Reality: Touches at Training vs. Games

Reality: Touches at Training vs. Games

We want more games! We need to play more games! Let’s do more tournaments! More games must mean more touches! Er, that's not true. 

To kick this off, let’s just clarify something. At the right Club, in the right environment, you get at least 5-10 times more touches on the ball than in a game. Depending on your position, you touch the ball ONLY 10-40 times a game.

Stop asking for more games and start asking for more training!

At the professional level, Clubs have to follow the guidelines set out by the National Governing body. For example, Professional English Clubs have to follow the “The Elite Player Performance Plan”, (EPPP), which states, for each game played, there must be 4 training sessions.

If the Professional Clubs Worldwide follow this format, and National Governing Bodies are telling us that a ratio of 1:4 is how to best develop a player, then why are we constantly hearing about a lack of games? Why aren’t we hearing about a lack of training? We cannot have standards that differ from the professionals, we should hold ourselves to the same standard of development.

The U.S. Soccer Development Academy also promotes the training to game ratio, training more and finding quality games, vs. quantity of games.

Games are where you display your understanding from training. If you haven’t trained enough to have any understanding of concepts being worked on, how can you display them in a game? You are not properly prepared to even play in the game, and most of the time, it shows.

I recently had a fellow coach, watch my session with our U10/11 group of players. The topic of the session was to develop core dribbling skills. All while having a ball at their feet, minus the defenders, a few decisions being made in this 15-minute segment of the session were:

  • Where, and when should I change my direction and speed?
  • What is the best way to change direction?
  • Where is their space to dribble into?
  • How can I deceive the opponent to create and dribble through a gap?

I specifically asked my fellow coach to count the amount of touches the players received in the 15-minute window. Bear in mind, I worked in 45 second shifts, with 15 seconds to count our points and change the defenders. He let me know that 45 seconds = 35-45 touches. So, let’s do the math on how many touches the players got: 

1 shift = 45 seconds, each player received 6 shifts

45 seconds = 35-45 touches on the ball

6 shifts x 35-45 touches =  210 to 270 touches

In comparison, you touch the ball 10-40 times in a game, and in 15 minutes of our training session, the players got 210 to 270 touches. Where do you think the real development is happening? Still games?

15 minutes = 270 touches, and our sessions are 90 minutes

There seems to be a fascination about games, but as a Club and Coach dedicated to developing players, we know where the focus needs to be. And it’s the training field. There needs to be a dedication to training with the utmost commitment to performance if players wish to reap the rewards and be prepared for game day.

See you at training!