I remember growing up as a young kid playing many different sports. You didn’t have to be technical to be good in soccer. If you were fast or just hustled you could be a good player and help your team contribute. This will always be the same for younger youth players because it takes so long to retain all the many skills. The last few months I have really been stressing to my students that having comfort on the ball, playing quick, is so important. Then I explain to them what this means, so they understand the difference of comfort on the ball and skill. Note: This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
The difference of comfort on the ball & soccer skills
A player can have good skill moves or a good first touch, but this doesn’t mean they are comfortable on the ball between touches. This means the steps between the 1st touch and 2nd touch leading into the pass. Most of the time, watching youth soccer, you will notice that players panic once they first trap/receive the ball. This means they are not comfortable on the ball being able to play quick. It takes years for players to finally get their first touch and then correct amount of steps and time before they pass. Here are 8 good drills to improve your first touch.
Example of comfort on the ball playing quick 2 touch soccer
If you watch most players trap the ball and then pass it back on their 2nd touch, you will notice that they look clumsy with the ball. In my group sessions, I work so much on this that you start to see improvement after a few months. After doing this for a year or so, the player will start to look comfortable between touches, but then they still need to improve their first touch and passing.
Dribbling compared to quick 2 touch soccer
There are certain players who can dribble well (hold on to the ball) and are very comfortable doing so. When a coach wants them to play quick 2 touch the player panics. So yes, players who can dribble well show they are comfortable on the ball, but can they also play smooth two touch is the question. There are those few special players who can hold on to the ball and dribble, but coaches want most players to play quick. The reason is because if you have a team full of players who can all pass and move, then they can possess and break any defense down.
Weighting the pass properly to impress soccer coaches
The mental part of this is players sometimes think they are doing better than they really are. So I have to remind my students to pass the ball harder or softer, depending on the situation. If it is a 15 yard pass, then the pass needs to be hit harder. Almost as hard as they can, as long as the pass is smooth and on the ground.
Usually when you tell a player to pass the ball harder they end up getting under the ball, causing it to rise or lift up. When this happens, they need to connect on what I call the equator of the ball. This is the center of the ball, which helps keep it on the ground.
Soccer drills to improve comfort on the ball
The best way to improve fast at this is have the players partner up and pass using 2 touches. This means they have to trap the ball and then pass the ball. Now there are so many ways for this to happen, which you can adapt. You can trap with the left foot and pass with the right, which is one of my favorites. For this to happen smooth the players need to take 3 steps between their trap and pass. There are videos that I have seen where the players don’t take the 3 steps. To me if you’re not taking the 3 steps between touches, then you are forming bad habits just trapping with one foot and immediately passing with the other. The 3 steps or more allow you to get a long pass or short pass, while not taking the steps will only allow a short pass.
If the player were to trap and pass with the same foot, then they would only have to take one step down with that foot. If the trap was heavy, meaning the ball goes far away from the player who traps, then they would have to take more steps. It doesn’t matter how many at this point. Just whatever will be quick and smooth. We don’t want the players to be training to reach for balls, connecting with the toe or wrong part of the foot.
Redirecting your pass to relieve pressure
In soccer we can’t keep passing the ball in the same direction from where it came can we? We sometimes and often times have to redirect the pass, so that we can relieve the pressure. Redirecting where the ball come from is more difficult because the player has to turn their body and then find who is open. What you want to do is be able to look smooth in the transition, not panicked or clumsy. If you can open up your body while the ball is traveling to you, it allows to already be facing where you want to pass next.
Advanced soccer drills to improve comfort on the ball
Adding a defender (pressure) is going to make things harder for sure! Pressure is needed or else they are not used to the pressure. For now we can deal with the player being able to trap and get a good pass off in time. It doesn’t have to look pretty to play good soccer. This means as long as the player doesn’t lose the ball they are doing their job. There are pro players who look a bit clumsy, but they are good enough to get rid of the ball with a clean pass. These are usually the center backs because these are the players who just need to be good at defending and reading the game.
Skillful soccer players lacking comfort on the ball
There are several naturally technical players or natural athletes who lack comfort on the ball because it’s something that you have to practice time and time again. The best ways to work on this is hiring a good private trainer or working with another teammate before or after practice. Using a wall can also help make players more comfortable between their 1st touch and pass.
Soccer game players vs practice players
There are some soccer players who are well trained through skills training, but when they get in the game they get nervous with the ball. This may be because they have good touch and passing skills, but panic in game setting. For one, this is when there is pressure from your parents, teammates and coach. So this could be mental or just that they became content in practice.
I recommend players put themselves in the game while at practice. Meaning, they need to put pressure on themselves at practice if they feel the skills or drills are easy for them. Making their movements faster and pretending they are in the game will help them with games. When you are receiving the ball or have the ball your thoughts must be don’t lose it. Who cares about getting an assist or goal, just don’t lose the ball. If you can keep the ball consistently, you should then be thinking how can you create.
If the player can handle the ball well in practice, even with pressure, than I would have to guess that it is mental weakness. The player needs to think positive and learn to relax and believe in themselves, even if they don’t. Sometimes that voice between our ears tells us we can’t do something. These are times when you have to correct those thoughts with positive thinking. Trick the brain – fake it till you make it. That is a saying that some psychologist use.
The fastest way to get comfortable on the soccer ball
Comfort between your first touch & your pass has nothing to do with dribbling & EVERYTHING to do with being quick with the touches between that receipt and pass. Hone your skills and then practice being able to receive the ball with a rebounder that keeps the ball low, not allowing the ball to pop up.