Over the past few years I have spent some time wrestling with the topic of two footedness topic. Because of my previous bias towards two footed training I kept analyzing this controversial topic from a desire to prove that my whole shooting and passing life in soccer to that point hadn't been 50% wasted. I was trying to find reasons why two footedness was necessary and examples (situations) where had a player been proficient with the weak foot they would have done better (As with Robben's failure in the 1 v 1 against Spain in World Cup 2010).
It wasn't until I evaluated the premise from which my analysis was based that I could look at situations objectively.
Here's what I did that I feel was the epiphany in my ability to see things differently. It's so simple that anyone can do it if they stop and think about what they are doing. What I did was take a time out to analyze how I was looking at the situation (not the situation itself) and asked myself if I was questioning and theorizing from an emotional or a rational perspective. When I did this I was able to see and understand if my perspective was a result of my lifetime paradigm (from the heart) or whether it was actually logical (from the head).
The key question from the Holland vs Spain final is; what would Robben have given up had he spent half his soccer life working on his weaker foot? My guess is that had he not specialized on his left foot throughout his career he wouldn't have been playing yesterday. By spending half his time on his weakness he would’ve sacrificed the "Margin of Greatness" (as Anson Dorrance loves to put it) on his strong foot.
The ability to separate the emotional from the rational and see both the benefits and the costs in every situation is what will most determine your ability in the crucial areas of life and soccer. The list of great players who were mostly one footed is far more extensive than the list of great players who were significantly two footed. Pele and Zidane were perhaps the most two footed players ever (about 60/40 as a total percentage) but you still wouldn't catch them taking a PK, free kick, bicycling, “hatting” an opponent, or any of the other really difficult techniques, with their weak foot.
While I was changing my perspective on this issue, (which only occurred in the two years before publishing my book), I watched hundreds of hours of highlights and asked myself the key question on every weak and strong footed miss or finish. That question was, "what would the likely percentage of success have been if the weak footed misses and successes had been replaced with shot by the strong foot or a fake with the weak foot and and switch to the strong foot?" I then watched hundreds of blooper misses (easy to find on youtube) and asked myself the same question. My conclusion was that the relative chance of success will always, as a percentage, be far greater if, given the current level of the weak and strong footed ability of the player in each clip, that player had switched the ball to his stronger foot before shooting. From this conclusion it is only a small logical step to realize that had many of these players focused on developing both feet during their youth career they would have failed to maximize their "margin of greatness" and as an adult would’ve been less likely to enjoy success in clutch dribbling and finishing situations.
Some have observed that players who are one footed are predictable. I analyzed this premise in depth. The evidence led me to believe that while defenders may have known which foot Diego Maradona was going to use, they had no idea of how he was going to use it and which way he was going to go. For such a one footed player Diego Maradona was virtually unstoppable, (witness the goal he scored against England in 1986). The margin of greatness he demonstrated on his left foot made him the world’s best ever intuitive dribbler. Would Robben have reached the level he has if he were less capable on his left and more capable on his right? I think not. This shows the vital importance of evaluating the costs of one's actions as well as the benefits. Had Robben spent half his career developing his right foot he wouldn't have the great left that got him where he is.
The ‘Margin of Goodness” versus the “Margin of Greatness”.
It is relatively easy to be good but extremely difficult to be great. Those who are great are specialists who have dedicated inordinate time and attention to developing a critical degree of expertise in their chosen passion, career or choice.
This is the crux of the disagreement between advocates of two footedness and my position that training one exceptional foot is far more beneficial and defining than training one good foot and one average one. For those who believe that it is possible to train two great feet I have bad news…it isn’t! The “Jack of All Trades Master of None” principle applies to everything one does in life. The benefits that are gained from time spent in one area are always offset by the cost to the areas that are sacrificed while the other benefit is being acquired.
However, the body is a weird and wonderful organism. In one of the wonderful cross training benefits of human nature you will learn abilities with both limbs even while specializing completely in training only one. Research and testing has shown that the body develops a degree of mirroring ability in the non exercised limb as the other limb becomes proficient. This “mirroring” is only partially as good as the skill developed by the intensely trained limb but bestows a lesser degree of technical skill to the leg and foot, (or arm and hand), that isn’t being specifically trained. This cross over benefit means that soccer players who never use their weak foot to dribble or shoot will have a reasonable degree of proficiency with that foot should they ever choose to do so. Anyone who doubts the veracity of this premise need only attempt to write with the weak hand to realize that, with no practice at all, one can immediately create a legible signature. Isn’t the human body a wonderful thing!!