Teaching a One Touch Mentality to Improve Player's Decision Making - Training Center Exclusive

Developing a player's ability to make successful decisions and keep possession of the ball by teaching a One touch mentality

  1. To play the game successfully it is vital we keep possession of the ball.

  2. The following presentation is ONE WAY to show how to teach players successful decision making, because the game is about the brain and mind and the thinking processes as much as the body, perhaps more so as the game gets faster and faster.

  3. We have Technical, Tactical, Psychological and Physical and all will be a part of this presentation in terms of decision making, but it will all come down to the “SKILL FACTOR” in my opinion.

  4. How skillful is the player in maintaining possession of the ball and making the best decisions to keep it?

  5. In my opinion SKILL should be added to the very traditional and historical four elements the player and the game is judged on. There should be FIVE with SKILL being the 5th (and perhaps most important) AND IN A CATEGORY OF ITS OWN.

  6. What is SKILL? Skill is the when, the where, and the why of technique. The decision making process. The ability to problem solve and produce solutions to problems. Yes SKILL (decision making) is all tied into all four elements of game development but does SKILL not deserve to be its own entity? I think it does and will discuss why in this presentation.

  7. On the following continuum I created the thinking process is a major element of it all. So where decision making comes (SKILL) 2nd; and well before technique you see why. For most players; if you think about it; SKILL will likely come after control, so it would be 6th on the continuum. They controlled the ball then looked to see what next to do, often resulting in a rushed decision and / or a bad decision and loss of possession.

Continuums of Development Model

All these factors you get into the game situation

  1. LOOK / OBSERVE / THINK / SCAN: (BEFORE receiving the ball; assessing all options in “Anticipation” not as a Reaction) - If time allows take 2 or 3 looks because the situation may have changed after the first look

  2. SKILL: THE DECISION: (Why; when and where; plus its success or not; and why?)

  3. FOOT PREPARATION: Not flat footed but on your toes and ready for action (Vital)

  4. BODY POSITION: Balanced and open (Vital)

  5. COMMUNICATION: Verbal and visual

  6. CONTROL: If not a one touch pass on, the 1st touch control

  7. TECHNIQUE: The How; the pass, the run, the dribble, the turn, the shot; etc

  8. GAME TEMPO: Do we speed play up / slow it down / does it stay the same?

  9. TACTICAL MOBILITY: Movement off the ball, finding space; 90% of the game

  10. MENTAL AND PHYSICAL TRANSITION: Possession changes, Player tunes in immediately to win it back?

All these aspects of the game relate to Technical, Tactical, Psychological and Physical.

But we want to Add the SKILL FACTOR too.

So this is what will teach the players through the Continuums Model of Development:

  1. Looking before receiving the ball:

  2. Looking away from the ball as well as at it:

  3. Knowing options in advance of receiving:

  4. Weighting the pass correctly to help the receiver:

  5. Getting their foot preparation right (how many play flat footed?? This won’t let them be if they want to be successful).

  6. Getting their body shape right, for the next move; in advance of the ball: OPEN body stance;

  7. Getting into position quickly "Off the ball" to help the player receiving; and it has to be before the receiver gets the ball as they only have one touch to move it on again either to feet or to space: So the second and third phase players are learning to identify the importance of positioning in advance of the ball.

They will recognize what the fault and failure to maintain possession was am I will show some ideas on why losing possession of the ball may happen. It will not be because of pressure or interceptions by defenders because in the early stages there will not be any defenders so the players can play without pressure. It is easy to see for everyone why it works (or not) and how to fix it if they are honest with themselves.

Reasons why a one touch pass may not work?

  1. There are many reasons why a one touch pass doesn’t work. It is not always the fault of the passer; and this has to be established with your players to help build their confidence in any way you can.

  2. But for all reasons it could be due to poor technique, to unprepared body position and feet preparation, to poor communication by the receiver / passer or his or her teammates, to poor positioning by teammates OFF THE BALL for the next phase of play; and ultimately it will be about DECISION Making.

  3. Due to One touch only the decision has to come in advance of the ball, and well in advance of the ball. A decision coming AFTER receiving the ball is most often too late and it will show up clearly in one touch training.

  4. We are really not trying to teach one touch as a way of playing, we are trying to teach a ONE TOUCH MENTALITY by playing one touch. And a one touch mentality relates directly to the thinking process, the decision making, the SKILL FACTOR.

