative which would increase their chances of winning the break.
What these players need to do once they see a contested ball and realise they are within the drop zone is to Shield themselves for the break ball. This is done by, to take a basketball term, ‘boxing out’ the opposing players.
Boxing out is performed by getting your body between you and the ball ensuring that the opposition player is behind you at all times and you have your arms out to your sides wrapped around your opponents. This allows you greater control over their movement and ensures that if/when the ball does break you are in the better position to collect possession.
Stealers, on the other hand, are those players who begin outside of the drop zone area but have read the situation and run into the drop zone area timing their run as best they can in order to collect possession from any break ball. These players have all the advantage in these break ball situations as it is them that have all the momentum when running into the drop zone. They break in at speed, collect the ball and break out at speed meaning it is very difficult to defend against them.
Stealers are also those players who find themselves behind Shielders. These Stealers must jostle and wrestle their way around the Shielders in a bid to steal possession away from them. These players will need to have or use strong evasion skills in order to escape the clutches of the Shielders.
Once the players have been categorised in this way in regard to break ball situations, it then becomes easier to replicate and create/design drills or games focusing on this area. By creating games that have a break ball and includes both Shielder and Stealer players, the team can become better prepared for whenever this opportunity arises thus decreasing the reliance on luck for a favourable outcome.
Spending more time dedicated to the winning of possession from this secondary form will help improve the amount of possession won from overall restarts and will in turn increase the amount of scoring opportunities your team will have during games. Always strive to remove the reliance on luck and ‘Give Yourself A Break!’