Getting 1,000 touches can be good, but can also hurt your development. Yes, you want to understand how to improve ball mastery the right way. Just as important you need to know the drills that will help you in a game. Skills like first touch and finishing. Social media and YouTubers will make it look like getting 1,000 touches is the best thing, but actually it can hold you back! Think about if you are working on first touch out of the air… You won’t get many touches, but you will improve in an important element. The basics should never die, so don’t think that the fancy stuff is best. Below you’ll read how in the Netherland, youth players work on the basics at a very high intense speed. A vital piece is your attitude in how you train and what you do.
Spending time on your own with the ball
The article below by Jon Townsend is something that every parent and child involved in soccer should read. The key to improving as a soccer player is constantly touching the ball, even if it’s the most simple drills at home or on the pitch. Same with a pro basketball player spending 30 minutes a day working on free throws. A 7 year old can make a free throw, so why does a million dollar athlete spend hours working on the most simple skill? Because these are the things they will do in competition the most, that’s why.
Is it possible for young players to take 10,000 touches a day to improve ball mastery? I remember 5 years ago I was curious to see how many touches I could get my players. In a 1on1 or group of 2 I was able to get players 1,000 touches in 60 mins then in 40 mins and then 20 mins. You can do stationary skills or simply have players just dribble down the field and back, while taking touches every step. More important that just getting a lot of touches is your attitude in how you do it and also what you do. Sometimes the most simple things are best. Jon Townsend analyzes the Dutch theory that could develop technical ability at all levels.
Age & mechanics are important components
At GFT our classes are mostly 60 minutes, which makes it impossible to get 10,000 touches in the session. Ages 8-14 we need to make sure they are getting the mechanics/form. If you are working on shooting and finishing you are going to get way less touches. This is why I don’t want you to think you have to get thousands of touches to improve.
I believe that if players can work on ball control at home it puts them ahead. Then if you train with me or someone else in-person it’s better to work on things you can’t do solo. Things like finishing, first touch passing and trapping, turning while receiving and give and goes.
Team practice compared to solo training
In a team practice most players probably get 500 touches in the 90 minutes. It really depends on what the topic of the session is. If the topic is crossing and finishing, players might only get 100 touches. A team or group that goes to practice and works on passing drills and then scrimmage every week will not get many touches. Usually due to having to share the ball with 1 or more players. There is so much to work on and so this is why I am always motivating players to practice at home.
With my training sessions it’s usually a small group focusing on the individual. With this we maximize the touches at the beginning of practice to warm up the muscles. Then we can focus on first touch, passing, shooting & game like drills.
How many touches should a soccer player get in practice
Depending on what you are working. If you are wanting to do all dribbling then you can get 1,000 touches in the first 20 minutes. This is not easy if you’re doing good stuff (not just simple drills).
If you are working on ball striking or finishing you are not going to get near as many touches. Does this mean it’s not as good? Of course not! When it comes to getting touches, you want to mix it up from doing things slow and smooth and then working on the speed of it.
Go full speed at the simple things
That’s why if you read the article from Jon Townsend you will see that those Dutch players go full speed. Even the most simple drills and they don’t get bored. Their mentality is right and they know this is what it takes to get to the next level.
Pro players try to do the simple things perfect
I can promise you that the Pro Players in the MLS and Leagues around the world focus on the most simple things that they do most in a game. I remember my first year as a pro I was training with the Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting KC) before I got drafted by Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas). A big name player – Roy Lassiter, who was the All Time Leading Goal Scorer in MLS History at the time & who is currently ranked 9th All Time, was training on his own before practice started.
He was doing some of the most simple things, but things he does all the time in a game situation. Left footed player so he had a pile of 10 balls about 30 yards out on the right side. At about 60% speed, he would dribble towards the goal, cut it with the outside of his left slot it back post.
If you Google his goals scored you will see that most of his goals we like this. I also remember when we went to Santiago, Chile with FC Dallas. After practice one day, Eddie Johnson (#8 All Time US National Team Goal Scorer) was working on a certain finishing drill with one of the coaches at the end of our practice… I remember thinking, “Wow! I never thought I would see a Pro working on such simple things” but it made total sense!
Teaching youth soccer players pro drills
To this day I train my students the same way;) Well there is no way that a player can score lots of goals in a team setting compared to private individual lessons so if you need work on finishing you need to get with a trainer, friend or parent and work on the right things. If you can find a brick wall or any hard surface you can do this.
I used to train across the street from my moms house at a school which had 2 walls facing different ways. So this was perfect to be able to trap [control] the ball and then pass it to the other wall. The two walls makes it like you have 2 people working with you.
Training with me online
With my Online Courses players immediately see and feel the difference. The key is teaching all the surfaces of the feet to control the ball. In this you learn how to position your feet and teach the muscle memory proper form.
A soccer training secret
Want a Striking/Shooting Secret? Don’t just go take your ball to a field and shoot on goal! Instead, take it to a wall so it comes back to you. You can get 10 times or more the amount of shots. Shooting on the goal is fun, but it doesn’t allow you many reps.
Players have to be motivated to work with the ball at home as much as they can. Some days it might only be 10 minutes which can equal 500 touches, but some days they will spend hours with the ball. At the end of the day, week and year they are getting thousands of touches to improve their skills and confidence on the ball.
Players lose the ball because of skill not speed
If you watch a soccer game at any level 90% of the time they lose the ball because their touch is not good enough, or they get nervous and can’t deal with the pressure. Very seldom is it because they were not fast enough or strong enough. Soccer is not something that just comes natural, at least for 99%. The best players are always working with the ball on their own, with a friend or trainer.
Sad news is many people think to get serious in soccer you have to get strong. There is no reason an 11 year old needs to be doing crossfit in my opinion. Next time you watch a game, notice how and why players lose the ball. Over 90% of the time it’s because their first touch or pass.
Getting lots of touches on the ball
To get thousands of touches you need to work on stationary and moving footskills/dribbling drills. Don’t think just because you get thousands of touches that is good enough… They need to be quality skill drills, so don’t just get hundreds of Foundations, Bells & Tick Tocks. Yes, it’s good to get maybe 100, but then you need to do something different and more advanced.
For players who need to improve ball mastery, I highly recommend my Online Ball Control Courses to get exactly what you need. A program that motivates and teaches proper form. It’s for players who don’t have hours and hours of extra time. All you need is 20-30 mins per week to do this. Then you have time and freedom to do other things with or without the ball.
Remember, if you need to work on passing and shooting you won’t get as many touches. This is okay because we need to improve every element of our game, not just footskills.