Ball-Striking 101: Overcoming The Stigma
As we explored in the first half, the stigma, mockery, and ridicule that people learning and improving their shootings is the biggest problem and obstacle that Bartek Sylwestrzak, ball-striking specialists and pioneer. Bartek Sylwestrzak always has to keep his best work a secret, so it's not that possible that we could point at certain players and credit him.
Bartek Sylwestrzak does upload videos to his official website that highlight the result of his work, but they're mainly of relatively or completely unknown players, so they don't really make his work more popular, in fact, he is probably the one who's making them more famous. This was the situation for Sylwestrzak even though he is among the first specialists who proved themselves to clubs. Sylwestrzak still has to keep his clients' list a secret.
Sylwestrzak's most famous clients are Emiliano Marcondes, Bournemouth attacking midfielder, currently on a loan to FC Nordsjælland, and Neal Maupay, the current Everton striker who also played for Brentford and Brighton & Hove Albion. His work with the latter is the most noticeable.
Neal Maupay scored a total of 94 goals in his career so far, around half of his goals, 41, were scored during his time at Brentford where he was working one on one with Bartek Sylwestrzak. He is a key character of the Brentford revolution as when people speak of the analysts and specialists hired by the English club, most of which came from FC Midtjylland, Sylwestrzak is among those people. There you go, @wolfgangsport, I finally came across Brentford and their data work.
Anyway, Sylwestrzak spent the last 13 years of his life studying the techniques of ball-striker, exclusively. Whether we're talking of free kicks or open-play shots, Sylwestrzak has studied it extensively. If you'd go to his website, you'd see how much we actually don't know about the science of a simple and basic skill, shooting the ball.
Think of Juninho Pernambucano's knuckleball. Whenever people see it, they tend to believe that the striker either got lucky or the goalkeeper made a mistake. The reason for that is that the shot itself changes direction in its midway. There are many videos on Sylwestrzak's website of unknown players doing that over and over.
That shot is a goalkeeper's nightmare. What's special about it is that it has to be shot in a straight line. That's what guarantees that the way it spins in the air remains unexpected. There's a horizontal meter within which the ball could end at different parts. Believe it or not, there's a teachable way of shooting where even the one shooting the ball wouldn't know where exactly it would end. How is that achieved? By studying the physics and geometry of every aspect of the shot, scientifically.
Sylwestrzak tells his players how to run toward the ball, at what angle, where to plant their steady foot, whether to the back, left, or right of the ball, and how to swing their feet. He even tells them which toes exactly they need to shoot with. He even tells them how their upper body should be conditioned and whether it should swing with the ball or not because those minor details matter with how the players are positioned in the first place. Sylwestrzak also teaches them how to shoot like that with their weak foot as well.
The video above is from 2018. Bartek Sylwestrzak took his university team to Nottingham Forest's training facility to train on a different kind of shooting called "Topspin shooting". This one is where you aim to spin the ball in a diagonal shape so it would spin around the wall and into the goal. In the video, there are tens of cameras, sensors, and different devices used to collect data that would later be broken down into specific instructions.
Sylwestrzak started his career in relation to football at FC Nordsjælland, which is owned by Matthew Benham, the same person who owns Brentford. His journey with football began with data and betting sites, but that's a topic for another day.
The problem here is that among all the specialists that came from that journey, Sylwestrzak was the least famous. For example, Thomas Grønnemark, a throw-in specialist, was later picked up by Liverpool. Gianni Vio, the set-piece specialist was picked up by Tottenham. These and many more became known targets for clubs, with one exception, our dear Bartek Sylwestrzak. They all went on to have better jobs except for him because of the stigma.
It's easy for a coach or manager to say that they don't know how to train their players to take a throw-in, a corner, or set pieces. But, can players say that they don't know how to shoot a ball or pass? The answer seems to be, in an overwhelming majority, no.
However, this should change soon. It will go through the same journey that set pieces, corners, and throw-in specialists had to go through. It begins wildly limited and being looked at as a needless complication, then a top coach or player here or there wouldn't mind the stigma and aims to gather as many winning factors as they can because they simply want to win.
Those players or coaches would pick someone, and the difference will be noticed, of course, if the specialist picked is the right one. The reason, of course, is simple; those players or coaches would have information that the rest don't. Then, it would actually be all the rage and more clubs would actually pursue those people. Because you could buy a 60 million striker, pay him 300 thousand a week, and hope he gets you an extra 20 goals, or you could pay a specialist a fraction of that number and he would get you a similar result with the players you have that would get you those 20 goals.