Players have on average 2 touches and 1 second to play the ball. This is the reality of a professional footballer. Are you training toward this reality?
In a study by Carling*, examining professional matches in France, a few details emerged.
1. Players have about 53 seconds of the match spent in possession of the ball (less than 1% of the time played).
2. Players are in possession of the ball for slightly more than 1 second each occasion.
3. Players averaged 2 touches per possession.
While there are other studies with slight variations, the take away remains the same. Players are managing space more than they are managing the ball. Players must be remarkably effective with the little time they do have on the ball.
Are you training a player that has the capacity to play efficiently and quickly?
In fact, the best players in the world have such little time on the ball that they must be cognitively proficient from perception to execution and have little time to follow the thinking process to successful conclusions.
If we now cross reference the real demands of players in the game with the what they are doing in training, we may find we are indeed not preparing players as well as we might.
Managing one’s thinking process (cognition) must be prioritized. Managing space must be detailed. And finally, managing the ball quickly and precisely has to be of paramount importance.
For this reason, through TOVO Training we like to break down Principles of Play into three categories.
1. Managing Oneself
2. Managing Space
3. Managing the Ball
The three fundamental commitments from each player must be to do their best, behave and have fun. It is really not more complicated than that. If every payer manages this expectation on and off the pitch we know that they will have a far greater chance to maximize their potential and allow their passion to drive their ambition.
It is here that we speak of angles, distant, timing, lines, and situation. Of course, this warrants much more than a blog article to detail. Having said that, managing space is so critically important to train and I must say that we tend to dismiss the importance of these critical concepts too often. Position play is a bit challenging to coach, but well worth the effort to delve into if we are to provide players with the profound understanding of spatial relationships that they will need to execute their craft.
Managing the Ball
You need only visit the web to see the multitude of opportunities, phone apps and private services that focus on this aspect of player development. Technical precision is critically important and qualified people in small group or individualized instruction can certainly improve a player’s ball mastery. However, the match does not require skill. A match requires applied skill in the face of constantly changing variables. Our goal must be to improve execution in real time in the face of opponents if we are to develop true talent.
Overall, the beauty and harsh reality of football is that it is a complex game that requires intelligence in the form of remarkably quick cognitive processing. If we are not training players to manage themselves, space and the ball simultaneously then we are not training them for the demands of the game.
What can your players do with 2 touches and 1 second per possession? And perhaps more importantly, what can they do with the 89 minutes of the match that they will not be touching the ball at all?
*Carling C (2010) Analysis of physical activity profiles when running with the ball in a professional soccer team. Journal of Sports Sciences, 28:319-326.