The Importance of Teaching a “Half Touch” Mentality

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  • Before we start this presentation lets establish and discuss some knowledge I gained from my experience as a professional player for Blackpool in England and Oulu Palloseura in Finland and having the great honor to represent Great Britain students when I was in college gaining my Bachelors degree in Sports Psychology and Applied Physiology in the World Student games in Mexico in 1979.

  • Playing at the professional level even in the 70s and 80s the game was fast, very fast it seemed at the time. Now imagine the vastly increased speed of the game now compared to then; and think how its EVEN MORE important to have this ability I will describe.

  • I knew even then that I had to make quick decisions on and off the ball, I knew I had to LOOK AHEAD of and in ANTICIPATION of the ball to be a real success. So whilst I had a good career I never was as good as I had hoped to be.

  • Why? Because my “half a touch mentality” wasn’t what it should be, not even close. I am positive I could have played at a higher professional level if I had this mental ability.

  • So I decided then, if I ever become a coach I would teach this vital (I think THE most vital) ability a player must have.

  • For 30 years I have been doing just that and it has given me the greatest satisfaction and as every year goes by I attempt to keep improving upon my Soccer Awareness model to help all the players I teach..

  • And you know what; I am very good at this now when I teach it, but unfortunately 35 years too darn late for me as a soccer player!! If only we had another life and I knew what I know now; but at least I still get great joy from it now working it with all our players.

  • Ok there is no such thing as HALF A TOUCH (is there?), but I use the term only to highlight the speed of thought and deed; that’s all. Linking foot preparation, body position and mental preparation to the technique involved in making a decision (THE Skill Factor) leads us to a discussion on Half a touch brain centered thinking and its benefits.

  • The Half a touch brain centered thinking process we use teaches the value of the player being able to take their eyes off the ball when keeping their eyes 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 but ultimately to have the capacity to develop their “soccer intelligence” on and off the ball.

  • Many players will mentally prepare to make a decision AFTER receiving the ball; we teach them to mentally prepare to make decisions BEFORE they receive the ball. This saves them time and space and can be the difference between maintaining possession and losing the ball. As the game gets faster, so is the need for players to master this VITAL innate ability because The game is getting faster using fewer touches on the ball, which creates the need for quicker thinking; quicker moving and better decision making players.

  • PLEASE remember, one touch awareness training isn’t all just to teach One touch, it is to teach players the recognition of options of what to do and when and where to do it, before they receive the ball. WE OFTEN PLAY ONE TOUCH JUST TO HELP DEVELOP THE “HALF A TOUCH MENTALITY”.

  • But through this “thinking process” the decision could result in a pass, a dribble, a receive and turn and run; a run with the ball, a shot on goal, a cross; a one touch pass, a short pass, a long pass; few touches, many touches on the ball as the next option; anything at all.

  • The secret is they enabled themselves to save time and space; to play really “quickly”; or even play more “slowly”; based on the “Tempo of the Game” needed at that moment, due to that “half a touch mentality” training development.


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

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

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

  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?

Lets Establish First:

One Touch Training: Teaches the player WHEN to play one touch; and when NOT to play one touch. It’s NOT all about One Touch at all; so please kill that thought now. All training will NOT be based on this; rather this is a part of development focused on the mind rather than the body.

Half a touch mentality teaches players to recognize the best options; and therefore make the best DECISIONS; BEFORE and in ADVANCE of receiving the ball. We are teaching players to have a “HALF A TOUCH MENTALITY”. This means we want players to ALWAYS; AT EVERY MOMENT THINK: “I only have One touch”; therefore this will force players to always do “THE LOOK” (Xavi calls it THINK, means the same, we can call it “LOOK and THINK”) before they receive the ball to see several options and pick out their best option, which may be actually to DRIBBLE!! 

Better still, if a player can do “THE LOOK and THINK” two or three times as play is developing and they see they could receive the ball; then any changes in positioning of players that occur; as the ball is travelling; can be compensated for to make the next decision even more accurate.

“One Touch Passing and Moving Off the Ball”

Many may struggle with this but in time and with patience and practice you will be amazed how much improvement comes in quick decision making using this training program. 

As each player only has one touch to pass the ball (in other words players off the ball should imagine this is the case even though it isn’t) then this should improve players movement off the ball to support due to this as they know the player receiving needs immediate help and as many options as possible. 

