A Scientific Basis for Developing Self Thinking Players

First Read: What is Soccer Awareness

Parents, players and coaches all get informed of this information which proves scientifically this method of teaching works.

Myelin Growth is the Key. (Reference: The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle)

Myelin and its relationship with Guided Discovery Coaching

Human skill is created by chains of nerve fibers carrying a tiny electrical impulse from the brain to the body.

Myelin: what is it? Myelin is the insulation that wraps around the nerve fibers in our brains and increases signal strength, speed and accuracy and speeds up decision making in your thoughts and movements

What makes it grow?

Scientific research proves; Myelin is produced by a person thinking about and analyzing skill situations themselves; and being trained with self-thought as a major part of the process.

Making and correcting errors; constantly generating solutions to ongoing problems; the game is dynamic; and situations change every second, new decisions have to be made every second. This occurs in deep practice: the more you practice; the more decision making situations you find yourself in; the more thought it takes to solve them; the more myelin is grown, the faster the body and brain processes these; the better the decisions made. 

The game is getting faster, using fewer touches on the ball, which creates the need for quicker thinking and better decision making players

This is a fast growing trend in modern soccer that cannot be ignored. HOW DO WE AFFECT THIS IN OUR TRAINING?

Technique and skill

Technique is the actual movement; skill is the “when and where” of the movement aligned with correct decision making

It is no good having great technique but little skill; or vice versa. Players need to learn to be good at both to succeed. This training teaches both.


A. Deep Practice: We start without pressure and build it to training under pressure as the players become capable technically.

Deep practice now means training on the edge of your capabilities (same as training under pressure); and training in this capacity leads to “mistakes: being made as players learn to perform tasks they are not totally comfortable with yet.

So making mistakes helps the learning process.

Pressure training example: NO SPACE PLUS NO TIME EQUALS MORE ACCURATE AND FASTER DECISIONS. This increases the speed of skill acquisition becoming 10 times faster than regular practice that simply incorporates technical drills of the same repetition “without” deep thought.

Simply put mistakes lead to better skill acquisition over time and with practice; and helps the learning process to determine the “where, when, how and why” of decision making.

Specific practice within deep practice: 

1 v 1: an example: practicing the same theme over and over, initially as a technique, then as a skill; it could be passing one touch; first in isolation as a technique, second as a skill; in this 1 v 1 set up; identifying different options at speed in one touch passing and quick thinking.

B. Ignition: This is the motivational fuel that generates the energy, passion and commitment of a person from within to perform deep practice. It is intrinsic motivation where the player has a self willed drive to succeed. This is the catalyst and it represents a huge level of commitment requirement from the player.

This is also ignited / inspired beyond the intrinsic by master coaches.              

C. Master coaching:  These coaches create an active learning environment where the players are actively engaged; and are led by guided discovery methods of coaching.  Children retain only 18% of concepts learnt passively; but 68% of concepts learnt actively.  Training should be player centered not coach centered.                                                                      

A need for positivity: the types and manner of words and actions used by a coach can influence the player greatly. Negative words and actions can have as much bad influence and damage confidence as Positive words and actions have great influence and build confidence.

So; going backwards, the formula is; Master coaching creates Ignition; that encourages Deep Practice; and especially SPECIFIC Practice; that produces Myelin; that produces improvements in accuracy, strength and speed of decision making.

The emphasis of one touch training to develop the mind:  what does it teach?


For the individual receiving player it teaches:

1. Quicker Thinking: The game is getting much faster so players need to think much more quickly to be able to cope with this increase in pace; which means they have less time to make decisions.

So...1-touch creates "quicker thinking players"

2. Body and Foot Preparation: One touch means getting the body / feet into appropriate position to receive.  

So...1-touch develops body positional awareness (e.g. may need to let ball "run across the body" to "save" the touch)

3. Quicker Play: The game is getting faster so players have less time on the ball so a natural progression to cope with this is to use fewer touches of it. This means using one touch more; and acting more quickly particularly in tight situations; hence observation BEFORE receiving the ball is a necessity. One touch play forces the player to do this if they want to be successful. This means “LOOKING BEFORE RECEIVING THE BALL, ASSESSING OPTIONS EARLY”

It requires a look over the shoulder, to the sides and behind the player; BEFORE RECEIVING THE BALL

4. Improved TECHNIQUE: One touch demands / promotes technical excellence when distributing passes (using 1-touch) received in the air (foot, thigh, chest, head) It also improves the first touch by lots of practice relying just on it

Improves and speeds up the SKILL Factor: This is “decision making” awareness “when and where” situational play. Skill is the end product of technique, the how, why, when and where of the technique.

5. Faster Ball Movement: The ball is moving faster too; as well as the players move faster which suggests quicker passing sequences.

