1st-touch soccer drills are vital to your soccer game. If you want to continue improving as a player, or if you’re a coach wanting more training ideas, 1st-touch soccer drills are essential. If you think about it, a soccer player receives the ball more than they dribble, pass or shoot. So if we receive the ball more than any other element then we need to practice it more. If you watch the best high school, college or even pro players they oftentimes lose the ball while in a stationary position because they panic. This is why in training sessions players need to try and be spot-on perfect, because a bad first touch or a pass that’s off-target by 2 yards is not going to be good enough to keep the ball in a game.
Making it fun while connecting with players
In the next 4 weeks I have a series of 8 articles to give you ideas to improve your 1st-touch training. You might wonder why I am giving you all my secrets that helped grow GFT, but what I have learned is you have to have more than good drills to be a good trainer. You have to connect with the players. You must also know how long to do each drill and when to move on to the next steps. Kids get bored or frustrated if you don’t connect with them.
Why pro games look slow compared to high school
A couple years ago I was at a coaching clinic in Philadelphia, watching Tab Ramos (a US National Team Coach) give a clinic on 1st touch and passing. He said something I will never forget because it makes so much sense. He said “If you watch high school soccer, it looks so fast because they physically can run almost as fast as a pro player.
Pro soccer looks much slower because the pro players’ FIRST TOUCH is so good that the defenders are not tempted to pressure every pass. Whereas in high school soccer the players’ 1st touch is not near as good, which makes the whole game look fast and out of control. When the attacking player doesn’t have a great touch, the defender is always tempted to steal the ball.”Players receive the ball more than they dribble, pass or shoot so receiving must be practiced more.Click To Tweet
Stationary soccer drills
This article is on stationary drills & is what I recommend most. If I had to choose only 1 of the 8 in this series I would choose this because it’s good for beginners all the way to the pros. For players who are not fundamentally sound these stationary drills have to be implemented more than any other method. The reason is because stationary drills will give you more touches and muscle memory training, helping you improve faster than running around while touching the ball.
My favorite drills include the following
1) Two Touch Passing & Receiving
Strong Foot only, then weak foot; after those you want to also trap with left & pass with the right. The soccer science behind the left-to-right and right-to-left is a formula that you should use. The formula is a 3-step rule which means when you trap the ball you should try to take 3 steps before your pass. This is a great skill to have and it honestly amazes me when I see select/club players who are not used to this skill. If a player knows this I know that they have had at least some good training.
2) Settling the ball out of the air
Settling the ball down coming from the air by bringing the ball down with your foot. Settle means bring it down to the ground without it bouncing. Trapping or controlling the ball could come down and be bouncing or out of control, but settling the ball means it is controlled and ready to make an easy pass or dribble. Use the top, inside or outside of the foot to settle the ball down.
Video below shows D1 college player getting high repetition to improve 1st touch out of the air, using the inside of the foot. There are many ways to do this, but in this moment we are working only on the left. A lower ball that is about to bounce would mean the player would use the top or bottom of the foot. Stationary drills help give more reps, which means improve your touch and confidence faster.
3) Three Touch Passing & Receiving
So many things to do, you can just see where your first touch takes you and go from there by reacting. If you only do that, players will only do what’s comfortable. This means using only the strong foot. What I do is a mix. Same as 2-touch but every time the ball comes to you, take 3 touches – including the pass. Trap the ball, then take another small touch before you pass on the 3rd touch. You can do this all with just the strong foot and then after 30 – 60 seconds work on weak foot only. After you do both of those, you can make it to where you trap with the right, prep touch with left and pass with left. You can be creative and start to mix it up.
4) 1-touch volleys using the inside, outside & laces
I personally do 1-touch, 2-and 3-touch drills with these. This is one of the best drills that you will see 10 year olds working on as well as pro players. In my experience, age 10-12 is when the trained players start to peak in terms of skill progression. Ages U9 and under have a hard time, including the academy club players on the best teams. Making sure you know the exact parts of the foot is important, meaning when you do laces make sure it’s the upper half of the laces not the bottom half. Most kids are never told the exact parts of the foot and when I ask them, most point to the very bottom lace. If you try to connect on the bottom lace, and you’re off by 1 inch lower then it gets you on top of the toes. Top of the toes have that air pocket and you will lose pop/power and might hurt your ankle.
Video of D1 college player below is a volley drill letting the ball bounce, getting a half volley. This is one that most club players never see or learn, so cheers and enjoy improving in an area others will not.
Volley drills will help your 1st touch and passing!
From an underhand toss, take your first touch with your thigh, then let it drop to your foot to make a pass to the person who tossed the ball. Most people do this without the ball touching the ground but I do it also with a bounce on purpose because the players are not used to this. For advanced players mix up the toss with underhand and underhand. If the player volleys back to me where I have to reach above my head, then I toss it to them overhand. At first the player [even D1 college players] get nervous because they are not used to it. For me it puts them in different situations that will help them handle the ball better in a game.
If you want to be as good as you can, then this inexperience would be a problem. You don’t only see players in games take a touch off the thigh and then just kick the ball away before it hits the ground. You want to be calm and smooth at both, so that in a game you are used to whatever happens. Mixing this up where the ball bounces after the first touch and not bouncing are things I personally know help players. Putting players in as many situations helps their brain and muscle memory.
What players are not taught
I often see players who are not comfortable with the thigh and chest. This is because they have not been told enough all the different spots of the thigh or chest to use and why. If you want the ball to pop up high then you use the part of the thigh just above the knee, which has less muscle/tissue. If you want the ball to die down low quick then you use the upper part of the thigh. To be safe you can use the part in the middle of those two areas and at least it won’t hit you in the knee and bounce away or hit you in the hip.
Repeat what we do with the thigh foot in terms of how to toss. If you want the ball to go high from your chest you lean back and let the ball hit you on the sternum which is the bone in the middle of your chest. If you want the ball to die down let it hit you on the side of the chest, or just don’t lean back and instead lean forward to let it drop down quick. Most players first and only learn to chest it and then volley it without a bounce. I like that one and use it, but I also teach the players how to let it bounce after you chest it and then volley it after the bounce. This trains the players brain and feet to not feel like they have to kick it before the ball bounces. Knowing and practicing both are what players need.
Advanced drills for any age
Even our College students are challenged by these. However, at the same time we have 9 year olds who can do all of these silky smooth. So it’s not necessarily a thing that comes with age, but more about practice.
8) Trapping the ball with the sole
Ball rolling to you on the ground. Either using a partner or wall, trap the ball with the bottom of your foot and then roll it across to the other foot. Take 3 steps or more between the touches, so that way you train yourself to be able to play long or short. Also while taking the steps, you are able to look up and see where your teammates are.
7) Redirecting the ball to the goal or partner
In a group of 2-3 players, where 1 player works on receiving the ball and redirecting it to the other partner or the goal, gate/target. The player receives the ball and then passes to the other player. You can do this where the players have freedom to trap and pass how they want, or you can make it where there are stipulations. I like to give them freedom the first time and see what they use, because most players will only do what they are good and comfortable at. I want them to be good using different ways, so the muscle memory leans it all and they can solve more problems in a game. This drill could be done with the ball on the ground or in the air. Feel free to adapt it how you want.
You can do it, just keep practicing!