When one is better than two

While we want players to carry the ball in two hands more, they are plenty of times when one-handed carries are important. But the hand has to be more dominant than the body and here’s why…

When the ball carrier goes into contact, he certainly doesn’t want to give the tackler any chance to dislodge the ball. Once a defender clamps onto the ball, loads of options melt away.

In essence, we want the ball carrier to create space between the tackler or any other defenders and the ball itself. By carrying the ball in one hand, the ball carrier can use their spare arm to fend away defenders or move the ball to the side of their body.

However we also want the ball carrier to be able to pass the ball. If the ball is pressed into the side of the body then it’s pretty hard to do this effectively.

That’s why the hand has to be in control of the ball and able to move it around the body or into the other hand. That’s not an easy skill if the player has small hands, or it’s a wet day. Yet all players can find ways, though not all of them will be flicking the ball around like Fijian sevens players!

The session, Ball control out of contact, uses an old favourite to start the process. In fact, it’s a great activity for part of the warm up. I also use “Ball touch” as game to go alongside this session.


  1. Play 5 v 5 in a 30m area. Adjust the size of the pitch to the numbers of players.
  2. The attacking team run forward. They can pass backwards.
  3. The defending team gain a turnover if the ball carrier runs into touch, the ball is knocked or passed forward or…they touch the ball.
  4. However, interceptions are not allowed.
  5. You will find the attacking team moving the ball around their bodies in all sorts of unusual ways, passing just before contact and even in contact.
  6. The defending team will start to learn that they need to grab the ball carrier and hold them. It turns into quite a physical game, but with plenty of emphasis on ball manipulation.

Other thoughts

  • Don’t be too tough on handling errors, looking for a lower success ratio than you might expect under normal circumstances.
  • Challenge the better players by making them use the least sticky balls. An over pumped smooth ball is a favourite to frustrate good ball handlers.
  • Passing is not just about the hands. The player needs to use good footwork to position themselves to release the ball in the most effective manner – especially by turning their shoulders.
Share this
Follow us