The Steps to Becoming Both FootedHaving both footed players on your team shouldn’t be a luxury, it should actually be something that is very common.
Even at the highest of levels you can still see players who heavily rely on their strong foot.
You don’t have to be equally as good on both feet, but it is important to be able to do most aspects of the game capably while using each foot.
Not being able to play that ten yard pass, or turning away from your opponent because the ball is on your other foot, may go unnoticed by coaches and teammates, but it can actually reduce a player’s impact on the game greatly.
Watching Manchester United at the weekend, against West Brom, I noticed exactly that. The moment in question wasn’t picked up on by commentators because I believe at times it is accepted that a player is one footed when, really, in my opinion, we should be capable with both.
Man Utd’s central midfielder, Fred, received the ball facing the right side of the pitch, around the halfway line. Ahead of him, to the right, was Marcus Rashford who had made a good darting run in between the full back and centre back, diagonally. It was a good run that needed the ball to be played into his path. Successfully play that pass and Rashford is through on goal, potentially getting the opportunity to have a one on one opportunity with the goalkeeper.
Fred in midfield, with the ball at his feet, looked up and saw the run, but the ball was on his right foot.
Fred is predominantly left footed.
Instead of playing the pass through to Rashford, Fred turned back, putting the ball on to his left foot, passing it sideways to his other midfielder.
This moment went unnoticed, but with the game ending as a 1-1 draw, could this pass have been the key moment?
A key moment that was missed purely because of a top player having a lack of confidence to use their other foot.
Being both footed doesn’t mean that you are always able to shoot from thirty yards right into the top corner, with whatever foot you like.
Being both footed is actually having the ability to do the simple things well, passing, first touch, dribbling and turning. Develop this ability and opportunities will come frequently to you in a game, just like Fred’s missed chance on Sunday. When these chances occur, you’ll be in the position to capitalise. Turning down these chances, purely because the ball is on your other foot, may be missed by coaches and teammates, but you will know if you passed up that opportunity.
Try and put yourself in a position where you don’t pass these opportunities up; practise so that you can take advantage of them.
So it’s all well and good saying that we should practise being both footed.
But where exactly do we start?
There is a tendency to believe that being able to strike the ball hard and far on your other foot shows that you are both footed but in my opinion, the key is having control of the ball.
First and foremost, you want to make sure that you are capable and confident in keeping the ball under control with the other foot.
So start off with learning to keep the ball close to your feet, dribbling drills in tight areas, turning and changing of direction while focusing predominantly on the other foot. You don’t need a lot of space - actually, tighter areas can help more, but make sure you take plenty of touches on the ball, helping you get more comfortable with the ball at your feet.
Developing these areas, what I like to think of as the foundations, allow players to then build further. Improving first touch, with the ability to receive the ball on the half turn, controlling the ball on differing areas of the foot, are all very important.
Again though, it’s all about getting more quality touches on the ball. The more that you practise with the ball at your feet, the better you’ll become. It takes time but it is definitely worth it.
When you feel comfortable in these smaller areas, then go and begin focusing on your striking technique. Developing the ability to shoot on goal, hit a lofted and driven pass, while also improving your crossing ability. This can take time, and it is so important to realise that. You’ll mis-hit the ball plenty of times, strike it way over the bar, and sometimes even kick the ground. But it’s a process, almost trial and error, the more you try it, the more you’ll be able to see what works for you, and what maybe you’ve been doing wrong.
It’s tough, definitely not an easy area of your game to improve. That’s why there are few genuinely both footed players, but those that are have all worked very hard at this area of their game, and I’m sure they can definitely see the benefits.
Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2018 Champions League Final. Shooting, even though the ball is on his other foot.
Being both footed will help you take more opportunities; instead of needing to move the ball on to your strong foot you can shoot straight away. You can make that pass that may have created a goalscoring opportunity, or turned a possession based scenario into a more attacking situation, all by how you have controlled the ball.
Opposition players find it so much more difficult playing against a both footed footballer; they are unpredictable and a lot quicker on the ball.
There’s less hesitation, more decisive moments and a much quicker feel to their play.
If you put in the effort now, you’ll definitely begin to see improvements when we can get back to playing.
Becoming both footed doesn’t just happen; it takes work, but get it right and it will definitely be worth it.
Something Fred would have realised if he took that opportunity on Sunday.