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How Many Touches Do You Get?

Over the past couple of weeks we have monitored a child to see how many touches they actually receive on the ball during training sessions & matches.  In my last blog post we talked about the 10,000 hour theory, in that to become an expert or professional in any field it takes 20 hours practice time per week.  What we experience as coaches is parents believing that their child has made it by playing football for a club that in some cases only have one session per week & one match per week…but how many times do they touch the ball?

To improve & develop you need to practice.  In football to be more comfortable on the ball & possess a good technical ability you need to practice with the ball.  Simple theory but crazy how many people miss this at such a young age!  I watch youth sessions & I see kids running round a pitch in 2′s with the coach shouting, ‘left hand down, right hand down’.  They get away with it as all parents see is their kids in their footy kit, with ‘coaches’ dressed in their gear & training on the best 3G pitch.  Well before I talk about improving the technical ability of kids I want to make a simple statement.  When paying upwards of £50 to hire a 3G pitch I don’t want to run round the edge of it – I want to use the bloody pitch!

Then we have the IFA run mini leagues that encourage small sided games which in theory is great but again, unfortunately, they get it completely wrong in my opinion.  I operate Toddler Soccer in an indoor 3G arena on a Saturday morning.  Next to us we have kids only a year older than some of my toddler group playing in these mini leagues.  They play 5 a-side, but on the same size of pitches as fully grown men play with the long wide nets!  To me this is still like playing 11 v 11 on a full size pitch with the big goals!  What happens?  The ball is at one end of the pitch with 9 kids around it while the poor little kid is at the other end stuck in nets waving to his dad…then the inspired words from the coach, ‘GET RID OF IT!’, as little Billy lumps the ball down the other end for the 8 kids to run after with the other coach shouting, ‘KEEPER – SWITCH ON!’  It is a waste of time.  Some will argue that the kids enjoy it, I don’t know.  I would split the pitches in half & play left to right into mini goals with NO KEEPER, & encourage 4 v 4.  Still loads of space but more touches of the ball, more 1 v 1′s, more tricks, more goals, more fun = improved technical ability.

Concentrate on the amount of touches each individual receives during each session

Through poor training methods & mis-guided development games the technical ability of our game suffers.  This starts from the grassroots game & no surprise continues through to the professional game.

Reading a recent report the Premier League has announced plans to at least triple the amount of coaching for promising young players in England which it hopes will eventually help improve the quality of the national team.

Under the plans, Premier League academies will provide 15-20 hours of coaching a week for 9 to 16 year olds instead of the current 5 hours, meaning youngsters would get even more coaching time than those in Germany or Holland.

The plan, which might also include football schools, was agreed by the 20 Premier League clubs before the World Cup in which England produced their worst ever performance.  There were 222 English-qualified players who played first-team football in the Premier League last season.  League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, believed that was enough to find 11 to perform in international competition.

Ged Roddy, the Premier League’s director of youth development, stated that the average 18 year old at Ajax gets 6,000 hours of ‘contact time’ with coaches compared to 2,500 for the equivalent player in England.  He also added that the English system has lagged behind & it needs reconstructed.  One of the aims is to have about 10,000 hours of contact time in the future.

One English Club leading the way is Watford with the Harewood Academy.  They studied the set up at Dutch Club, Willem II Tilburg, & have tried to replicate the set up in England.  The focus is that the boys are transported to the Harewood Academy, which is a normal school with other pupils attending, so that boys continue their education but have more coaching time with the coaches.  Already the contact time with coaches has increased from 6 hours per week to 15 hours per week with studies, home work & meals all completed on site.  The project is currently based on 11-15 year olds.  They train in the morning then have classes before lunch.  More classes in the afternoon along with time for homework & another training session before returning home.  You can watch some videos about the Harewood Academy by simply clicking the following links…it also includes ballet dancing in one!  Harewood Academy 1, Harewood Academy 2 & Harewood Academy 3.

‘The young boys, they practice 5 times a week, at the end of the year they will not be the same players.  It’s no superiority from any other country, it’s just that here in England is less practice with the children than anywhere else.’

Arsene Wenger, Arsenal Manager.

This leads us on nicely to our study.  We took one player & counted the amount of times he touched the ball in different environments.  This was from training sessions to matches.  If you want your child to improve technically you should monitor how many practice sessions they are doing on a week to week basis & what they actually do in these sessions.

IFA National County Programme (2 hour training session)

20 minute warm up, working 1 ball in pairs passing.  171 touches.

Remainder of session working on patterns of play & a match.  53 touches.

Overall touches – 224.

Dungoyne FC Club Training (1 hour session)

Warm up, individual with a ball each.  170 touches.

Remainder of session based on possession game then a match.  137 touches.

Overall touches – 307.

Dungoyne vs. Carniny, League Game (30 minutes each way)

Played in midfield for duration of game on wing.  Scored a goal & set up 3.  Dungoyne won the game 8-1.

Warm up, 20 minutes.  162 touches.

During game, 60 minutes.  80 touches.

Overall touches – 242.

1-on-1 Coaching (1 hour session)

Session started off with keepie ups for a warm up.  Then operated the skill square concentrating on dribbling, turns & skills.  A fun passing exercise was followed by S.A.Q. (still using the ball).  A selection of shooting activities completed the session which included volleys, lobs, over heads, free kicks & then a cool down.

Overall touches – 699.

No surprises that the 1-on-1 session involved the most touches but shows the importance of them.  The overall total touches is heavily affected on what you are working on in training.  It is also interesting in the results that the shorter sessions still resulted in more touches of the ball!  This can also be a reflection on the coaching style.  How many times the session is stopped, how long the coach talks for, etc.  But one thing to remember is the importance of using a ball during the warm up.  The difference from a short warm up with the ball (average 165 touches) compared to zero touches if running around a pitch!

In signing off, how many touches does your player / child receive during a typical session or a match?  If it is not in the hundreds & they are not completing enough sessions / practice time you can bet their technical ability will suffer for it.  Why not take a count at the next session or game & add in the comments box?

12 Responses to “How Many Touches Do You Get?”

  1. I have to say it’s surprising that my local club in the Southeastern United States has it better off for the youngest kids!

    U5 and U6 matches are played on a 30yd field with 4 ft. wide goals in 3v3 format. U7 and U8 matches are played on a 60 yard field with 8 ft. goals at 5v5 (with GK).

    Reduced size pitches and less than full sided games continue through U12.

    We get one hour per week of practice for all kids up through U8. At times, it seems woefully short as I struggle to get kids to understand the basic ideas of the game and at the same time work on skills. I end up with 30 minutes of skill work and about a 20-25 minute scrimmage (anywhere from 3v2 to 5v4 depending on how many kids show for practice) for my U7 team. Guessing they are probably about 200 touches in the skill work (when it’s more individual and ball centric) and the more aggressive players can get 60-100 touches in the scrimmage. Of course, these are the players already at the higher skill level.

    My U5 team does about 30 minutes of skill work followed by 10-15 minutes of games that emphasize time on the ball or 1v1 and then finish with a 2v2 or 3v2 scrimmage. I think their count is probably higher than the older kids is for an equal amount of time on field.

  2. admin says:

    Hi Dennis, thanks for the detailed reply. Very interesting. I adopt the small sided games, pitches & goals in my training for all youth players.

    If you haven’t had a look already be sure to check out, http://www.TrainingSoccer.Org

  3. Chloe Brown says:

    Very interesting post.
    I completely agree, players do not get enough touches on the ball and the “old school” coaches do not help this with their warm ups of “run 2 laps round the pitch” or the fitness sessions of suicides. Players have a limited amount of time to train as it is and I believe that not only sessions but warm ups and everything should be match related. I cringe every time I see managers on a saturday morning getting the kids to run across the field and high knees and everything, my girls ALWAYS have a ball in the warm up. My blog (small plug of http://www.cblilwebspace.wordpress.com) has some very similar topics about making sure the warm up is appropriate and keeping the kids learning even though they aren’t on the sideline as it all goes towards the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. I am also looking at new ways to improve practice time through my future PhD topic.

    I think the amount of practice players have at a young age reflects in their performance at an older age and this post has hit the nail on the head!

  4. admin says:

    Thanks for the reply Chloe, where abouts do you coach & what team do you look after? It’s great to communicate to so many coaches from around the world – this is how we learn & develop!

    Coaching can be a lonely job at times which is why it is so important to network. I always encourage the readers of my blog to add comments & their views – regardless if they agree with me or not : )

  5. Chloe Brown says:

    I coach at Ramsey Colts FC for the under 10 girls at the moment but in the past have coached many different age groups and abilities from adult beginners to centre of excellence. I agree (Again another post on my blog about networking lol) Talking to other coaches and finding out their opinions can be great, even if you dont agree with them!

  6. David W says:

    Having the ball at your feet is crucial to development, but do not get carried away with how many touches, just as important is how many decisions do they have to make. A player practicing on his own will become a good player on his own, but the game is fast and it very rarely allows a player the time to try tricks, without having a defender nipping at your heels.
    Ball each is pointless unless you have to make decisions on time and space. Areas should be tight with many bodies in the area, you now have a more realsitic game scenario, where the players have to change direction, shield the ball, turn, feints, dribble, scan, change of pace. The recognition of time and space will happen overtime also getting used to playing in the tight is crucial if we want our players to develop into world beaters.
    Christiano Ronaldo comes across as a player that has trained on his own a lot, great footwork, full of flicks & tricks, but not as good as Messi when it comes to time & space. Messi is not flash, he is used to playing in the tight, so has complete confidence in the tightest areas which are in the final third and is able to find that space that maybe Ronaldo cant.

  7. admin says:

    Hi David, good points about decision making, time & pressure. I like to develop this in small sided games & possession type games. I feel a ball each is essential for young players & carrying through in older players in the warm up at least. I feel this is the only way to improve players technically.

  8. Justin says:

    Tim,
    Very nice article. Thanks for the insight!

    We have been pursuing a similar study with some of our players and the results are staggering.

    In doing some research on this and some other items, I am wondering if you have come across any objective standards of the number of touches we ought to aim for in a “typical” training session for the different age ranges. Obviously, the numbers are going to vary quite a lot depending on the actual event, game size, number of players, etc., as you have shown above, but it would be nice to have some sort of goal to aim at in trying to maximize our time with players.

    Any insight that you have on this would be great.

    Thanks for your time!

  9. Coach Tim says:

    Hi Justin, thanks for stopping by & I am glad you enjoyed the article. My warm ups always include a ball so that every player has their own. This is their time to do keepie ups, skills & turns.

    I will always focus on possession type games then into small sided games. AT the minute because we are restricted with time & numbers we play 7 v 7 at the end but I may bring in additional 2 players & play 4 v 4 tournament…I did this a lot during pre season. I now do a lot of 1 v 1′s building up too.

    This guarantees maximum ball time.

  10. Justin says:

    Thanks, Tim! Very helpful.

    Best,

  11. mohamed says:

    thamk you so much i really enjoy your drills and formation .

  12. mohamed says:

    thank you so much i really enjoy your drills .

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