Make a good first impression in soccer with your first touch on the ball. Get the tools to develop your touch, enhance reaction time, and compete at the highest level.
In fact, having a good first touch is a fundamental part of the game of soccer. If you're first touch on the soccer ball is sharp, the game just becomes all the more simple and easy. If you're able to control the ball perfectly the first time then you can make that next pass or take a shot right away.
How do you improve your first touch? Well, let's take a look at how Barcelona's Iniesta controls the ball:
First Touch in Soccer
It’s hard to say what's the most important skill for soccer player to possess, but it could very well be a good first touch on the ball .
Without a good first touch there is no way to play at a high level. Why? Well, a good first touch allows you to play the ball quickly, shield the ball, beat players on the dribble, and score goals. If you’re constantly controlling the ball too close to you, and you’re on top of the ball, then you’re bound to lose the ball and not get the pass, shot or cross off in time as the defenders close you down. Or, your first touch is so poor it's too far away and a defender can win it when they close you down.
A good first touch is controlling the soccer ball out in front of you, and not right under your feet so you have to take another touch before you make the pass. Of course it's also about not controlling the ball too far away.
If you watch players in the English Premier League, Serie A, or La Liga, for example, they control the ball out into the space in front of them, so they can get their head up and make the next pass or take the next touch. They don't kill the ball right under them with their head down. If they did, defenders would pounce on them and win the ball. Just watch a team like Barcelona, every first touch is sharp and perfectly controlled so they can make the next pass. Players like Xavi, Alves, Iniesta, Messi, and really the entire Barcelona team, have exceptional touch on the ball and that's why they can keep possession of the ball for so long.
How to Improve Your First Touch
So how do you improve your first touch in soccer? There’s a very easy way to do this. Find a wall and kick the ball against it and control the ball out in front of you with the inside of your right foot and then your left. Do this a thousand times a week and you’ll improve your first touch. Do this for fifteen to twenty minutes a day and you'll see improvements. Yes, it's that easy. It' just takes time and work. It's all about getting comfortable with the ball through repetition. The idea is to hit the ball extra hard, exaggerate how hard you kick it against the wall so when it comes back to you it's harder to control. Then, in a real game or practice any passes or balls that come to you will be easier to control.
There are two other elements that are crucial to having a good first touch. First, it's being read to receive the ball - being on our toes and anticipating the pass. And second, it's keeping your ankle locked and your controlling foot tight and not loose. It's also about balance, being ready to receive the ball, and focusing on the soccer ball. If you're worried about the defender behind you, then you miss control the ball.
The key is to hit the ball hard though when your hitting the ball against the wall, to almost strike the ball as hard as you can so the ball is tough to control. And act like there’s a defender closing you down, so you have to be ready to protect the ball with your body. Imagine your playing in a game and control the ball like you're being closed down by the other team. You have to control the ball away from the defender but close enough to you so you can make the next pass.
Next, get a friend to pass the ball into your feet as hard as they can. Have them almost take shots at you, but below the knees and the ball on the ground, and you then try to control the ball out in front of you a say three or four feet. This is still with the inside area of your foot, as this is the main part of your foot you use to control the ball. Keep your ankle locked when controlling the ball.
This also gets back to playing the way you're facing. In soccer, the idea is to keep the game simple, so you don't over complicate things. If the ball is played in to you and you're under pressure you don't have to turn, instead you can lay the ball back to where it came from - this is playing the way you're facing. It's about laying the ball off and then moving again to get open.
Mastering the First Touch
After you master your first touch, setup two sets of cones, a few feet apart, to the right and the left of you - two small goals. Try to control the ball through those cones when your friend plays the ball into you at a fast pace. You're trying to pass/control the ball through these cones as the ball comes to you. It's ok to almost dribble the ball through the cones but the first touch must be out in front of you and way from your body.
As you progress further, have your friend hit the ball hard into your feet and then close you down to the right or left. If they are closing you down from the right side then your first touch is to the left, away from pressure.
First touch is all about being able to control any type of pass at any speed right out in front of you so you can make the next pass, take a shot, cross the ball, or dribble. It doesn't matter if the ball is blasted at you, your first touch is so good you're ready and can control the ball so you're prepared to make the next play.
Check out this other drills to improve your first touch: