I often read about how you should question everything and every now and then should test your long held beliefs to see if you still believe in them.
A good belief for me to question is the benefits of being two footed. I don’t think I have a longer held belief that this one. As a player I worked hard on being able to use both feet and as a coach from my earliest sessions I have encouraged players to use both feet but I have never really seriously questioned whether this is actually beneficial.
I suppose the questions I have got to ask myself are
1 – If I stopped encouraging young players to use both feet what do I expect will happen.
2 – If during development the practice is focused on one foot rather than shared between both does this produce a more effective player in senior football.
I am in a fortunate position to answer the first question. Over the last 6/7 years I would have seen quite literally thousands of basically uncoached children play football in my role as a guest coach at primary schools. Overwhelmingly the players are one footed. I don’t think this is particularly surprising. Very young children feel more comfortable and can kick the ball further with one foot (and probably get praised for a big kick) so they continue to only use this foot and the other foot is only there to stand on.
As I write this blog I have a note pad to my left if I need to write anything down I will twist my body and reach all the way over my laptop to use my right hand and not attempt even a few letters with my left. This is what I see at schools children just using one foot no matter what angle they have to twist their bodies. Therefore I believe if I stop encouraging young players to use both feet then the vast majority will simply only use their preferred foot.
To answer the second question I suppose I have to think do I believe that there is a correlation between practice and performance. If a player only practices with their preferred foot then will this make their preferred foot significantly better than if the practiced was shared? Am I ‘stealing’ practice time from the preferred foot?
Again I am in a fortunate position because in my previous career as a professional freestyler were decision making is removed from ball control I can confidently say that the more I practiced the better I got. Therefore I have to think, with all else being equal, the more a foot is used the better it becomes.
Lastly then if I believe there is a correlation between practice and performance then the next question I have to ask would be is it better to have one brilliant foot or two very good feet.
This is where I would like some input from coaches around the world because I keep returning to the theoretical question. If I was able to compare the same player but firstly all his development was coached on being able to use one foot to the best of its ability and the second the practice was shared so he became two footed. Which way would be best?
If we look simply at technical skills as all other aspects of the player are identical.
The two footed player would have be able to face forward more often with their 1st touch and have a larger range of passing options immediately available for their 2nd touch. The one footed player would be able to compensate by probably using the outside of their foot to still face forward but this would limit the options available for the 2nd touch.
The one footed player may be able to control the ball better in some situations but I would suggest it would be more effective to be two footed than one the majority of the time.
Passing/shooting the ball
Under minimal pressure possibly the one footed player could be better as can use inside & outside of their foot to recreate all the passes/shots possible with both but as had more practice could do so with better quality. Under close pressure though a defender can block off passing options easier as one footed player has only limited area to strike from.
Therefore I would suggest it may balance itself out.
Running with ball and 1 v 1s
Both players would be able to manipulate the ball in any direction but the two footed player would be able to manipulate the ball in any direction and maintain balance better.
A two footed player is a threat on both sides of the defender and therefore more difficult to defend against.
Again I would say it would have to be the two footed player.
Look at Adam Lallana in this clip. I think Adam Lallana is a very good example to use of a two footed player for this blog because unlike someone like say Cristiano Ronaldo he has no outstanding physical strengths compared to the players he is playing against and he has success often through being able to use both feet.
I would love to hear from coaches about this blog as even though I have thought about this often over the last week I cannot shake my belief that coaching players to use both feet as much as possible is beneficial to them.
Need someone to suggest a way to view this differently.
Till next time