2 Footed v 1 Footed

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.

1st Touch

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7Xjt5lybE4

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

2-Touch Part 2

Thank you to everyone who read, retweeted or contacted me via email with ideas and variations for playing 2-Touch after the last blog. I am hoping a few coaches will leave comments this time so that we can have a group discussion but I am delighted to get such thought provoking feedback.

The gist of a number of the emails I received was that coaches didn’t like to play 2-Touch. The reasons given were very similar and can be summarised by this list

1 – It stops players running with the ball

2 – It promotes unrealistic decision making

3 – It stops players being creative

Every coach is entitled to their own opinion but this is how I answered the coaches who contacted me about not playing 2-Touch for the above reasons. If you can add further to the debate please do.

My thoughts are the reason you put a condition on a game is to create situations were players are able to repeatedly practice a behaviour or technique. Therefore whatever condition you put on a game it will have the effect of encouraging certain situations to occur repeatedly and others to rarely occur.

With 2-Touch you will see lots of 1st Touches and passing the ball and very few players running with the ball or taking players on. I am fine with this as long as it is a part of a balanced technical program were players also get to experience conditions on games that encourage running with the ball and 1 v 1s.

I think it is similar with decision making any condition you put on a game affects the player’s decision making often narrowing the range of decisions that can be made to create the situations you want. Therefore any condition can be called making the game unrealistic. Again I am fine with this as long as the players get to practice a whole range of decisions as part of a balanced technical program.

The last reason about stopping the players being creative was a familiar one for me. I certainly used to associate creativity primarily with players who like to run with the ball and go past defenders with a variety of tricks. However if creativity is defined as ‘finding original or unexpected solutions that have value’ I realise that any player can be creative at any time in any way on the pitch and limiting their touches simply changes the way they are creative not stops it.

In conclusion I would say this debate has improved me as a coach because previously in planning a condition for a game I have focused more on what techniques or behaviours I was encouraging and gave scant regard to what I was discouraging. After this blog I will pay more attention to all the effects of a condition I put on a game.

Below are some of the variations to 2-Touch that coaches sent me

– Alternate between giving one team unlimited touches and the other team 2-Touch plus give the players time to discuss how this affects the team.

– If you use up your 2-Touches then you can go it alone and try to score.

– If the passer plays 1st time the receiver can take 3 touches.

– One player on each team is selected and they are only allowed 1-Touch plus they must touch the ball in build up to a goal or it doesn’t count.

– Every player has to take 2-Touches every time they receive the ball.

Please leave a comment or email me seanthecoach@icloud.com

Follow me on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Till next time

An Old Favourite

Obviously I can’t remember everything I did in training when I was younger but I would say that playing 2-Touch is probably the only exercise that I did as a young player that I still do as a youth coach some 30 years later. All the drills, standing waiting for a turn have been discarded along thankfully with warming up by jogging around the pitch to the shouts of ‘right hand down’, ‘left hand down’ or ‘header’.

Even though I loved playing 2-Touch as a youngster I had my doubts about it even back then. Often moments would occur that I would think but if it was a real game …..

– The wrestling matches that happened when a player had used up their touches. Most referees would simply give a free kick even back then.

– The frustration when you had loads of space but had to pass when running with the ball seemed the best decision.

– The times when you planned your 1st touch and executed it well but due to good defending were stuck with needing one more touch so had to rush a pass or try something unbelievable when normally you would just take one more touch and keep possession for your team more securely.

Even so as a coach I often use 2-Touch as a condition on training games. I like the way it forces players to scan, to think about their positioning, think about what they are going to do with the ball all before they receive the ball.

However I have experimented with some variations that reduce some of the issues I associated with playing 2-Touch while hopefully keeping the benefits intact. I have written some of them out below but would love to hear from other coaches who have used similar or different variations and how much success have they had.

#1 – 2-Touch with preferred foot but as many as you want with ‘other foot’.

#1a – 2-Touch but if you take your 1st touch with your ‘other foot’ you still have 2 touches left.

It sounds foolish but I never realised till relatively recently that by limiting how many touches a young player could have I was making it very unlikely they would risk taking a touch with their ‘other foot’.

#2 – 2-Touch but if you receive the ball in space (Coach defines how much space) you have unlimited touches till the other team touches the ball.

#3 – 2-Touch in own half but unlimited touches in the opposition half

I like how with this variation you get the benefits of 2-Touch as well as allowing players to have more options in attack.

Of the variations above the one that has worked the best for me would Variation #1. It keeps the elements of 2-Touch mostly in place as the players tend play 2-Touch the vast majority of the time while allowing the players to take more touches when needed. It could also be that I am very much in favour of developing players using both feet as much as possible and this variation gives even the most reluctant player a very obvious reward for using their ‘other foot’ in a game situation.

I will be honest I am writing this blog to improve me as a coach. I am not sharing my thoughts because I think I am some sort of top coach or simply for altruistic reasons. I think writing it will make me think deeper about how I coach plus hopefully (this is where you come in) get other youth coaches to offer ideas that will make me think about my coaching in different ways.

Please leave a comment or email me seanthecoach@icloud.com

Follow me on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Till next time

Sean