At the shooting range

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The first thing kids do when they enter the pitch is shoot at goal. Why? Because the best feeling in the world for this child is to score goals, just as their favourite player does every week in the top leagues all over the world.
Finishing is one of the exercises you as a coach can implement in sessions with plenty of fun. There is no better feeling then smashing those balls beyond the goal keeper. You strike the ball one after another, watching them fly into the top corner.

Imagine you are working for a national team. You are in the middle of a training camp qualifying for next years World Cup. Your first game is played on a Thursday and the second game is scheduled for the Sunday. In other words you only have 72 hours between game 1 and game 2. Normally a recovery protocol will be implemented after game 1 with a recovery session in place. The second day after the game is a day off while others prefer a day off first. The planning that we will implement on this national team consists of a recovery session followed by a day off. In our case it would mean that the day after the day off is actually our second qualifying game on the Sunday. We do not want a slow start to the second game. We opt for a short tactical session on day 2 after the first game on Saturday and the day before the next game to keep the players ‘engines’ going. However, several questions must be answered in regards to when, where, how much finishing can be implemented.

Fully explosive finishing is extremely demanding for your hamstring muscles (the back side of upper leg). Performing in a game takes it’s toll on the hamstrings and this has to be noted. Implementing finishing the day after the game would be playing Russian roulette with your players health. So finishing shouldn’t be planned the day after the game. The only option left is the second day after the game. The players are still fatigued from the first game and should be having a day off, however we decided to plan a short tactical session. Some players could take the opportunity to end this session with some finishing. Is this a smart thing to do? Asking the question is answering it. Most players are not yet fully recovered 48 hours after the first game. So allowing finishing on day 2 after the first game (while not yet fully recovered) and only one day before game two, means that this is not an option.

It is a totally different ball game when we start talking about the subs. If they haven’t played for a certain amount of game minutes could they take part in a finishing exercise? Yes, they can take part on either the Friday or the Saturday, but all under controlled circumstances. Why? They too have to be fully fresh and ready to come into the starting 11 if necessary. You don’t want a bench full of players with tight hamstrings because of the fact that the coach didn’t control the situation.

During a qualifying sequence of two games there is often traveling involved. For instance you could play one home game and one away game. Traveling is demanding for your hamstrings also. Waiting at the airport, flying, sometimes for several hours and thereafter traveling by bus all contributes to having tight hamstrings. Flying through several time zones doesn’t make this any easier either.
Sometimes after all of this traveling players aren’t in bed before after midnight, which is yet again another external factor to consider when planning team sessions and finishing in particular.

Finishing is one of the favourite exercises for every player. It is however also very demanding for the body, especially the hamstrings. Increasing the chance of a hamstring injury just to keep players happy with a nice exercise is not professional. Several external factors, as described in this post, make finishing an exercise not to consider during the days between the two games. This is of course a choice you have to make.

Thanks for sharing.

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