One and Two Touch Passing.

By John Cartwright

I cringe when I see coaches who work with young players using one and two touch passing practices. Passing of this type requires the special skills of awareness and touch that only come after basic football qualities have been mastered. The progression towards high playing standards should follow a carefully planned route with each stage establishing the skills and tactical needs of the game as they become necessary. Young babies are fed milk and soft substances that concur with their age and digestive ability and solids are introduced gradually as the child develops. Our ‘football babies’ however, are fed unsuitable ‘meals’ too soon causing ‘football indigestion’ that remains with them throughout their whole football life.

One and two touch football is an art in itself. Top players and teams’ need to use passing of this type extensively due to tight marking and space denial that occurs in games at senior competitive levels. The use of ‘early’ passing as one and two touch is, demands both quick awareness allied to fast decisions and a calculated heavy or soft touch on the ball to produce the required end product.

‘Playing in the future’ is a phrase I use to explain early recognition of game situations; ‘touch on the ball’ is about adjusting passing speeds to suit the situation at hand. The ability of players’ who, finding themselves in tight situations, are able to make quick decisions resulting in fast movements whilst controlling ball speeds and passing accuracy, requires top-class playing skills and these can only be accrued over time with correct development methods.

The complexity of ‘early’ passing must not be disregarded and young players must have acquired both self-confidence when on the ball and a sound football intellect prior to the introduction of one and two touch practises. These practises must involve a gradual denial of practice space in conjunction with active opposition to create the same situations and speeds that occur in match play at senior competitive levels.  Recognition of – if and when – to play ‘early’ passes are the guide-line decisions, these are followed by the – what and how. Young players must be ‘engulfed’ in this type of practice at an age and ability where they can learn to answer the questions and solve the problems that the game at the higher playing levels begins to ask.

I have always been concerned and bemused with the use of practises that ‘force’ players to make pre-ordained actions; one touch only or two touch only etc. The game of football is about decision making; the more correct decisions made means a better performance; the game also demands that decisions must be quickly changed if necessary and practises that do not relate to realistic game situations diminish playing ability rather than enhance it.

We must abandon old coaching methods that continue delivering ‘produced mediocrity’ to our game and look for more ambitious and forward-thinking ways to produce ‘natural, all-round’ players to pull the game here out of the ‘doldrums’ of poor playing standards we suffer watching today. The persistent and inexplicable mis-use of development here in which, ‘ham. egg, chips, two slices and a cup of tea’ represents the thoughtless football ‘intake’ given to our young players,  leads on directly to the unfulfilling ‘milk and rusks’ football meal  served up by older age groups in parks to stadiums all over the country.

Will we ever see ‘a la carte’ quality football here? Not whilst we continue to recognize rubbish as greatness – Cold soup or PATE DE FOIE-GRAS WITH TRUFFELS ……. The choice is yours.

26 thoughts on “One and Two Touch Passing.

  1. I believe that the lack of patience we have in this country is a major cause of this, we progress onto the next stage of work without ensuring the previous work is firmly in place or in most cases I see have no route of progression at all and throw in little bits here and there. You wouldn’t build a house by throwing a brick here and there likewise you wouldn’t build half the foundation then starting putting on the roof on.

  2. Hi Wayne. Exactly right what you say. ‘Dashing ‘ from one piece of work to the next instead of gradually expanding practises so that the game ‘unrolls’ for players is how coaching should be delivered.

  3. Hi John. Totally right yet again! The foundation of passing must be obtained/developed by players. The method of ‘one/two touch only’ is just jumping the gun. Its not a poor method however theres a time and a place for it and the players must have the fundamentals acquired to play it. How many times do we see when the players runs out of touches they just smother the ball – game realistic? Hardly!

