First Touch, Passing & Finishing are the 3 most important skills in soccer. In just 5 seconds a coach can tell how a player is on the ball, just by watching their first touch. You can tell when a player is properly trained or not. Make sure you know what the best soccer drills are when it comes to improving fast. Your first touch can consist of so many things. You can improve your first touch passing and trapping. Note: This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
Improving in what’s most important
A good player does not have to do all the silly fancy skills. I love some fancy footskills – like the chop or scissors – and I teach those, but players need to spend most of their training time on the most important skills. I have seen many players who can do the silly YouTube tricks but can’t actually play the game in a match.
If you want to improve as a player you must know what to work on. Below I have listed the 8 best drills players can use to improve with a trainer/partner, or on your own if they have a wall or rebounder. (PS: This is the first in a series of articles so be sure to follow us for the next blog post in the SERIES – all 8 coming this Summer.)
The right mix of technical training
I remember reading something from a coach or parent about their opinion on how every ‘skills’ session they have seen is coaches working on stationary drills and how in a game players are never stationary. The statement is true that in a game players are moving and not stationary, but the higher the level the more stationary a player is when receiving because they are already so good at being in position. Also the pass is more accurate, so you don’t see a lot of ball chasing.
In my professional opinion working on both stationary and game-like situations is how you want to train to stay sharp & healthy. If a player starts the session running full speed, while having to trap the ball they would have a harder time and they would get tired, diminishing the idea of getting many reps. And if a player had to run around doing skills the whole hour they would end up getting injured down the road because the body needs proper training & recovery.
There has to be the right mix of training! To start out you want to get lots of touches and warm up time so stationary work is usually the time for this. Then once they are warmed up and stretched out you can start to do more game-like drills.
8 best ways to practice your 1st touch (feet, thigh & chest)
- Stationary trapping and passing is the easiest way and you can use a partner or a wall/rebounder
- Checking to the ball = Running to, while you trap or make a 1 touch pass
- Checking away from the ball while trapping = Going away from the ball before it’s played to you
- Moving left or right (FYI: Many players are better at trapping running to the left or right because it forces them to use different parts of the feet or both feet, which exposes a certain weakness)
- Turning while receiving the ball is important & you can practice with the ball on the ground or in the air, using feet, thigh or chest
- Receive with intent to redirect the ball. So trap and release or 1 touch pass to another target besides where it came from.
- Ball over head is one of the hardest ways, as seen in the picture below. Great for all player positions!
- Bouncing high & low are a big part of the game so work on running through the ball and also being patient to make your first touch [trap or pass] at the right time with your chest, thigh or foot. Video of a 1 touch volley pass below
3 Ways to apply pressure in a trapping drill
- Use a Defender: A Parent or Coach can apply pressure by walking (for a younger player) or running, whatever is easier first for the player and then make it more challenging
- Use a Grid by placing cones or markers. I personally call the grid ‘jail’ and tell the player that without a good 1st touch you have no freedom.
- Use Time to create pressure on the player. Once they 1st trap/touch the ball you can yell out 1 thousand 1, 1 thousand 2. By the time you say 2 or 3 they should have passed or shot the ball. For older or better players, 2 seconds is perfect. For players who are not as good at trapping yet, you can count to 3 or 4 or whatever you feel can motivate the player.
How to make it more challenging?
Have the player go through a 5 – 10 second exercise that requires the player to do soccer movements (see below). These movement should fatigue the body before they receive the ball. Making it where the player has to do soccer movements and complete skills is ideal because having to complete the skills cleanly is not easy when having to do soccer movements. Adding these elements will make it more game-like and challenging.
Include Training Equipment such as
*A quick note about cones. I recommend these cones instead of the taller ones unless you are a very advanced player because it makes the training situation seem more like the cones are defenders / markers & a player can’t hit a cone or knock it down without it affecting them mentally.
What are soccer movements?
Soccer movements are what soccer players do in a game. Think: running, changing direction, backpedaling, jumping. If you ever have seen me run a session with top tier players, then you’ve seen that I have them do easy stationary stuff. I also have them perform game like drills that require them to perform under pressure and doing soccer movements and technique at the same time.
What is the #1 Way to Improve Solo?
Answer: It depends on your strengths and weaknesses, as some need dribbling and others need passing. One way to improve your first touch and passing in the same drills is to Use a Wall or Rebounder
A License soccer coach says he can only do so much
I was on the phone the other day with a coaching friend who played D1 college & currently holds his Youth A License, which is higher than 99% of all the coaches in America. My friend shared that he can only implement so much skill in his practices. This is because he has to also teach his players the game and how to react with tactical changes. For example, the players need to know how to adjust and play a different formation. If his team is down a goal in the last 10 minutes they need to know how to adjust.
Private 1on1 or small groups can improve players so fast
He commented that GFT can make players better so much faster than he can because we do all technical training, which is what makes individuals better with the ball. If players are not getting extra technical training outside of their club team they are going to fall behind.
Twenty years ago players who wanted to get better would train on their own. Now they get private or small group lessons. In my opinion training on your own is vital if you really are serious about improving, but there is only so much you can do as an individual. If you have a trainer or another player you can do so much more in terms of drills.
A coach in your corner who believes in you
Also the encouragement & knowledge a trainer can give a player is priceless. When you have someone pushing you and believing in you it gives people more confidence. That is why I created my Complete Ball Control Method. You can train solo + be accountable using my Easy Planner with follow-up from me.