Mastering Your First Touch in Soccer: Equipment-Free Training Tips
Throughout your soccer journey, your coaches may have mentioned, “You need to improve your first touch,” or “You’ve got a nice first touch.” Feedback is great, but what do those comments really mean? Why is first touch important? What does that even mean? How can I improve and work on this specific skill? We’ll tell you how to improve your first touch abilities with a few simple drills…and no equipment!
What is First Touch?
Having a good first touch is crucial. Here’s what it is: The ability to control the ball once you receive it. A good first touch gives you an immediate advantage. First touch is often the difference between success and failure in most situations during the match. Why? Because it’s more than just receiving the ball…it’s also making the ball do what you want. That matters. As players get older, the game gets faster, and demands more speed. If you can depend on your muscle memory for a solid first touch, you have the freedom to focus on what to do next, rather than thinking about how to handle the ball.
Soccer Juggling Drills and Tips
One of the simplest and most well-known ways to improve first touch is juggling. This helps with balance, coordination, leg/foot form, the timing of connecting with the ball, and overall body control. There are different variations to juggle depending on your level. You can start by letting the ball bounce between each touch. Once you feel like that’s mastered, you can attempt to get as many consistent juggles in a row as possible. (Have fun with it!)
Then, you can challenge yourself by alternating from left foot to right foot, or just one at a time. Make sure you are consistently working with both feet all the time! You can then test yourself further by high-low juggling. Here’s how: Without the ball touching the ground and keeping it under control, have one touch go above shoulder height, and the next below the waist. Keep that pattern going for as long as possible. What does high-low juggling do for you? It helps you focus on keeping the ball close and under control at different heights.
Lastly, practice juggling with a tennis ball. Using this smaller ball can really elevate your foot skills and improve your concentration (when else do you play soccer with a tiny, neon green ball?). Start with just your dominant foot. Then, after you get the hang of that, try juggling the ball with your weaker foot and combining both. Count how many times you can juggle it, and play against yourself, or a friend. Nothing like a little healthy competition to amp up your practice time! In fact, here’s a fun fact to toss out at your next practice: the record for juggling a soccer ball (according to the Guinness Book of World Records) is Martinho Eduardo Orige, who successfully juggled for 19 hours, and 30 minutes using only his feet, legs, and head. Whew!
Your Teammate is…the Wall!
Having fun? Let’s keep it going…here’s another way to seriously improve your first touch abilities without fancy equipment, or any equipment for that matter. Grab a ball and a wall. You’re going to pass the ball to the wall. In order to have the best first touch, you need to work on different ways to receive the ball. As with all the best soccer techniques, it is truly important to always use both feet. These are the basic moves to practice when the ball comes back to you from the wall (and they’re relevant to any level of player!).
- Receive the ball with the inside of your foot, while keeping the ball close. You can progressively make the passes harder, making the ball more difficult to control.
- Trap the ball with the inside of one foot, and play with the other.
- Then, work on touching the soccer ball with the outside of your foot and playing with the same foot. If we’ve said it once, we will say it again! You have to use different parts of your feet!
- The last one is to roll the ball with the bottom part of your foot and then play the pass. So, trap, roll, and play. The quicker you can get the ball under control and play, the more effective a player you will be.
We’ll sum it up like this: The more familiar you get with the ball, and the more consistent first touches you have, the better soccer player you will become.
If you want to learn more ways to improve your first touch and your overall command of the ball, sign up for a free evaluation with our Skillability coaches here.