  4. A major pet hate of mine I see used with u9’s a touch restriction at that age would you believe that’s why we need the whole of the development programme , coach programme ripped up and rebuilt I believe premier skills have produced a great programme of work but it needs spreading… Because to have FA level one coaches left on there own will be doing a lot of harm as good intentioned as they maybe not everyone has the enquiring mind to seek best practice and some are making it up on there own…
    The grassroots needs the best practice and best coaches because its the starting point bad habits here will take years to fix

  5. In my opinion, the one and two touch conditioned games which proliferate at all levels of football, and especially in the grass roots areas of the game, came about with the demise of street football and the more ‘organised’ forms of training. This arose with the advent of junior and youth leagues as the structure and organisation of the game’s roots passed from the the hands of the young players into those of well-intentioned, but often misguided, adults who introduced an over-organised and positionalised game at too early an age.
    Inflicting a touch conditioned training game to his/her young players has been symptomatic of a mistrust of imagination and creativity in the game. Everyone must adhere to the team ethic from day one. Individualism is strangled at birth.
    The over-zealous junior team coach wants his young players to move the ball on quickly to avoid any challenge from the opposition. But our young players must face constant challege when they have ball possession so that they learn to protect the ball and how to fend off challenge. When and how to produce rapid circulation of the ball can be developed later on when they have learnt to be comfortable in possession. But we can see many examples of players, even at the highest levels of the game in this country, who are not comfortable in possession and this is without doubt due to poor development in their early years which i am sure contained a lot of one and two touch training play when the emphasis should have been on individualism.
    Everyone who has done Premier Skills courses knows the starting point is the individual, and this links in with all the other work which is developed through the various levels. What a contrast to the the FA Coaching Scheme which, for all its tinkering, has never got to grips with the situation and the continual failure of our National Team is the direct result of this ineptitude.

  6. The order of learning is crucial. Possesion based football gets gets interpreted by coaches as just passing and so the jump to one/two touch football. Possession based football training should start with individual possession and then group based and then fiinally team based possession. Young players have a natural tendancy to hogg the ball (part of individual possession) but dont get taught about shielding the ball. coaches need to coach the when to keep the ball as an individual and when to keep the ball as a team.

    • Hi Dirk. I fully agree with what you say. Too many ‘coaches’ workiing with young players in this country are involved in competitive games. Winning not developing has ‘poisoned’ the most important area of the learning process— the very early stages of it !! The ‘play it simple brigade’ frown on individualism because they fear mistakes might jeopardize winning.
      I have always pleaded that we as a nation must embrace individual skills from the very youngest age . We must open our minds, eyes and hearts and introduce development in far more subtle and creative ways than ever before or we will sink lower and lower in world football standards.
      I’ve said it a million times before and will continue to say it; “Football is a game of SKILL so develop the SKILLS from the youngest age to play it well.”

      • “Too many ‘coaches’ workiing with young players in this country are involved in competitive games. Winning not developing has ‘poisoned’ the most important area of the learning process— the very early stages of it !! The ‘play it simple brigade’ frown on individualism because they fear mistakes might jeopardize winning.

        I’m afraid to say that this is a true summary of an 9v9 u11s game I watched this weekend – in one team’s case way too much sideline commentary and unwarranted criticism – a very sad state of affairs as my son has said he has enough of it and is thinking of quitting – he’s just 10!

  7. It would be interesting to know ‘if’,’when’ and ‘how’ the Barcelona La Masia introduce ‘one and two touch’ passing…obviously they have the best kids with basic skills developed to a certain level which you would think allows their young boys to play quickly and early…

    But it would be interesting to get ‘THEIR’ take on John’s points … we do know they practice using the rondo (piggy in the middle).

    Clearly their young players combine together; as you can see from an early Youtube clip of Messi running with the ball, laying it off, and getting a beautifully weighted one touch ball back.

    So a continental/South American ‘takes’ would be interesting.

