1st-touch soccer drills are vital for developing a better touch. Are you wanting to continue improving as a player? Or maybe you’re a coach or soccer parent wanting more training ideas. Either way 1st-touch soccer drills are essential. 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. High school, college or even pro players 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 when it comes to the simple drills. 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
When it comes to those drills that we do all the time, it’s important that the players understand mindset. Coaches have to remind the players to try and be perfect at the simple drills. It’s easy for us humans to think we are good when we’re good. We think, “O I’m already good at these”. The best players want and try to do better and better everyday. One thing I will do when the players are really good at something is humble them. Make a drill really hard or make the target super small. Example: Instead of them having to just finish on goal, have them hit a cone or small target inside the goal.
To improve your 1st-touch soccer drills, you can mix things up. Even though the skill is the same, the drill is different. What I have learned over the years is kids and adults love competition. With competition drills players will bring their full energy every time.
Another thing is 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. One thing I do is teach them the mindset part of knowing that someday won’t be fun. Other day will be a blast, but we have to put in the work with a spirit of excellence.
20 tips on heading the soccer ball
Out of all the 1st-touch soccer drills, headers have to be considered. See the complete video below, which teaches you how to better protect yourself . It’s so important to know how to head the ball these different ways. Practice this in the backyard with mom, dad, siblings or friends.
For younger players age 8-11, I recommend you do these header drills using a volleyball or nerf ball. Around 2017 US soccer made a new rule. Ages 10 and under are not allowed to head the ball at team practice or in games. This is why I believe it’s very important to learn these skills at HOME. Not only do you improve in this important skill. You also have a ton of fun with the family.
Why pro games look slow compared to high school
A couple years ago I was at a coaching clinic in Philadelphia. In in I watched Tab Ramos (a US National Team Coach) give a clinic on 1st touch and passing. Tab said something I will never forget because it makes so much sense. He said “If you watch high school soccer, it looks very fast. The reason is 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. The defenders are not tempted to pressure every pass for this reason. Whereas in high school soccer the players’ 1st touch is not near as good. This 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 1st-touch soccer drills
This article is on stationary drills & is what I recommend most. 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. Stationary helps you improve faster than running around while touching the ball.
One of the best 1st-touch soccer drills
1) Two Touch Passing & Receiving
Trapping with one foot and passing with the other. There’s a soccer science behind this drill. You’ll trap with the left and pass with the right and vice versa, right-to-left. The formula is a 3-step rule. This means after you trap the ball, try to take 3 steps before your pass. There will and should be times you have to take more than 3 touches. It’s just that the 3 step rule is hard to teach the muscle memory and it will be very useful.
Sadly I’ve seen pro players and youth coaches on YouTube channels teaching players the wrong stuff. I’ve had players do this and tell me their coach tells them to not take the steps. Instead they just trap and immediately pass with the other foot with no steps between. It’s not bad, but you don’t want to do this over and over. The reason I want you to take the 3 steps is because you’ll then be able to pass long or short. Without the steps between, you can’t play a ball 20+ yards.
Below is a video of me taking the 3 steps between the first touch and pass. You’ll see me one time, accidently take a bigger touch. This forced me to take extra steps, which also good and going to happen. Taking the extra steps is something you also want. It’s just the 3 steps is the smoothest. Next time you watch a pro game notice the 3 steps between the trap and pass. You’ll see the difference from the smooth players. These are the players you can tell spent lots of time doing this. Trapping, passing with the 3 steps between.
Controlling the low driven ball
2) Settling the ball out of the air
Settling the ball down coming from the air by bringing the ball down with your foot. To settle the ball means to bring it down to the ground without it bouncing. Settling the ball means it is controlled and ready to pass or dribble. Whereas controlling the ball could pop up or be bouncing, but still close to you. When your able, 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. In this drill we are using the inside of the foot, high repetition. To get her in the zone, we are doing only left foot. There are many ways to do this, but in this moment we are working only on the left. You can also alternate left and right each pass.
As you know the ball can come at you high, low, bouncing, at you or away from you. In THIS DRILL BELOW we’re replicating the lower driven ball. If the ball were to bounce 2 feet in front the player it would be different. In this case the player has freedom to use the top or bottom of the foot. Stationary drills help give more reps, which means improve your touch and confidence faster.
Keeping the ball longer with 3 total touches
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.
Many ways to volley
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.
Here in North Texas (top 5 youth soccer areas nationwide) most club players are never told the exact parts of the foot. 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. It will be challenging the first few you try.
1st-touch soccer drills using your thigh
From an underhand toss, take your first touch with your thigh. Once this happens you can do two things. 1) pop the ball up with your thigh and volley to your partner. 2) you can settle the ball down with your thigh to your foot. Then you can pass, dribble or shield. Most people do the first one, popping it up for a volley. I’d prefer both, especially because in a game you’ll probably settle it down to pass from the ground.
For more of a challenge and more ‘game like’ have the partner throw the ball from a throw in. In this drill have the player receive the ball how they want. Player can pass the ball back or you can have them turn to dribble, turn, pass or shoot.
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.
Controlling the ball with a chest trap
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. This 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. Instead lean forward or cave in your chest 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.
Finishing drills redirecting the ball
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.
7) Redirecting the ball to goal or partner
Player works on receiving the ball and redirecting it to the other partner or the goal/target. With this you can use different techniques. I like the one below and also using the other foot to open up with the inside. These should be the top 2 to learn. You can also do drills using laces different ways. Then of course, make it where they can have freedom to choose what they want. I find you have to tell players to mix it up.
I like to give them freedom the first time and see what they use. Most players will only do what they are good and comfortable at. You want to be good using different ways, so the muscle memory learns it. Then you can solve more problems in a game. This is one of the 1st-touch soccer drills and can be done with the ball on the ground or in the air. Feel free to adapt it how you want.
For HOME TRAINING, If you have a big yard and full size goal COPY THE VIDEO Below. If you have a smaller yard, get about 5 yards apart and just work on passing to a target soft. The most important part is you teach the muscle memory and get reps.
Advanced passing and receiving drills
8) Trapping the ball with the sole of foot
Either using a partner or wall, trap the ball with the bottom of your foot and then roll it across to the other foot. Notice how there are 3 different ways to do this. The third one is my favorite of the 3. Can you see the difference in these 1st-touch soccer drills? Video below.
First of the 3 sole rolls before passing: As the ball comes to you trap it with the inside of the foot and with that same foot roll it across your body. Notice after I roll the ball I take 3 steps before the pass. This is important to teach your muscle memory!! Then see that you will pass with the other foot.
Second one is the most risky and my least favorite of these 3, but it’s still a good one. I just really like the third one most. I recommend you start your passes soft so that you can trap the ball easier. Also try it from 5 yards and then 10 yards. If these 1st-touch soccer drills are too difficult be patient. Pass the ball soft to make it easier and teach your muscle memory to do it correctly. Then you can progress and make it faster.
Third one is my favorite of these 3 is this one: 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.
You can do it, just keep practicing!