Ever since the emergence of ‘tiki-taka’ football (one touch football) which was first introduced by Pep Guardiola’s excellent Barcelona side a few years ago, many youth coaches have been trying to ‘copy’ this style of play.
Now this is not a bad thing, as trying to emulate the best sides in football should be encouraged but unfortunately what we tend to see is them being misinterpreted.
A common practice for youth football coaches today is to install the rule of only allowing their players to play one-touch football in training. This can be seen with age groups young as 6 years old, who have still not developed the basic skills to execute this skill in the game.
When Do We Use One Touch Football?
Young players need to follow a progressive program that will take them through all the ‘critical skills’ at the appropriate stages of their development.
This should teach them when, where, why and how to apply their skills and make good tactical decisions when it’s necessary.
As coaches, we shouldn’t be asking our young players to play the game in an unrealistic fashion.
If you carefully watch the sides who play a possession style of play you will notice that a lot of the play is not made up of one-touch football.
You will see players penetrating space with the ball, checking & receiving on the half-turn looking for that moment to either play someone in or just keep the ball, intelligent movements to create good support angles for teammates and quick changes of direction to beat players.
Only when it is necessary, will you see the play speed up and the players use fewer touches on the ball, playing quick passes that only require one & two touches.
This often occurs when the players in possession are in tight situations and the game demands that they move the ball quicker.
“young players must have acquired both self-confidence when on the ball and a sound football intellect prior to the introduction of one and two touch practises.” John Cartwright
What Is The Alternative?
Young football players need to experience many real game situations that will ask them to solve football problems which help speed up their decision-making skills and confidence on the ball.
Each practice should feature a gradual reduction of space and the introduction of opposition to re-create actual situations that occur in a real game.
The use of ‘quicker passes’ should still be encouraged as we want the players to understand when to move the ball quickly but we must always keep asking the players to choose the correct action depending on the situation that they are in.
If you force a young player to only use one-touch football in training you have to ask yourself is this real football? would that player really use one-touch when he/she could attack the space with the ball instead? by restricting their touches will I increase their confidence on the ball and encourage individualism?
What makes football such a great game is how ‘chaotic’ it is. There are very few restrictions and situations can change instantly.
This is why I find difficult to see how we can place such restrictions on our players that force them to repeat the same action even if there were better options available to them.
All this will create is a ‘robotic’ style of play that will not bring out the player’s individualism.
Can you imagine someone telling Messi when he was a child to only play one and two touch football? if that was the case I very much doubt we would see the player we see today who will dribble across defenders or show excellent changes of direction and confidence on the ball.
When the game becomes tighter he will play the ball quicker using bounce passes or one and two touch passes but only when it is necessary.
“Footballers from the street are more important than trained coaches.” Johan Cruyff
Try to encourage good decision making when you are coaching instead of restricting your players of their individualism.
If more of us start to place fewer restrictions and create better environments for more skillful and tactically aware young players then we may produce a Messi or Neymar of our own in the near future.
Kurtis is the Head coach at ‘Let’s Play The Game ’ and has over 15 years of coaching experience. He is also a head coach at a junior school and club level. Kurtis has experience in training and mentoring grassroots coaches in the West Midlands area. He holds a Diploma of Higher Education in Sports Coaching, FA Level 2 Badge Holder and is currently doing the FA youth module level 3. He has the Premier Skills Coach Education Award.