  8. Hi Brazil94. I think you answer your own question with regards Barcelona’s work at La Masia. They gather young players’ from all over the world who have displayed high individual skill and game perception . They then carefully introduce more complex skills and tactics to them during their development period.
    The important issue is individualism – throughout most of the football world it it is a primary requirement of young players, for it is seen as the foundation for all other aspects of the game —- even team play !!!

  9. Barcelona introduce 1 touch at 10 yrs of age.

    Slightly off topic, but the following is the type of work done at Spanish academies.
    Practice 1. Technical Dribbling Warm Up
    Practice 2. Ball Control and Accurate Passing
    Practice 3. Dribbling with Quick Change of Direction
    Practice 4. Ball Control – Dribbling, Feints and Turning
    Practice 5. Dribbling and Turning Techniques
    Practice 6. Dribbling with Peripheral Vision
    Practice 7. Dribbling and Passing Techniques
    Practice 8. Dribbling and Passing on the Move
    Practice 9. Technical Ability in Squares
    Practice 10. Individual Ball Control and Finishing ‘M’
    Practice 11. Feinting and Finishing Passageway (1)
    Practice 12. Feinting and Finishing Passageway (2)
    Practice 13. 1 v 1 Duel: ‘Who will end up as number 1?
    Practice 14. Diagonal and Vertical Passing Drill
    Practice 15. Diagonal and Lateral Passing Drill
    Practice 16. Vertical, Diagonal and Horizontal Passing Drill
    Practice 17. Passing ‘Y’ Shape (1) – Give & Go with Dribble
    Practice 18. Passing ‘Y’ Shape (2) – Give & Go with Dribble
    Practice 19. Passing ‘Y’ Shape (3) with Combination and Dribble
    Practice 20. 2 Touch – Receive, Pass and Follow
    Practice 21. One-Two Triangle Passing Combinations
    Practice 22. 2 Touch Diamond Passing Drill
    Practice 23. Continuous Shooting
    Practice 24. Continuous Shooting with Pass
    Practice 25. Shooting ‘Y’ Shape (1) – Pass with Give & Go
    Practice 26. Shooting ‘Y’ Shape (2) – Pass with Give & Go
    Practice 27. Shooting Wheel (1)
    Practice 28. Shooting Wheel (2)
    Practice 29. Passing and Shooting ‘N’ with Dribble and Movement
    Practice 30. Symmetrical Passing and Shooting (1)
    Practice 31. Symmetrical Passing and Shooting (2)
    Practice 32. 1 v 1 Duels in a Small Sided Game
    Practice 33. Technical Possession Game with 4 Corners

  10. you might want to read the following re your blog entry
    Manipulating Task Constraints in Small-Sided Soccer Games:
    Performance Analysis and Practical Implications
    Carlos Humberto Almeida*, António Paulo Ferreira and Anna Volossovitch

  11. I went to watch 2 of our soccer school playres at their first ever school match last week, (Aged 9-10).

    One of our kids is small, light on his feet, very quick, brilliant balance and has the ability to perform effective tricks and skip past 2-3 players with ease.

    He did not start the game. When he was brought on he got the ball, the first thing his school coach shouted out was “dont be too clever!”

    When I heard that I thought of CLEVER players such as Busquets, Xavi, Messi, Iniesta…….

    • There are too many coaches like that who restrict players to play a simplistic, robotic style of football because they are afraid of mistakes happening rather then thinking about the development of the players. You wouldn’t restrict a musician to playing nursery rhymes as nursery rhymes aren’t good enough and clever enough to attract massive audiences, simarly we shouldn’t restrict our players to playing a simplistic, unimaginative football as its not good enough when faced with good opposition.

  12. However, a top quality musician knows when to lead the orchestra and when to pass the baton; to play a short note, or a longer piece, or when to combine with everyone.