The two aspects of play go hand in hand, one touch play and movement off the ball.
Players in 90 minutes touch the ball themselves, depending on their position, perhaps 3 to 6 minutes, so what do they do in the other 84 to 87 minutes? 
They must understand how best to move OFF THE BALL in that time span to help their teammates. 
Hence why the focus and teaching of Movement OFF the Ball is so vital and important in the greater scheme of things in the game. 

Soccer-Awareness: Basic Principles of Development (One Touch Play)

  • One Touch Training development is to train the MIND of the player. To teach the LOOK and THINK.

  • One Touch training: teaches the player WHEN to play one touch and when NOT to play one touch.

  • One Touch training: teaches the player to recognize the best options and opportunities BEFORE they receive the ball.

  • One touch play teaches players to think 1; 2; or 3 moves ahead of the ball

  • One Touch training therefore teaches the player to recognize the correct moment of; when to dribble, to run with the ball, to play one touch, to play two touch, to cross, to shoot, to receive and turn and so on.

  • One Touch teaches the SKILL FACTOR; or; the “decision making factor of technique” to speed up thinking and playing and to improve the accuracy of decision making

  • One Touch teaches players to Move OFF the ball more thoughtfully and successfully (Vital player education) to help each other

  • One Touch Play teaches the player to identify how; why; when and where to use SPACE and TIME more effectively.

  • One Touch Play improves technique

  • One Touch Play helps players to become psychologically stronger

  • One Touch Play improves balance and footwork in players

  • One Touch play teaches players to play more quickly “when needed”

  • This is just the tip of the iceberg, the TIPPING POINT of what this Soccer Awareness training will develop in all players.


Xavi Hernandez of Barcelona and Spain says:

When you arrive at Barcelona the first thing they teach is LOOK and THINK; LOOK and THINK; LOOK and THINK. 

Speed is not necessarily the most important quality. When the ball moves quickly, you are a quick player.  When you THINK quickly you are a quick player. Lift your head, move; LOOK / THINK; Look for spaces. Think quickly, Here? No. There? No. Here? Yes. There? Yes. 

All BEFORE receiving the ball.  Recognize: Space; Space; more Space… “Before receiving the ball”

I think, the defenders here, so play it there. I see the space and the pass. 

Rondo, Rondo, Rondo (which is a major part of our training): Every Single Day at Barcelona. It’s the best exercise there is. You learn responsibility and not to lose the ball; always 1 touch, two touches at the most. 

Ultimately our Soccer Awareness training is Teaching Players to play with “Intensity” and “Relaxation” at the same time; and to guide them to think for THEMSELVES to become self determining players through this model.

They tracked Xavi Hernandez and recorded the number of times he looked AWAY FROM THE BALL in one game in 90 minutes. Guess what it was? He looked AWAY from the ball 841 times in 90 minutes. 

This is what we are teaching with the half a touch mentality with Soccer Awareness Training. We see it as LOOK / THINK / DECIDE / SUCCEED

I am told a Barcelona youth coach says he doesn't agree with restricted touches training. Strange when the best proponent likely ever in the world game Xavi, one of their own, proves the opposite and how Important it is to learn.. They need to think a lot more deeply about what it REALLY teaches, it's NOT about playing one touch at all. 

My thoughts on this. I teach a lot of one touch training but it's not to get them ultimately to just play one touch. I ask them to do it to train their MIND.... I want them to learn to THINK one touch which forces them to assess options before they get the ball to aid quicker decision making. I think the best way to ensure they learn this is to play one touch. 

But the end product I am looking for is they use one touch training to gain a one touch mentality to determine what their best options are faster and more accurately and that may be in that particular instance to dribble. So Alongside this one touch training you of course develop their dribbling skills too. Final example I start with one touch I want them to get in “the mental one touch zone” to then look away from the ball to assess options. 

Then I open the game up to unlimited touches to see if they still swivel their heads in advance of the ball "thinking" one touch but now the best decision may be to dribble, run with it, turn with it, shoot, slow the game down with several touches or play one touch. So developing a one touch mentality may in fact teach the opposite to what you think it for, that is to slow the tempo of the game not speed it up. 

So think ONE touch meaning I ONLY have 1 touch so MUST know what I'm doing next BEFORE the ball comes but in reality I have as many touches as I need to be successful and make the right decision at that moment. The main problem I see in players is once they stop practicing often with one touch training they stop the LOOK in advance do their decision making gets slower and less accurate because they now don't see the range of options they have anymore. This is not an overnight process it's something that needs to be worked on consistently. That said some kids just do the LOOK thru natural ability they are the lucky ones most players don't have this in their makeup but they can learn it

Developing a players 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. This 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.