  5. What does that mean? It means we are FORCING players to look around, check over their shoulder, assess their options; make decisions; identify the best decision if they have a couple or more options available, we are FORCING players to LOOK AWAY FROM THE BALL.

  6. Xavi of Barcelona was videoed in a game where they recorded every time he looked AWAY from the ball. In 90 Minutes he looked AWAY from the ball 841 times !!! On average 9 times a minute. WHY? Because every time he got the ball he wanted to have an answer to his next move and maintain possession.

  7. Receiver doesn’t LOOK and make a decision on who to pass to BEFORE receiving the ball so it either sits at their feet after one touch (which makes it totally obvious they haven't assessed their next option) or they pass it for the sake of without thought or decision and give it away.

  8. The Body position and feet preparation were wrong so the receiver isn’t ready to receive the ball. Maybe they saw the next pass, but it wasn’t successful because of this. So the direction / player they passed the ball was a good decision it wasn’t an accurate pass because of not being prepared due to these two reasons.

  9. Poor verbal communication from teammates to help the passer identify where they are but we teach players to learn without this because players most often do not talk to help each other.

  10. Poor Visual and verbal communication by the receiver so doesn’t SEE the next pass early enough (visual), nor calls a players name out to let them know who they are intending passing to (Verbal).

  11. The pass to them was not accurate so even though they knew what they were doing next they were not able to move the ball on successfully. Perhaps they made a great decision on the next pass (which we should focus upon and highlight) but the pass on wasn’t accurate due to the poor pass to them.

  12. The pass to the receiver was accurate but with too much pace on it to them, so moving it on one touch was too difficult and they were unsuccessful.

  13. There were no open passing lanes created by teammates to allow the receiver to play one touch so he or she did not have a decent option to take and therefore gave the ball away.

  14. The decision must be one of two things, a pass to feet or a pass to space, when to space it may have been a great decision by the receiver passing the ball on but their teammate didn’t move to the space to receive it so possession was lost. Emphasize the great decision; even though the ball was given away; it wasn’t the passers fault.

  15. When passing to space it may be a great decision but the weight of pass was too heavy. Emphasize the Great decision.

Three types of soccer player

For the most part, players can be separated into three categories:

  1. 1. ·Those who don't know what's happening in a game;

  2. 2. ·Those who know what's happening as its happening.

  3. 3. ·Those who already know what is going to happen next.

The players, who fit in the first category, really “don't know” what is happening during the game and instead, when the ball comes to them they just kick it away because they don't know what else to do.

The players who fit into the second category are paying attention to what is happening and are always “Reacting” to whatever is happening at that moment.

The players who fit into the third category are the ones who will ultimately be successful. They not only know what is happening at any given time but they are thinking about what the possibilities are next and instead of constantly reacting to a situation; they are being proactive and are dictating what is going to happen next, therefore working “In Anticipation”.

If you want to be successful as a soccer player, you want to be in this third group but the obvious question is: how do you learn how to do this?

First you want to become a student of the game. Watch as many high level soccer games as possible whether in person or on TV.  Rather than just watching as a fan, try to figure out why a player did a specific move, where he was on the field, whether it worked or not and then why it worked (or didn't).  Then, try to copy the move (assuming it worked) and see if you can use it in a similar type situation.  Also, really try to learn from coaches and if you don't understand something be willing to ask additional questions.  When you have the chance, play with and against older, more experienced players (but make sure it's not putting yourself in a dangerous situation).

The players who have a general idea of what is going to happen next before receiving the ball (or at least have an idea of what the possibilities are for what is going to happen next) are going to have more fun playing soccer, and be more successful while playing the game.

Which category are you in as a player? If you're not in the third category what are you going to do to get there?

Playing One touch to teach a ONE TOUCH MENTALITY

Coaching Points: Continuums Model to work off and relate to.

  1. An Awareness of the passing player of where the OPPONENTS and his or her OWN PLAYERS ARE; AND where the space is (Look and Think Before receiving)

  2. An awareness of the receiving player as to when the passer is ready to pass (Look and Think Before receiving)

  3. Good communication via visual cues through eye contact or aural cues through speaking makes this work (Communication)

  4. Establishing an open stance in the middle for greater peripheral vision and an angle of support (body position and feet preparation)

  5. Movement OFF the ball by the receiver to get free and into open space (Tactical Mobility)

  6. Timing and angle of the run (Tactical Mobility)

  7. Timing; accuracy and pace of the pass (Technique)

  8. Good receiving and turning technique with an awareness of what is behind before receiving it (Technique, Control and Look and Think)

  9. Move and join in the next phase of play (Tactical Mobility)

  10. If we lose possession try to win it back immediately (Mental and Physical Transition)

  11. And of course the SKILL FACTOR, decision making is based on all.

What does it teach?

