The Secrets to Scoring Goals

There Really Are Secrets!

In preparing this article to summarize my sessions at the California Youth Soccer Association show in Santa Clara, California or at Soccer Expo in Montreal, or at the NSCAA Convention’s on numerous occasions, I had a problem figuring out exactly what to write about. My session was titled, “The Secrets to Scoring Goals”.

Well, as the title suggests, I can’t tell you much more because if I do, the secret to scoring goals would no longer be a secret. I can tell you that knowing how to kick a ball properly to shoot is important but my session was not about the ordinary. For information on that you can pick up any number of great books to provide you the technical knowledge on shooting. Good videos and DVD’s also exist that clearly demonstrate how to kick a ball at the goal. You can also find a host of good books and DVD’s that offer you a great assortment of shooting, crossing, and finishing drills.

What I touched on in the lectures were truly secrets. They are geared for player’s 14 years of age and over. Coaches who really paid attention to the details of what was said in my sessions will truly improve their team’s goal scoring. Those who did not missed some of the secrets.

The key to my sessions are that I deal with the mental aspects of scoring rather than the skill/technical aspects of scoring. If coaches were expecting a steady stream of information on how to teach the skill of shooting or to jot down another bunch of X’s and O’s to show a new drill, then they would have been disappointed. But judging by the feedback that I receive each time I run a session, some do understand what I was conveying.

The first point I make about how to teach your strikers to score more goals is that I have to make them believe in the material. The only way to approach this topic is that the striker must know that some of the specific information they are receiving from the coach truly are secrets. They must “make it their own” to be most effective and the coach must work one-on-one to coach this aspect of scoring. You cannot give out secrets to a whole group. And the coach must tell their players to keep the information secret. This is no different than the unwritten rule that magicians have. They never reveal how a trick is done.

When I was doing research for my book and lecture series to compliment my own philosophies and methods on teaching players to score more goals, I found out some interesting things that the best goalscorers in the world had in common. Simon Kuper, reporter for the Financial Times Sport wrote an article called, How to score goals in his column called On The Game. For the article he interviewed the top English Premier League strikers and found out that, “most of the best strikers in the world know how they do it! Fearful of revealing their secrets, they seldom talk about it.”

Top strikers know that the mental skills they posses can be easily learned by any intelligent player so they don’t want to let anyone in on their personal secrets. They do not want to lose their position on the team. It’s a competitive world out there and they do not want to jeopardize their advantage.

When I lecture on the secrets of goal scoring I always draw the best reactions from players who are good at scoring. One of my friends, John Williams, who played college soccer at A&B in West Virginia and in the top leagues in Canada during the eighties and early nineties, was always one of the top goal scorers in whichever league he played in. I was discussing with him one of my secrets to teaching power shooting. His first reaction to this secret was amazement, then, shock that I said it, laughter that he couldn’t believe what I said, and finally one of those “how did you know” responses.

“Hey,” I said, “I used to play keeper, you know!” 

Williams plays in the over 40 old-timers league and still is among the leagues top goalscorers every year. He said to me, “no man, John, do not go around telling everyone that. You’re going to make me look bad! It’s my secret.”

“no man, John, do not go around telling everyone that. You’re going to make me look bad! It’s my secret.”

A few of summers ago I was hired by a coach of a U16 girls team who were struggling to score goals. Early in their season they dominated most games but tied or lost close games because they could not finish. The coach heard about my goal-scoring course and brought his attacking players. After 3 intense days and 16-20 hours in the class and on the field they were done the course. In their first game after the course, they scored 6 goals. Their top striker, Analisa Romano, scored 4 goals in that game, more than she had scored all season up to that point. She went on to win the league scoring title. They went on to win their league, an Academy Tournament in Barcelona, and 13 of their players were offered Soccer Scholarships. 

But after the course I was hoping for some word of mouth referrals for my course. Well, that didn’t come till after their successful season. I received this e-mail at the end of the season from Coach Gerry Gentile of Vaughan Azzurri. “Sorry for taking so long but I didn’t want to give away our secret in case our opponents requested your services, but I will write an article about how your course turned our fortunes around.”

So coaches keep secrets too! I see. Thanks very much. The point is, as I mentioned in the lecture, the word “Secret” is a very powerful word. It’s used in marketing all the time. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurants use a ‘secret’ recipe. There are advertisements about the ‘Secrets of Weight Loss’ or the ‘Secrets of Becoming Rich’ everyday in the media. You feel privileged when you’re let in on a secret. But when you know there is a secret out there and no one is telling you, your hair stands on end and you become frustrated. The brain can emit an emotional/chemical response in our bodies just because of this word and how you interpret it. Is it working for you or against you?

When coaching strikers and goalkeepers, especially as they get into teens and onward, it becomes just as much as a psychological challenge as it is and technical challenge. Most coaches do not deal with this aspect of coaching enough and many who do, work on it as a team. 

Coach Geoff Fleck, who was at one of my lectures, sent me this e-mail. “Loved your presentation and came away both informed and inspired. On your discussion on the secrets that the coach shares with the strikers alone, reminded me of something I’d seen in a movie. The scene was an adventure camp. The time was twenty years later and these thirty-something friends were reliving their summer adventures from twenty years previously. One of them asked if he could remember what super secret Indian name the camp co-ordinator had given him twenty years previously- the camp co-ordinator told him “Whispering Eagle”. Another asked the same question and the camp co-ordinator also gave him the name “Whispering Eagle”. The point being that the secret was between the camp co-ordinator and kid- nobody else knew the secret or so they thought.”

In the same article by Kuper he stated that former England manager Glenn Hoddle once said Michael Owen, the countries best striker, was not a ‘natural goal scorer’. Scoring goals can be taught. Michael Owen from England said, “Scoring requires a mental quality especially on entering the penalty box.” Part of coaching that quality is the use of secrets.

Now to find out what some of these secrets really are, unfortunately I don’t have room in this article. Maybe we’ll see you back at one of my future lectures, and don’t expect to get any answers from coaches who were there. First of all I didn’t have time to reveal very many of them and secondly, I did tell them not to reveal the ones I did because they are our secrets!

Thanks for reading,

John DeBenedictis

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John DeBenedictis

John DeBenedictis has been coaching for over 35 years and has coached at many levels. Most of his coaching has been at the youth level from the youngest of children right up to U21 league select teams playing in international competitions. He has been published in the NSCAA’s Soccer Journal. He ran his own soccer camps with Tony Waiters, former English International goalkeeper and Canadian National Team coach. He played goalkeeper for York University helping them win the National Title in 1977 and he also played in the National Soccer League (a professional league based in southern Ontario, Upper New York State, Quebec, and Michigan), with Toronto Ukrania. He also runs his Secrets to Goal Scoring course as part of his Golden Goal Scoring Academy.DeBenedictis has been a guest speaker on his topic at various National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) coaching conferences. He spoke in Charlotte, N.C., in Baltimore, and most recently at the Jan 2013 Convention in Indianapolis to a standing-room only crowd. DeBenedictis has an Honors Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Physical and Health Education as well as earning an advanced certificate of coaching from York University. He also holds a senior coaching license. As part of his research into goal scoring for his course and this book, he interviewed and studied the careers of some of the world’s best goal scorers.