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4,000 ball touches in 1 hour

4,000 (four thousand!!) ball touches in 1 hour instead of just 100!!!!

Many times, in the past few years, I’ve underlined that in a 90 minute game it is proven that a player touches the ball for no more than 2 minutes!

It’s really hard to learn something in 2 minutes. But one thing could be learned in 2 minutes and that is the fact that it’s hard to improve our soccer/football skills in 2 minutes!

In general, in this country, players of any age play too many games and don’t practice enough. The correct proportion should be 3 practices and 1 game. I often noticed the opposite: 3 games and 1 practice! And, the “practice“, most of the time, is just a scrimmage, calling it………… practice! So, basically, it is a fourth game, after the other 3, before playing the next 3!

How can we be surprised that the level of skills, in youth soccer, and consequently growing up, happens to be a little………..approximate? I recently bought a pedometer, that little tool that counts the steps that we make while exercising or simply……..existing and walking around in our daily routines.

Twelve thousand and five hundred steps a day is considered a good number to stay in shape and have a good life. For adults, this number of steps is the equivalent of 6 miles. Naturally, if instead of just walking, a good percent of this number is done jogging or running, even better!

On a personal note about walking, in the last few months, by eating a little less, by forgetting my car and by walking back and forth from my home to clinics and lessons doing 14/16 thousand steps a day, I was able to lose 26 pounds!!!!!

So, coming back to my topic, I was talking about the pedometer and I wanted to be more precise on this subject. When I have the time, I’m going to watch my soccer/football students playing games in order to check how my teaching is transferred to reality. One thing is the theory; another is to put that into REAL soccer/football games! Plus, by doing this, I know what topics I should work on during the next lessons!

I went to check one of my most talented youth soccer students, a boy 9 years old. There is no need of names. He was playing on a new team (????) put together just to play during the summer, 7v7, small field, 2 half times of 25 minutes. It was a fast game with a lot of ball touches. Perfect for that age!

I asked his permission and that of his parents, to have him carry the pedometer (very small, flat with no corners, super-safe!!!) so, I could collect UNEQUIVOCAL data, while I was counting how many times he was touching and handling the ball, during the game.

He played almost the whole game, 45 minutes in 50 and here is the data that I collected. He touched and handled the ball, 165 times. Shoot on goal 8 times and scored 2 goals.

Please notice that in 3 of his possessions, he handled the ball with 20, 21 and 19 consecutive touches (dribbling successfully through a few opponents).……… before losing the ball instead of passing it!

I was horrified by this fact! I constantly taught him to handle the ball for no more that 2 or 3 touches and he was carrying the ball across the field!

Fortunately, his parents said that this is not a thing that he does habitually. He passes much earlier! (Even though I told him not to try to impress me and keep it simple, probably he wanted to do that anyway!) So, if you take away these 3 episodes, he would have handled the ball with a little more than just 100 touches in 45 minutes! (and besides the 3 possessions above, often the other possessions where a sequence of 6/8 touches instead of 2 or 3!)
But this is the data that I collected by looking at him. The most interesting data came from the pedometer. Do you know how many steps he made, walking, jogging and running? 6,097!!!!

More than six thousand in 45 minutes!!!
So, let’s say 6,000, just to simplify the math, and let’s make it 1 hour, which is the time of my usual individual lesson with him. That would be, 8,000 steps!

Considering that my lessons are based on constantly touching the ball EVERY STEP in doing the exercises, using both feet, it’s clear that by touching the ball, step, touching the ball again, we’re talking about 4,000 touches in 1 hour, compare to 100 touches in 45 minutes in a small field while playing a game!

I’m sure that if the game was played on a regular field, the touches would have been much less that 100. Probably 60/70!!!!
And because, as I was saying, math is not an opinion yet, 4,000 touches divided by 100 (touches in a game) is equal to 40! So, in 1 hour of individual activity we’d have the same number of touches made in 40 games of 50 minutes each!

I repeated the same experiment with adults. One of my soccer students is 19 years old, really good, and plays at college. Considering that the step length of an adult is longer than a boy 9 years old (wow, what a discovery!!!!) he made a little less than 6 thousand steps so, almost 3 thousand touches in 1 hour.

I also did the same experiment with a 30 year old student at my Tuesday night adult soccer class. His skills are at an intermediate level. In 1.5 hours he made a little more than 9 thousands steps. So, more than 4 thousand and 5 hundred touches in 1.5 hours (90 minutes like a game)! I’m sure that this player, making the same comparison with the 9 year old kid, would touch the ball much less than 100 times in a game of 90 minutes.

As I said at the beginning, when we play a soccer game, in 60 or 90 minutes we touch and handle the ball for no more than 1 or 2 minutes. It’s hard to learn something in 1 or 2 minutes. Math, fortunately, is not an opinion……………… YET! So, I can say that a 1 hour session is the equivalent of more than 30 games!

And please, don’t misunderstand me. Even if teaching soccer is my job and, obviously, more students would be good for my activity, I haven’t pointed out these numbers in order to promote my individual lessons or soccer classes!!!

Any coach at practice or any player by himself can set individual exercises based on developing individual skills! So, for one time, I wanted to point out something that is not just my personal opinion. It’s just…… unequivocal…… fact!

Gianni Mininni

Coach Gianni Mininni is the author of "The Team", a Soccer Novel. The novel is for people of all ages, even if they are not strictly soccer lovers. Players and coaches will find dozens of situations and suggestions that will permit them to improve their soccer knowledge and consequently, perform better at any age. Learn more about Coach Gianni Mininni at The Coach Gianni Soccer Academy.