Reasons why a one touch pass may not work 

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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).

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

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

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.

The Conscious and Sub conscious mind and Myelin Production


Every soccer player, like every human being, has two distinct parts of the mind whose primary role is thought and recollection. There is the conscious state and the sub-conscious state. As the names suggest, when you are completely aware of what you are doing, you are letting your "conscious state" guide you through the process. On the other hand, when you react instinctively, or automatically even, your actions are being controlled by your sub-conscious mind. This isn't just true for soccer, by the way! Even when you are driving or cooking or swimming both these aspects come into the picture.

Our natural tendency is to think that we are how we think! We tend to define ourselves by our conscious mind or thoughts, which is not completely accurate.

When it comes to making a decision after thinking about it, the conscious mind is the king. However, everything that we do, using our conscious mind, only helps create a belief system or habit for our sub-conscious mind. What does that mean? It means, as we keep making a particular kind of decision, based on a particular kind of thought process, we convince our mind about our thinking patterns, which slowly becomes a habit for us

To quote a simple example – say, you are asked to pick your favourite colour between Red & Green, and you choose, say, Green. If this question is repeatedly asked to you, over and over again, there will come a point of time when you won't even need to think about the answer – you will just choose "Green" without blinking. It might even get to the point where you will speak out the answer even before the question is completed or earlier still. Basically, what you are doing is that you have trained your mind to handle that situation in a way where you know exactly what you are going to do. 

Being asked the same thing, over and over again, is just a way of reinforcing that idea into your sub-conscious mind.
The decision, originally, was being made by the conscious segment of your mind. However, over time that role was slowly and gradually handed over to the sub-conscious mind, which made it instinctive. That is the exact same reason why you can apply the brakes quickly, when the car in front of you suddenly comes to a halt. That is also why you know how to instantly use a spoon or even how to tie your shoe-laces.

Making Habits

When you do something, anything, you trigger chemicals reactions that produce something called Myelin. This myelin forms a cover around your brain's neurons. Neurons send messages from the brain to the body. That is the beginning of the formation of a habit. Every time you do that same thing again, your brain adds another layer of myelin to the existing layer – which makes it thicker. The thicker the myelin, the stronger the habit! The stronger the habit, the more instinctive you are! That means exactly what you already know – "practice makes perfect"! Well; permanent more like.

The more you practice, the more you know how to do something better. However, if you believe, that a habit cannot be undone, you are right!
There is no way of undoing what you have learnt – so you might ask then, how do we get rid of a habit? The answer is, but obviously, putting in more practice to learn something else than you did into learning the habit you are trying to undo. It's just that simple!


If you put in enough hours, more than what you have done before, you will put on more and more myelin on your neurons for a second habit and your second habit will become stronger, pushing the first behind in the pecking order.

Basically, your habits are instilled in your sub-conscious mind, allowing your body to respond to environmental triggers a particular kind of reaction, instinctively. Get the right kind of triggers for your mind and you will have the right kind of Myelin layers forming in the right place and the reaction becomes ANTICIPATION..

Back to Barcelona; the first thing they teach is LOOK and THINK; LOOK and THINK; LOOK and THINK. I now say, LOOK / THINK / DECIDE / SUCCEED. When you see Xavi Hernandez of Barcelona threading an inch-perfect pass through 4-opposition players, finding a team-mate, commentators & fans call it vision.

However, what they don't realize is that the reason a player can pick out a pass like that is because they have practiced it, studied it, run through that same routine over and over and over again, in practice!  The game is so fast, it is almost impossible to stop the ball, look up and think about what you are going to do, assess your options and then make a decision. Instead, training helps players understand patterns of play, patterns of runs and patterns of passes that they should make or expect. 

OUR Soccer Awareness Training model focuses almost “Conditions the mind” to develop the LOOK and THINK. 

In a Nutshell: Speeding up and improving decision making and developing the thought processes in football    

“A Scientific Approach”

Inside the brain information is transmitted through neurons.  Human skill is created by chains of nerve fibers carrying a tiny electrical impulse from the brain to the body through these neurons. 


Myelin is the insulation that wraps around the nerve fibers in our brains and increases signal strength, speed and accuracy. 