  13. I well understand Dav Dhillon’s frustration concerning the attitude of the school football coach towards the young boys he coaches playing their first ever organised school match.
    This suspiscion of cleverness among so many coaches seems almost inbred in the English character. Those early years, 5 – 12, are so vital in the development of a young player. If you don’t develop that cleverness and creativity in that period then it seems to me that the chance has gone to produce a ‘real’ player. So what we are developing are players who can ‘do a job’ but little more. As John Cartwright has pointed out, the TV documentary, screened a little while ago on Lionel Messi, showed the little maestro scoring similar goals at the age of 10, on rough ground with his junior team in Argentina, as he does now at the world’s great stadia for Barcelona.
    I caught some of the Under 16 match last night bewteen England and Wales on Sky Sports. I thought that from what I saw England showed evidence of doing good work in training. They moved the ball around quite well and there were play rounds used in certain situations. But apart from number 7 from Tottenham who looked particularly talented, the players gave the impression of resembling average cars which have come off a production line: sleek, quite well made but lacking those special essentials of real quality.
    My feeling is that their early years’ development was inadequate and so at 15 years plus they are always playing catch-up with their coaching.
    This is the story of English football and only a total overhaul of the coaching structure will change it. Without that overhaul we are letting our young players down.

  14. Hi Steve. I also saw the U/16 game you mentioned. I see the same ‘structured’ movement of the ball around back areas at all levels of the game; it is an attempt to introduce a more complex passing game-style. This is not wrong, but we have once again put ‘the cart before the horse’ and introduced tactical elements to players who lack individual skills and game subtlty to play it properly.
    Attempting to copy-cat Barcelona’s playing style; one that that has taken years to produce, in ‘five minutes’, is not only laughable but stupid. Young players’ must be developed (nurtured) with both the individual skills with the gradual inclusion of tactical aspects of the game.
    Perhaps a good start for our coaches and ‘late learners’ should be to ask them a simple question before anything else — what are you keeping possession for? The correct answer would cause major problems for the vast majority of our players and to many of the coaches who are charged with teaching them the game.

    • Hello John

      The above post leaves it quite unclear what you advocated the Under 16 coaches to have done? I didn’t see the game; however, surely it is better to try to pass the ball, rather than a longer game; in which any game subtlety becomes difficult to incorporate.

      How would you have gone about modifying the game?

  15. Hi John.
    As I understand it, the play round areas are used to search for gaps in the opposing team so that a player on the ball at that moment that the gap appears during the play round will either accelerate through the gap with the ball at his his feet, (as through the ‘gates’ in the Level 1 set up), or pass the ball through. The play round is therefore not an exercise in ‘pretty passing’ to impress onlookers.It is the product of a probing, possession-based game style, better than the simplistic direct play which many teams have adopted for years in this country, but not an end in
    From what I saw in the Under 16 match last week, England used the play rounds to keep possession but did not break off to penetrate any gaps when they appeared. They maintained possession, shifting the ball from one side of the pitch to the other but did not achieve the penetration which is real intention.
    So it is in the early years, 5 – 12, when individualism should be the priority, that spotting and going through gaps with pace and skill
    should be taught, as it is in the Level 1 of Premier Skills. The play rounds would be the progression from this and be another example of the link between the different levels of the Premier Skills methodology.
    One has to conclude therefore that most of the players representing England Under 16s last week were short-changed by the coaching they received in their early years.

    • Hi Steve. Yes, the play-round areas are there to create patience prior to penetration. The players here do not realize the need for these ‘holding areas’ in the game and tend to play over them thus risking ball possession. It’s not the players’ fault — work has not been taught and introduced correctly during the development years.
      As i have said so many times before, the present possession ‘mania’ we see in our game is nothing more than a ‘camouflage’ for poorly educated players to simplify the game into a sideways and backwards, statistical ‘mumbo-jumbo’

  16. Brilliant article. Absolutely sick to death of coaches forcing two or three touch in training. Completely inhibits creativity and takes away the ability to control the speed of the game. The quicker this ridiculous concept is abolished, the better!

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