Soccer Updates

The First Touch and How to Improve it - Part 2

Authors: John Ellinger - US Youth Soccer

There are many simple exercises that players can use to improve the quality of their first touch. 
Let's start with just one player and a ball; something the player can do in their backyard. The player would simply toss the ball several feet above their head and then attempt to control it by using what we call the "drag" technique. This is where the player uses either the inside or outside of one foot and then turns the foot at a 45 degree angle in the direction they would like to move the ball. 
The player will also then lean the body in that same direction and then attempt to control the ball just as it is leaving the ground (short hop as some like to call it). The player will get the sensation that they are trying to "drag the ball" in the direction they are moving. The player should practice this procedure many times using the inside and outside of both feet. Also, the player should gradually increase the height of the ball toss in order to increase the difficulty of this exercise. 
If another player is available, then one player can toss the ball to their partner at various heights. Then after the receiving partner drags the ball away in one direction and passes it back to their partner, you then repeat this process several times and then switch roles.
The above exercise helps to improve our first touch when receiving balls out of the air. Next is an exercise that can help the player when receiving the ball on the ground. 

Excercise to Improve First Touch

Place two cones on the ground ten yards apart, with player A, in the red  shirt, standing by one cone with the ball and player B, in the blue shirt, standing beside the other cone waiting to receive the ball. Imagine that there is a solid line between the two cones. As player A passes the ball to player B, player B attempts to move the ball across this imaginary line with on their first touch and then play it back to player A.
Player B can use either the inside or outside of the foot to receive the pass, but if the player uses the inside of the foot on their first touch, have the player pass it back with the opposite foot. If the player uses the outside of the foot on their first touch have them pass it back with the same foot. 

This exercise is designed to help a player understand the principle of moving the ball away from pressure.   After the player receives about ten balls, then have the players switch roles. The difficulty of this exercise can be increased with the passing player adding more pace to the pass or by adding a third player as a passive defender that tries to force the receiving player to move in a specific direction.
Next week we look at improving the technical quality of striking balls cleanly.

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