Improving Your First Touch in Soccer
Improving your first touch in soccer will go a long way towards your success. It has a massive impact on
- How a game pans out;
- What the next play is; &
- How quickly / slowly the next play is executed.
As a result, developing a technique that allows a positive first touch will permit more options more rapidly. Further, more goal scoring opportunities will follow and the transition from defense to attack will occur with greater fluency.
First Touch Drills
This simple drill involves players splitting into pairs. One player is the server, the other the receiver.
- The receiver stands behind a cone 2 to 3 metres away from the server
- The server passes the ball to one side of the cone
- The receiver’s first touch takes the ball to the alternate side of the cone and passes back to the server
- Repeat from each side
Swap after 2 minutes.
Use the first touch to create greater utility.
- Taking it away from or around an approaching player
- Move it in preparation for a strike at goal
- Move it to create a better angle for passing
- Move it into space and away from traffic to allow more time to make a decision as to where the ball is distributed to next
Challenge more skilled players by increasing the speed or reducing the gap between server and receiver. Encourage players to use the inside and outside of their foot to steer the ball around the cone.
First Touch in Soccer: Cushioning
Cushioning your first touch, as the name suggests, means creating a softer impact as the ball meets the foot rather than the firmness that results when kicking the ball. This is achieved by moving the foot back at a speed slower than what the ball is travelling so that the foot effectively slows the ball down.
Like catching a ball with ‘soft hands’, the hands move backwards when receiving the ball to slow it down and absorb the impact, the same effect is achieved when cushioning the ball in soccer.
Whether it is short passing or long passes, the cushioning of the ball is an invaluable skill to master. Gaining this skill will allow players to gain control of the ball at varying speeds, dropping the ball at progressively smaller distances from the point of impact. As a result, various drills can be utilised to develop depth perception when cushioning the ball.
Give and Receive
In this drill, players have a ball between two.
- Set up a grid 30 metres x 30 metres
- One row of players lines up along one side of the grid, their partner with the ball line up inside the grid 3 metres in front and facing them
- The player inside the grid throw the ball to their partner so that it will land around knee height
- The receiving player raises their left or right knee and pokes the ball back with the inside of the foot back for the server to catch
- The receiving player shuffles back whilst the serving player shuffles forward throwing the ball again to the same height again
- The receiving player must step into the poke back rather than leaning back
- Players continue shuffling backwards / forwards to the other end of the grid (should be able to complete between 6 and 8 passes)
- At the other side of the grid players reverse their direction with the server now moving backwards and the receiver moving forwards
Players continue to the other side of the grid and then change.
This drill allows player to develop timing and control their impact to achieve a soft touch back to the server. This controlled impact will assist in both receiving and passing.
To challenge players, introduce the thigh or the chest as the first point of contact and alternate feet as the point of return to the server.
First Touch Skill Game – 5 Passes
It is paramount that players undergo first touch training in pressure or game situations. Hitting the back of the net become the objective in most game situations, however this doesn’t always ensure regular passing (unless there are touch restrictions).
This drill game takes physical goals out of the equation.
- With 2 teams of 5, set up a grid 30 metres x 30 metres
- Teams score one point every time they are able to string 5 consecutive passes together
- Players are to move into space to receive the ball taking a touch away from a defender or taking the touch into space in preparation for a pass
- The team without the ball must win, spoil or disrupt the passes of their opponents
- When teams achieve 5 consecutive passes, they start again
- If the team with the ball loses it, their opponents must now achieve 5 consecutive passes to score a point
Using a game situation to create pressure helps develop a tactical first touch that delivers utility to players. With more options available, players derive a greater appreciation of the importance of first touch while learning the relevance of running into space and supporting team mates with the ball.
If players have difficulty with this, reduce the number of passes to three to score a point, increase the size of the area. Alternatively, if it is too easy, reduce the size of the area or increase the number of passes required before a point can be scored.
First Touch in Soccer: The Wedge
Unlike the cushioning first touch, the wedge primarily involves using your feet to trap the ball on the half volley. That is, as soon as the ball hits the ground, the inside or outside of your foot comes over the top of the ball as it rises; gently caressing it into the direction you wish to take the ball. You are keeping control of the ball and taking it into space thereby allowing more time to make a better decision as to the next course of action.
This short video gives a good example of the inside of the foot wedging.
Making Your First Touch Your Best Touch
Like most skills, repetition will deliver results. Some of the drills listed herein can be used and even added to as player’ first touch improve. Like learning a language, if you don’t regularly use it, how proficient you are will diminish.
Whether it is cushioning or the wedge as your first touch, both will be an integral part of your skill set once mastered. Each will enhance your utility on the field and improve decisions when receiving the ball. Whilst the first touch of players will have a significant impact on the game, combining first touch with awareness will exponentially impact on a team’s success.by