Modern game required to make constant, quick decisions under pressure with limited time to do so. Quick decisions demand efficiency of touches from players. They need possess the cognitive skills to be able to make correct decision in different game situations. The amount of touches they are going to take are related to time available; space opposition give you, number of players involved, area of the pitch, position of the ball. That means the difference between solutions is always player related. That also means, limited touches on training will affect player thought process and independent ability to find correct solution. Now, I will explain why?
Understanding of learner-young player
“I feel, for instance, that limiting touches in training drills is occasionally counter-productive: if I’m never allowed to dribble, how am I supposed to know how to do it?”-Rene Maric (Borussia Monchengladbach First team Assistant Coach)
https://www.spox.com/de/sport/fussball/bundesliga/2003/Artikel/rene-maric-interview-borussia-moenchengladbach-red-bull-salzburg-assistant-manager-coach-english-itw,seite=2.html link to full interview with Rene Maric
Understanding each individual player needs and strengths is vital. We need to support kids outstanding skills. Restricting number of touches for an outstanding dribbler will only diminished what he /she is very good at. Longer term that child most probably will end up playing lower level football. This is because coaches practice constraints did not match skills and individual needs. Coaches focus most likely was on game model, practice curriculum rather than learning!
(Image Source: Research gate)
Play 1-2 touches only-lack of balance in practice constraints
Limited touches must have logic reason. In other words, why do I want apply this or that practice condition? How this rule will affect players learning? Does everyone need it?
I feel, we need to find a correct balance between conditioned and free play. I was always an advocate of “less is more”. To many unreasonable rules will lead to stop players from making their own decisions and worst learning. In addition, most of the time jeopardize realism of the football game. There is no law in the game saying: Play-1-2 touches only! On the other hand, free play has to have purpose and keeping players out of their comfort zones. That is where skill, experience and knowledge have a massive role to play.
Top level professional football influence how young players train rather than how they learn?
Study the game at the top level is one thing and youth football training is quite another. Coaches implemented practice constraints fit the top level of professional game. Nothing’s wrong with that, permitted coaches also taking to account how young players learn and what they are able to learn? In my opinion training should be guided by learning process, development of the person and rate of success. More often than not is the opposite. Training in youth football is guided by professional game, winning and performance outcome. That is where unrealistic constraints such as limited touches came to play. I’d like to pose few questions here: Does limited touches rules means better players or making better decisions? How effective is that and how do you measure the success? I am asking this because my experience tells me that, coaches seek to replicate the top-level pro game, rather than understand and support individual needs and their learning.
Play one touch when you can, two touches when you need and three touches when you must-challenge/constraints that may get you best of both worlds!
(Source: Mark Upton-Coaching Science Manager at English Institute of Sport)
Having coaching both at grassroots and academy level using these challenges below made positive impact on players learning. Having said that, this was working for the group of young players I had been working with and may not necessary be the right solution for others. Nonetheless this is just the suggestions, rather than anything else and you can try this if you wish.
My intention was to challenge your thoughts and perhaps re-think as to what, how and why we using these types of constraints? Maybe is good to asked ourselves this: Do we design practice conditions for our own ambitions or for players learning? I will leave that question for you to answer.