  • Soccer Awareness: Assessing options BEFORE receiving the ball: ALWAYS AN OVERLOAD OF PLAYERS IN POSSESSION

  • Speeding up thinking and decision making, The SKILL FACTOR

  • Good Technique,

  • Mobility, running from deep to exploit space in behind the opponents

  • Agility and balance

  • Body position and Foot preparation,

  • Communication,

  • The 1st touch, The 2nd touch, and beyond;

  • Teamwork and support positions,

  • Collective tactical understanding in a small sided game environment, that equates to the 11 v 11 all over the field in pockets of play;

  • Positioning OFF the ball, 

  • Problem solving,

  • And developing creativity and imagination,

  • Intensity of play, 

  • Physically challenging; Mentally Challenging: Looking AWAY from the ball all the time is tiring mentally as you need to be switched on 100% of the session or you will give the ball away when it arrives;

  • Developing Angles of support;

  • Opening up passing lanes by movement off the ball;

  • Ultimately providing a competitive environment where no one wants to give the ball away and; finally, 

  • The sessions are fun to do. On the flip side often teaching defending and pressing at the same time.


Playing and teaching with a one touch mentality

Two teams a ball each. Two neutral players who play with both teams. Emphasize a One Touch Mentality; the thinking process; by playing One touch initially; but without pressure. So we FORCE them to assess their options BEFORE receiving the ball.

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How to be successful

Two teams a ball each. Two neutral players who play with both teams. Emphasize a One Touch Mentality; the thinking process; by playing One touch initially; but without pressure. So we FORCE them to assess their options BEFORE receiving the ball. Using the numbers team, we see the ball about to be passed to (4). (4) is already looking around checking availability of teammates to receive the ball next. Team mates should be moving to get into a passing lane to help (4).

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Showing the free spaces

Here we show where players move to in order to help (4). Initially they not in space to receive a pass due to the positioning of the other team. These are just examples they could make other runs equally good. Teammates base their movements on where the space is and where opponents are positioned so they get in open passing lanes as far away from opponents as possible. So in theory (4) has 6 clear options of a pass to keep the ball.

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Movement off the ball by teammates

Showing the options available for a pass now. Two ways this can happen: a) Players move off the ball into space to receive, b) The passer (4) passes into a space to force the player off the ball to move into that free space to receive. But it must be a one touch pass by (4) to ensure they looked before they received (some players have this ability naturally, most need to be taught it, this is just ONE way to teach it by playing 1 touch). So a lot of things going through everyone's minds at every moment in the game.

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Make it a competitive game that may start UGLY!!

Overload with two neutral players. Now it’s a game situation, with the goal to maintain possession playing one touch but most importantly still focusing on developing that ONE TOUCH MENTALITY. It could get ugly initially with players struggling under pressure to assess options and look away from the ball so the ball constantly changes hands with a loss of possession; but you must perceiver. As this happens you can assess your players as to what is going wrong with each and why (use the Continuums model as a way to do this).

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The importance of teaching one touch play: improving one touch play maintaining an awareness of what is in advance and beyond the ball

Linking foot preparation, body position and mental preparation to the technique involved in making a one touch pass leads us to a discussion on one touch play and its benefits. One touch play teaches the value of being able to take your eye off the ball when keeping your eye on the ball can be a disadvantage. To make this work, players need to have good teamwork and positional sense and therefore must work hard for each other to make the options obvious.

And it may be ugly for quite a while; but just let it go. Do not be disheartened and don’t let your players get discouraged. And do not coach, just let them play and work it out for themselves. Tell them you expect it to go wrong more than go right to relax them about it.. They will find with practice that they need to adjust the weight of the pass to help the next player, so foot sensitivity in passing will improve. They will learn this through their own trial and error, not necessarily just what you tell them.

So say nothing; let them FEEL it.

They will find they can't make it work if they just focus and look at the ball all the time.

They will find they can't make it work if their body shape is not right to receive the ball.

They will find they can't make it work if their feet are not ready to receive the ball.

