I’m sure it’s my mental sluggishness this morning but I found the article (Training soccer in America. Gob-smackingly obvious – or is it?) difficult to follow. It bounced around and I lost interest midway through. However, what I believe is included I agree with.
1 – First touch is vital.
2 – Second and third (if there is a 3rd) touch time include the decision where to go with the ball. Rarely should there be a fourth touch.
3 – Moving off the ball is more of the game than moving with the ball.
A Journal of Sports Sciences study from 2010 analyzed 30 French League 1 matches and found that:
- total distance covered by these professional players was slightly more than 11 km
- players had, on average, 47 possessions per match
- of the 11 km covered, only 191 m was run with the ball
- about 53 sec of the match spent in possession of the ball
- each possession the player covered 3-5 m
- each possession the player held on to the ball for slightly more than one second
- each possession the player averaged two touches per possession
While youth players total distance will be lower the statistics should be proportional. To train young players to dribble more than trap, pass & move is doing them a disservice. More of the game is played off the ball than on so knowing what to do without the ball will create greater enjoyment while playing. They will ‘feel’ more involved in game play and actually be more involved. It is easy for a coach, especially a novice coach, to train dribbling, this I believe, I s a reason we see so much focus on the skill.
One area that may hinder the ‘off the ball play’ training is mental development of children. At u12 they are beginning to understand the concept of ‘space’ and playing without the ball but this really won’t kick in for a couple more years.
Yes, we see the anomaly, the 8 year old who gets it and causes eyes to widen and jaws to drop but those are few. The normal 10 year old is indeed smarter than we adults give them credit being but a narrow focused task of working a smartphone is very different than processing the 20 events surrounding him that second in a soccer match. Not only do these need to be processed but a decision must be made based on his interpretation.
Certainly the training of trap – pass is neglected at young ages and it is these along with the move or off the ball training that is vital for better playing and happier youth.
Note: I noticed a significant jump in my sons mental processing on the field after they started playing chess. Chess is a great mind builder. I also saw a huge increase in skill on and off the ball when our players started playing Futsal.
Let’s not forget that activities other than soccer can boost our players on the field performance.