The first touch is arguably the most important skill in soccer. Without a good one, you won’t ever have the opportunities to use your other skills because a DEFENDER will have already closed in. Unfortunately, the first touch is also one of the most difficult skills to learn — it makes the difference between good players and great ones.
Be Aware of Your Teammates. No matter how you plan to control the ball, you need to know where you want to put it. The point of a good first touch is putting the ball in space and getting it out of your feet so you can deliver a crisp pass or take a clean shot. So in the moment before the ball comes to you, take a peek around. It’s as simple as putting the ball where a defender is not. And as your touch improves, your confidence will, too, and you will be able to look up sooner.
Get the Ball Under Control. Once the ball reaches you, you have several options. Take the ball with: Cushion the ball with the inside or outside of either foot, thigh, chest, head or any part of your body but hands. Track the ball in movement, put your body behind it, and don’t remain stiff. The same way your hands move back to soften a catch, cushion the ball with whichever part of your body you are using. Ideally, you should be on your toes, knees bent and arms out for balance.
Bring the ball down! The first thing you want to do is get the ball on the ground if it isn’t there already — that’s where it is easiest to handle. Doing that requires a soft touch and a generally downward motion of your body. With your foot, almost sweep the ball to the ground when it comes to you. With your thighs or chest, the goal is to provide a cushion for the ball to land on before letting it drop in front of you. You can control the direction of the touch by turning your hips or your shoulders.
Once you have the ball in your possession, you need to be looking around to either run with it, pass, or shoot — so keep your head up. Then, with a tap from the outside of your foot or your instep, push it a couple of feet in front of you to give your kick some room or starting your dribbling. From there, its up to your creativity. The quicker and more natural your first touch becomes, the more time it will give you to plan your next move. The best players always seem to have time and space on the ball because of the quality of their first touch.
Practice makes perfect! All you need for the easiest first-touch drill is a wall and any kind of ball (even a tennis ball works). Throw or kick the ball at the wall from a variety of angles and bring it under control as it bounces back — left foot, right foot, thighs, chest, even shoulders and head. There really is no secret to it. It may sound simple, but it’s the best way to develop those instincts alone. If you have the luxury of practicing with someone else, the drill doesn’t change much. Your teammate takes the place of the wall and have fun with the ball.
How is your first touch?
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