You may have been told by a soccer coach that you need to “work on your first touch,” or maybe that you “have a good first touch.” But what exactly does this mean? And how can you improve your first touch, or keep it sharp?
Your first touch is your ability to bring the ball under control, no matter how it comes to you. Why is this important?
A great first touch allows you to:
Keep the ball close so that it’s protected from the opposition.
Bring the ball under your control quickly and efficiently so you have more time before you’re under pressure.
Move in the direction you want to go to take advantage of where the space is.
Focus your attention on what to do next, rather than thinking about how to handle the ball.
To have a good first touch, you’ll need to be able to receive the ball well whether it’s on the ground, in the air, or somewhere in between (bouncing). You’ll want to be able to use various surfaces of both feet, thighs, your chest, and even your head, so that you can be prepared, regardless of how and where the ball comes to you.
To improve these skills takes a lot of time and practice. You will always need to work on your first touch, whether you’re a beginning player or at the most elite level. As the level increases, the ball will be passed to you harder, the defenders will close you down quicker, and you’ll need to make faster decisions. All of this will call for an increasingly refined and quality first touch.
Here are 5 drills to improve your first touch:
Juggling, in general, is one of the most fundamental ways to work on your first touch. It helps your balance, coordination, foot/leg form, as well as your control of how you connect with the ball and how hard you hit it. If you could only practice one drill to have a good first touch, it would be juggling! Challenge your touch to receive the ball out of the air and keep it close. Start by throwing the ball in the air or kicking it up around head height. As you get more comfortable, you can increase the height.
Volleying the ball with the inside and laces of the feet is a great way to improve and refine your first touch. Many times in a game, the ball will not arrive to you smoothly on the ground. Being able to comfortably play a bouncing ball in the direction you want it to go is a key skill to master.
Being able to use your first touch to turn is an important skill for elite players. Rather than stopping the ball and THEN turning, you can receive and turn all in one motion to be most efficient. This can be the difference between setting your team up for a counter attack and potential goal or not. Similar, a directional first touch is one of the six moves every soccer player should master.
Practicing receiving the ball in different ways encourages you to keep your feet active and be agile as the ball arrives. This is crucial for a good first touch. Also, by specifying exactly how you should pass the ball back against the wall with your second touch (in this case, using the laces of the opposite foot), you can increase the pressure on yourself to be consistent with your first touch.
Using a wall and cones/markers to mimic the feet of a defender is a great way to practice a directional first touch as you receive a pass. The weight of your touch is key. You want it to move the ball just outside the cone, but not so far away from you that it’s out of your control.
You can practice these drills and more in the Techne App. Each week there’s a brand new training session designed by pro players that will help you improve and refine your first touch in a variety of ways.
It’s important to continue to work on the basics as you learn to do them cleaner, sharper, and more quickly. It’s also key to challenge yourself with new, more sophisticated ways of receiving the ball over time. With even just 10 minutes of practice a day, you’ll notice your confidence soar when it comes to your first touch!