So, faster ball movement, faster running of the players; quicker closing down by opponent’s means everything is quicker; so thinking and decision making has to match this. Hence being very good and successful at one touch play is an essential part of a modern day player’s makeup.

6. Limited Space Possession and Tight Situational Play: One touch teaches players how to maintain possession in tight spaces or when closely marked:

7. Ball Mastery: One touch requires players to demonstrate ball mastery when receiving (cushion pass to teammate in close support vs. hard pass to teammate supporting at a distance)               

8. So...1-touch teaches players how to correctly "weight" their passes

9. Fitness: More frequent and quicker movement off the ball means players have to work harder to support the player on the ball as they have little time with it and need instant help. If the ball is being passed consistently by one touch then the ball is travelling faster and more frequently so the players have to work just as quickly and frequently off the ball to cope with this and maintain possession of the ball; thus it improves specific football fitness.

10. Time Management: One touch play means thinking quickly identifying options early so this in many instances can give the player more time on the ball because they have already seen where the space is to play before they have received the ball. So, it creates Time on the ball to allow for more touches; if needed; by identifying options earlier

11. Identification of Players and Space: It offers the means to a faster identification of players positions; both teammates and opponents

Offers the means to a faster identification of when and where to pass to feet or to space and where the space or player is to pass to

12. On the Ground Patterns of Play: One touch encourages passing on the ground to maintain possession so it is easier for the next player to control the ball.

For the attacking team:

13. Movements OFF the Ball: Training with one touch means the player receiving the ball has to move it on quickly therefore players have to move OFF the ball more quickly to help support the player receiving it.

This is a VERY IMPORTANT aspect of one touch training as it involves all the other players off the ball and their positioning to help the player on the ball, preferably before they receive it so it can happen more quickly.

14. Style of Play: Encourages a fluid, attractive style of play and develops a good tempo / speed of play

15. Combination Play: Encourages combination play (wall-passes, set-up passes, third man runs). There is no better play than a give and go one touch pass combination to beat defenders so it is difficult to defend against, especially in and around the attacking third / penalty area when quick play is applied

16. Aesthetic Effect: Is "pleasing to the eye" (Arsenal / Barcelona / Manchester United)

17. Counter Attacking Play: Useful when teaching the counter-attack as fewer touches means the ball travels’ faster

18. Ultimately: One touch play is designed to improve the player’s first touch in the redirection of the ball, to help players identify their options before they receive the ball, and thus know which option next is best.

This next option may not be a one touch pass in the actual game situation but may be a dribble with many touches, a turn, a run with the ball, a cross; a pass or a shot.

By learning one touch passing; which to be successful needs the player to be able to identify options before receiving the ball; the players develop an awareness of many things including teammates positions, opponents positions, where the space to play to is etc.

One touch is challenging mentally, physically, technically and tactically. 

19.  Better players will thrive on "one touch sessions", and rise to the challenge of it 

20. Facts: Statistics show that 1 touch play is a significant factor in the build up to scoring goals, for example; goals scored by Manchester United from one touch build up play was almost 50% last season. So now without Ronaldo; who was a great dribbler; and so had lots of touches on the ball when creating and scoring goals, and was the heart of the team having much possession of the ball, you could theorize that this percentage should rise, perhaps significantly; with the current players making one touch play even more significant in their development of play and also in your training.

21. Scoring Goals: 70% of all goals are one touch finishes.

22. Defending Team Shape: It may be compromised because of the speed of play.  Defenders can't slide, drop; press etc in time to create defensive blocks.  And this creates frustration because defenders always seem to be reacting to the ball's rapid movement often one step too late because of the speed of play. Thus, it offers less time for defenders to close you down.

It moves players around (because it is physically demanding thus it creates gaps to play in / through)

One touch training mentally trains the mind:

  1. When and where to Dribble and keep the ball in their possession (when the conditioned game is not being played and they are allowed to be free):     
  2. When and where to Pass:  
  3. When and where to receive and turn (when the conditioned game is not being played and they are allowed to be free):   
  4. When and where to shoot one touch or take more touches: 
  5. When and where to cross:

Yes, learning one and two touch play will also help them become better at dribbling and turning because it will help teach them when and where to do it, and each skill will need to be learned, one touch, two touch, dribbling and turning, for them to become better all-round players.

How does soccer awareness help players, coaches and parents?

  • Provides a STANDARDIZED Player / Parent and Coach Education Program
  • Provides professional Guidance on the game of Soccer
  • Has a Standardized teaching Methodology for coaches
  • Promotes club Affiliate Partnerships through the educational teaching programs it provides for each affiliate
  • Provides a Standardized Soccer Awareness Training Program for coaches
  • Provides a Standardized Soccer Awareness Training Program for players
  • Provides an educational process for parents to teach them a better understanding of how the game is played