Player Development Series: Two Footed (Shared Comments)

I need to check on the comments for the site.  I received some great responses and I want to include them here.  Ryan Slott commented on Facebook regarding his basketball coaching experience (need more information Ryan and I will share here).  I think there are some great analogies.  Ryan has a wealth of experience in coaching and has fantastic insight into sports in general, particularly soccer, that are refreshing given his background. Maybe we can get him to clarify his facebook comments:

  • Ryan Slott Same as a left handed lay up for the dominate right handed hoops world!….I could talk hours on this….
    3 hours ago via mobile · Unlike · 1
  • Ryan Slott I would side on the…”Spend a small portion before or after working on the non dominant especially situational…putting yourself in a position you have seen before!”

Stu Taylor is an exceptional soccer trainer who works for Texas Rush.  I had the privilege of attending the USSF D Course with him and participating with him during his sessions.  He is a wonderful teacher of the game.  He has an excellent grasp of the game, great coaching demeanor, and intimately knows the balance between coaching and teaching (and I do not give out praise lightly).   Here are his comments:

I know, evaluating my own coaching whilst I read it, that I don’t spend sessions focusing on weak foot development but I do enforce that players do not shy away from using it.
For example, the other week with my U9 Girls we focused on playing to the front foot (to improve our ability to play out the back and improve speed of play), the activity was simple, the player receiving the ball had to check in and out away from a cone (defender) to give themselves space to receive on their front foot. One thing I added was that they checked in and out both ways from the cone, so that they were opening up either way. This put them in the position, if they were going to do the activity properly to receive on their weaker foot. Yes, a lot started using their prominent foot but they quickly figured out that using that prominent foot sometimes takes you in the wrong direction as its your back foot when opened out someways. (with emphasis)
I think that putting players in the position where they have to think about which is the correct foot to use in that situation is a good way to make the player realize the importance of using both feet, or figure out a successful way to get the ball back to that stronger foot quicker (which is what Robben clearly does).
Some things I do are
  • I regular switch my LB/RB during the game so that they can play both sides, also my RM and LM too.
  • I do push my players to work on both feet when I give them homework such as shooting repetition or passing.
I think using guided discovery is a great way to to get your players thinking about the errors they make, “Was that that the right decision?” is something I use a lot.

Stuart Taylor
|Head Coach-Girls Youth Academy (U8-10)
RUSH Texas Rush Soccer Club
2204 Timberloch Place #225 |The Woodlands, Texas 77380
O 281-298-2180 | C 832-562-9645 | Field Conditions 281-298-1862
Finally, I received an email from John Werner, a soccer aficionado who has been coaching the game for the better part of a decade.  John coaches and learns the game through the love of it and, like me, picked up on it as an adult.  (He is also a fantastic trial attorney!)  He has seen girls at all levels play and participated with them.  He is now coaching a young group of girls as his daughters are out of youth soccer.  Here are his comments:
My two cents, for what it’s worth — for my littles, the “Number One Practice Rule” is “Whatever you can do with your right foot, you can do with your left.”  (The Number One Game Rule, for another day, is “Don’t just kick it!”).

I run about 60-70% of technical stuff with the R foot.  I try to alternate but I always start with the R (because it’s more comfortable for the girls) and oftentimes I end up with extra reps on the R for that reason.

The outcome has been that they are proficient with the R and competent with the L.  It seems to work well enough in games at this level.  Of course, the girls who have the real natural ability are able to go to the L more effectively and more often.  Alli Moff got the same training everyone else did from U8, but she has always been able to strike just as effectively with L as R.  Back to the current littles, at least everyone has exposure to it and can use it when they need to, “break glass in case of emergency.”
I have not yet had a little one that was a natural left-footer like Madison Soileau or (if you remember her) Joey Whalen.  So I don’t know what would happen there.
I am working to turn the comments back on but I wanted to push these ideas out.  Thanks for sharing.

Player Development Series: Should You Develop 2-Footed Players?

Since I have been coaching soccer, I felt some compelling need to encourage kids to use their weaker foot.  Is that really good for their development?  Should we spend more time making our strengths stronger versus overcoming our weaknesses?

In April 2013, the magazine Four Four Two considered the issue in their article “Where Have All the Two-Footed Players Gone?”  The article leads with a Q/A with Arsene Wenger, considered among professionals to be a “master and student of the game.”  He had no answer why so few professional players, some making as much as $100k/week, could not use their weak foot.  At the same time, Wenger praised Santi Cazorla’s lack of a weak foot.  But, for every Santi Cazorla there is world class Arjen Robben  What gives?  If professionals do not develop their weak foot, should we be worried about our kids?

No one seems to have a definitive answer.  What is even more telling is that there is no consensus among the top professional trainers.  For everyone who says it is a critical part of development, others say why mess with it.  Listen to what Jimmy Gilligan, head coach of the Nike Academy (and former Cardiff, Swansea, and Portsmouth player) who works with players 12 and older:

Two-footedness is a good thing to have, but the modern footballer manipulates the ball so well now that I don’t think too much attention needs to be paying to it. You wouldn’t necessarily work on thinks just on one foot. You might do 10 minutes at the end of day playing off your weaker foot…but it is certainly not something I plan in drills…

Two-footedness can be taught. But are players going to spend hours on the training ground using their weaker foot?  I’d say no.  Why do that when you can hone something else that win you a game, such as a match-winning pass or match-winning strike? (Four Four Two, April 2012 p. 87)

On the other hand, there are those who are starting a trend of teaching two-footedness at young ages.  One Scottish school teacher, Ian McArthur started “The Other Foot Soccer School.”  The weaker foot is given a yellow sock to start and it is to be used almost exclusively.  As kids progress, they get a different color sock for their weaker foot, all the way up to black, like karate.

As a coach, how much time should we be spending on the weaker foot?  It seems the issue is much debated — with no clear consensus even among the highest levels of youth academies.  Can a defense build tactics around one-footed players?  Yes.  But Arjen Robben keeps scoring goals.

My personal feeling is that some level of proficiency is needed to compete at the higher levels.  And, if you do not develop it in their youth, it will be harder to pick up later.  How much time you spend seems on the weaker foot seems to be an open issue.