Myelin is produced by a person “Thinking about and analyzing skill situations themselves”                                                             
The myelin sheath wraps around the fibers that speeds up decision making and reaction time.                                                                                                                   
This makes the signal faster and stronger. 

Skill can now be redefined as ‘myelin insulation that wraps neural circuits and grows according to certain signals’, the two are married together.

What is the LOOK and THINK?

The Continuums “Look and Think” Model of Development created by Wayne Harrison

Word Association combining thought and deed: I developed this idea by watching 1000s of hours of training and defining what I thought was going through the mind and body of a player. Interesting to see; my belief is the SKILL FACTOR (thinking part) comes way before the TECHNIQUE of the player.

“Look and Think” MUST come first before everything else; decision making in advance of the ball.

  1. LOOK / OBSERVE / THINK (ALWAYS BEFORE receiving the ball; assessing all options in “Anticipation” not as a Reaction)

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

  3. FOOT PREPARATION (flat footed, off balance?)

  4. BODY POSITION (open or closed?)

  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. TACTICAL MOBILITY (Movement off the ball, finding space; 90% of the game)

  9. MENTAL and PHYSICAL TRANSITION (Possession changes, Player tunes in immediately?)

Relating Word Association with Actions to identify the Strengths and Areas of Improvement needed in players. 

Focusing particularly on teaching a HALF TOUCH MENTALITY. 

1. Most players will mentally prepare to make a decision AFTER receiving the ball; we teach them to mentally prepare to make decisions BEFORE they receive the ball. This saves them time and space and can be the difference between maintaining possession and losing the ball. As the game gets faster, so is the need for players to master this VITAL innate ability. 

2. Half Touch Mental Development: We ask Players at our training to THINK with a “Half Touch Mentality”, like every time the ball is coming to them they imagine they only have a half touch to play the ball with. 

This will literally FORCE them to LOOK around and THINK of their options before receiving the ball 

On deciding the best option thru a “half touch thought process” it could result in a pass, a dribble, a receive and turn and run; a run with the ball, a one touch pass, a short pass, a long pass;, few touches, many touches on the ball as the next option; anything at all. 

The secret is they enabled themselves to save time and space; to play really “quickly”; or even play more “slowly”; based on the “Tempo of the Game” needed at that moment. 

3. In the Zone: Training your mind as well as your body
Being in the zone generally means being in a state in which your mind and body are working in harmony. You're calm yet energized, challenged yet confident, focused yet instinctive. 
4. Mental training: Keep your focus
Training your mind is an important step toward getting in the zone. Aspects of mental training for sports include increasing concentration and focus, controlling emotions, trying to feel relaxed but energized, being calm and positive, and aiming to feel challenged and confident.

The Conscious and Sub Conscious mind in Conclusion

The process is: 

  1. Playing Consciously and making decisions but NOT before receiving the ball (often the norm), and then;

  2. Playing consciously and making decisions before receiving the ball, and then;

  3. Playing subconsciously and the decision is already made without thinking, the player just “knows”.

When a player is consistently acting and performing at stage c) then that player sees the field in slow motion, is relaxed, everything comes easy (as long as they put the work rate in); and off the ball they have intensity and desire. And the more the players train in the right way the better they will become, it doesn’t suddenly happen and its done, it is a constant work in progress to maintain this level of thought and action.
The players who think they have it made and don’t need to work as hard anymore invariably fail; but add the work rate and they give themselves the best chance to succeed and us the best chance to help them get there.

Genius is 20% Inspiration and 80% Perspiration, you cannot achieve greatness without hard work. 


Again: The Philosophy: LOOK / THINK / DECIDE / SUCCEED. (LTDS). We are teaching 7 year olds this.                   

So exciting.

Playing One touch to teach a ONE TOUCH MENTALITY


What does it teach?

Soccer Awareness: Assessing options BEFORE receiving the ball

  • Speeding up thinking and decision making, The SKILL FACTOR

  • 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,

  • Collective tactical understanding in a small sided game environment,

  • Positioning OFF the ball,

  • Problem solving,

  • And developing creativity and imagination,

  • Intensity of play,

  • Physically challenging;

  • Developing Angles of support;

  • Opening up passing lanes by movement off the ball;

  • ltimately providing a competitive environment where no one wants to give the ball away nd; 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. 

one touch training

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).

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.

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.

movement off the ball

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).

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

So reverting back to the Xavi example of 804 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; as above.

free play game and unlimited touches

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.

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.

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.

one touch mentality training

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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