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.