They will find they can’t make it work if their teammates off the ball are not alert.

They will find they can make it work if they start to learn to look away from the ball before they get it; and scan their options in advance of it.

They will find it will work if they get both their body shape and foot preparation right, and in advance of the ball.

They will find it can work if the players off the ball offer early options of support.

They will find they can make it work if their first touch is good (which is a passing touch).

If they only have one touch then it has to be a good one. There are no second chances. This will focus their mind and their body.


Thinking 2 or more moves ahead of the ball

Each player OFF the ball must now be thinking first, I need to move to find space to help (4) before (4) receives the ball. So thinking one move ahead of the ball.

BUT, each player must, as they run into position, be looking away from the space and the ball to assess where EACH of them will next pass the ball, so they are thinking 2 moves ahead.

AND, in the meantime each player assessed initially may have moved AGAIN, by the time this player receives the ball so yet another LOOK away from the ball is needed.

In other words as the player is moving he or she must be constantly looking around as MANY times as possible in the time span of the ball going to (4) and them receiving it.

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So reverting back to the Xavi example of 841 looks AWAY from the ball in 90 minutes; that’s about 9 a minute; you can see just in this instant of a few seconds how many times a player may be scanning the whole field with everything around them constantly changing. Hence why this training is so tiring mentally to young players (try it yourself as the coach for 30 minutes even and FEEL it like the kids feel it) but the more they practice the easier it is, the more used to it they become, the more mentally focused and strong they are; the less tired mentally they become, the longer and better their focus is in the game.


Now make it a FREE PLAY game and unlimited touches

Now we have the real test to see; when given the freedom to play and pass, move, dribble and so on, which players make the best decisions in a game of possession. What often happens is they resort to dribbling and losing the ball because they want to keep the ball themselves, the younger the players the more you see this of course. So stop the game and discuss what's happening especially if you see better options they could have made without dribbling. Or they are pressured into making a rushed bad pass because they didn’t look and decided too late where to pass to.

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Add Mannequins or tall cones

Here we show players moving between mannequins into passing lanes at the same time avoiding and getting free from opponents (the black pinnied players). Now players have to play thru and between mannequins (or cones) also; this is an even bigger challenge for the players. They have to position to enable players to pass into open passing lanes and for supporting players to move into open passing lanes using the mannequins as reference points. Encourage players to pass AWAY from the mannequins because in a game if the pass is close to them then the ball would be intercepted.

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A Competitive Game with goals

1. Here is an interesting way to work on awareness training and passing, movement off the ball, fitness and looking for the penetrating pass. Add triangular goals to score in, this means the game continues after a goal is scored as the ball must be received and possession maintained by another player in the triangle to count as a goal. This ensures continuous play.

2. It is a more directional method of playing and more specific to the game in general. The defenders are NOT allowed inside the triangle so they must be constantly working their way around the triangle trying to cut off the penetrating passes.

3. Attacking all goals encourages “Switching the Field”.

4. So two equal number teams for the greatest challenge and begin with as many touches as possible reducing the number of touches each is allowed as they improve and are able to keep possession effectively. Reducing the number of touches allowed inevitably increases their awareness and forces them to look for options earlier and improves and speeds up their decision making. This should result in them keeping possession more effectively. Or do it the other way around start with one touch and go to free play as I have shown in this presentation but always assessing players decision making and awareness looking AWAY from the ball.

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The ultimate outcome from ONE touch mentality training

One touch training is to teach a ONE TOUCH MENTALITY of the thinking process.

It is NOT to teach players to only play one touch. Not at all. Once the head movement, the observation of options BEFORE receiving the ball is established thru One Touch Mentality training then we are ready to open the game up into FREEPLAY.

Now players can do whatever they like, 1 touch pass, 2 touch pass, a dribble, run with the ball, receive and turn, anything they like.

But the objective has been to establish in their minds that 1 touch mentality to enable them to make the best decision possible from potentially several options at this moment in time.

We want great dribblers beating players 1 v 1, we want players who are great at running at defenders with the ball, we want players who are excellent at one touch play, we want players who recognize; thru developing a one touch mentality when; were, how and why to slow the game down, to change the tempo at the correct times in the game; even better if we develop players who are great at all these things.

So having a “one touch mentality” and playing with this thinking process means we can actually achieve the opposite effect of playing as fast as possible; and that is to play more slowly, because that was the correct decision at that moment.

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