Shooting Practice With Michelle Akers
December 31, 2003 09:00 PM
Have you ever seen Michelle Akers rip a shot from twenty yards? Tracy Ducar has. As a goalkeeper with the national team, Tracy has been in the unenviable position to not only face a drive off Michelle's foot, but also be expected to stop it.
"Michelle hits a ball with such precision and such power, sometimes it just leaves you standing in awe and hearing the net ripple behind you. And other times you can't even move out of the way fast enough ... even if you wanted to.
"Sometimes, I have to resort to what I call 'the save my wrists and fingers technique' and just make a fist and box it away. Playing against her has definitely brought my game to a new level."
Some of you are probably saying, "Well, she's just really good. I can shoot like Michelle Akers." You're wrong. Michelle developed one of the world's hardest shots by working on it over and over. She is methodical and thorough in her approach.
"In general, I start out working on the proper technique," Michelle says. "I really don't care where the ball goes at first, as long as I'm hitting it consistently correct with each foot. Then I break it down into the different scenarios I often face on the field. I try to maintain that same technique throughout those different situations.
"I start off at the top of the box and just touch a ball forward. With my right instep, I'd go to the near post inside corner, then to the left post inside corner. Then, I'll go lefty and shoot at the near post, then far post. Next, I'll shoot with the outside of my foot - first right, then left - bending balls inside the posts.
How long does Michelle work on the proper technique?
"Until I get it right," she says, "or until it was clear that I was having a nightmare and needed to go work on something else. Not counting stretching, I shoot balls for probably 45 minutes."
This stage of her regimen is done without a partner. Michelle gets the basics down before she invites anyone into her training. Once she is shooting properly with each foot and under no pressure from a defender, she moves to the next stage.
"I only use a partner if I am shooting correctly without pressure. When I feel I'm ready for a partner, the first thing I do is a one-two pass and hit the shot. After we've done that for a while, I'll push the ball into them, get it back, make a move around them and finish. Then, we'll make it competitive, some one v ones. If I can get two buddies out there, I'll work on back-to-goal stuff. One partner will knock a ball into me, and the other partner will be on my back. I'll receive the pass, face up and try to beat them, then shoot.
"You start out with passive defending, and then get more competitive until it reaches all-out pressure by the defender. If I start out with all-out hard pressure, I shoot like an idiot. I have to build up to it."
Your partner does not need to be a great player, or even a player for that matter. However, Michelle recommends that from time to time you get someone to evaluate your technique.
"If possible, have someone there who knows how to shoot right," she says. "That's how I learned. You can videotape yourself shooting and then compare it to tapes of someone doing it correctly.
"But it's just when like you hit a tennis ball right. You know it. You get that same feeling when you hit a soccer ball right. You try to get that feeling every single time you hit the ball."