Ball control drills to gain a good first touch

The aim of working on players' first-touch soccer skills is to give them more time to assess their next move. These coaching tips and soccer drills are aimed at improving the first touch of the ball.
A good first touch is one of the soccer commandments – we talk about it all the time and many soccer drills and exercises are created to try to get across to the players from an early age that first touch is crucial and which parts of the body they should be using to achieve this.

A good first touch…

  • Gives a player TIME and SPACE to assess what to do next, for instance, pass, dribble or shoot.

  • Ensures a time-wasting second touch isn’t required getting the ball out of the feet.
  • Enables players to operate comfortably under pressure and in tight situations.

Whereas a poor first touch…

  • Can take the momentum out of attacking play.

  • Might result in lost possession.

The two types of control

Cushion control – taking the ‘sting’ out of the ball by pulling back the controlling surface on impact. This has the effect of ‘cushioning’ or absorbing the pace of the ball so that it drops at the feet.

Wedge control – by making the controlling surface, say the sole or outside of the boot, more rigid, the ball is ‘wedged’ between it and the ground. This is used when a player wants to force the ball downwards or into space so they can move onto it.
Basic tips

  • Move into position to intercept the ball early.

  • Select the controlling surface early and place it in the ball’s path.
  • Stay balanced using the arms.
  • Watch the ball carefully to judge its direction and speed.
  • Keep the head steady.
  • Be relaxed.

What can you control it with? Anything!

Inside of the foot
Plant the supporting foot 45-90 degrees to the path of the ball. Control the ball with the arch of the free foot.    

Outside of the foot
Used when the ball is travelling across in front of the player. Just reach forward into the ball’s path.    

Sole of the foot
Raise the toes slightly above the heel. Used in dribbling for stopping before changing direction.    

For when the ball’s falling from a steep angle. Stretch the ankle and cushion with the ‘laces’ by bending the knee and ankle on contact.    

Aim for about halfway up the top of the thigh, although the inside is good for stopping balls flying past.

May involve arching the back slightly, bending the knees and even jumping.    

Use the forehead, just below the hairline.

Soccer drills to increase the skills level

Only when players have confidence in their skills should you move onto increasing the soccer drill difficulty by having them practise:

  • Receiving balls from various angles, speeds and heights.

  • An immediate pass with the second touch.
  • Against defenders.
  • Controlling a ball while moving at pace.
  • Controlling the ball for a team-mate.

Players will now have to think about:

  • The weight of their touch, and moving the ball away from opponents by redirecting it into available space.

  • Checking passing possibilities while the ball is in flight.