How to Improve Your First Touch in Soccer (16 Tips and Drills)
A great first touch in soccer is one of the most important skills to work on as a soccer player.
It will help you win more time and space out on the pitch, and also help you to evade and outwit your opponents.
Knowing how to kill the ball with one deft touch will help you to play the ball quicker as well as protect it and take it beyond your opponents better.
By improving your ability to retain possession, win space, and effect play, you should soon see more effective performances out on the pitch.
Thankfully, there are many ways to improve your first touch either at home, with a friend, or out on the training ground.
The secret -- as always -- is hard work, perseverance, and practice as the technique often takes time to master as does consistently controlling the ball in pressure situations.
First we’ll take a look at some tips to improve your first touch, then we’ll go over some soccer drills that will help hone your touch and technique.
10 Tips to Improve Your First Touch in Soccer
As mentioned earlier, there are many ways to improve your first touch, and not all of them have to do with your technique and ball control.
Working on your positioning and understanding of the game, for example, is just as important as both of these help you to win time and space.
More time and space decreases the pressure on your first touch as you don’t have to hold off your opponents at the same time as you receive a pass.
Also, your conditioning and strength also play a key role in determining whether you can keep your opponents at arm’s length while also helping you to stay focussed for longer.
With all in mind, here are some tips on how to improve your first touch:
1. Practice, Practice, Practice
While it’s good being strong enough to hold off your opponents, these physical attributes will count for very little if you aren't able to actually bring the ball under control.
As such, spend as much time as possible honing your control and working on your technique, making sure that you can kill the ball and leave it where you want with just one touch.
Later in this article we’ll go through several drills you can work through that will help you improve your first touch, decision making, positioning, and understanding of the game.
2. Decide How + Where You’re Going to Control the Ball
Key to your first touch is deciding what you are actually going to do with the ball once you receive the pass.
> Do you want to take it to your left or to your right?
> Do you want to pass the ball on in one touch or cushion it in front?
These decisions will help determine how to control the ball.
With time and practice you'll gain a greater understanding of where you should be on the pitch and what type of first touch you should take.
The secret as always is practice and repetition.
3. Work on Improving Both Your Feet
It’s very important that you work to improve your first touch, technique, and control with both feet as well as your thighs, chest, and head.
You never know how you’ll receive the ball during a fast-paced game.
The ball might come from a short + hard pass, a lofted long ball, or a random rebound.
That’s why you must practice for whatever scenario comes your way by working on lots of different drills that test your touch and technique in various situations.
4. Focus on Your Footwork and Stay Focused
By staying on your toes and alert to what is going on around you on the pitch, you will put yourself in a good position to be successful.
This will allow you to be better positioned and poised to bring the ball under control with one touch before dribbling off with it or passing it on to a teammate.
Focussing on your footwork is also important in terms of how you cushion and control the ball as well as what part of your foot or body you use to take a touch.
5. Understand the Game
While you may have mastered your touch and technique, this will count for very little unless you understand the game and how best to impact it.
By working on your knowledge of the beautiful game, you'll know exactly where to take the ball when you receive it and what to do with it when you have it under control at your feet.
Key to this is knowing which positions to take up on the pitch to win yourself invaluable space and time to effect the game.
6. Take Advantage of Open Spaces
By taking up unmarked positions on the pitch you can greatly improve your first touch as you then have more time and space to bring the ball under control.
Looking over your shoulder and knowing where your opponents are will also help you to decide which spaces to exploit and should dictate which direction you take the ball when you receive it.
The more time you spend on the training ground and the greater understanding you develop of the game, the easier it should be to know which positions to take up on the pitch.
7. Improve Your Conditioning
Improving your conditioning also goes a long way to improving your first touch as you will be able to stay fitter and fresher for longer.
This means that you will keep your concentration and focus and not make silly mistakes when it comes to controlling the ball.
By increasing your stamina you will also be able to take up better positions, get around the pitch easier, and affect the game right until the end of the match.
8. Work on Getting Stronger
Building up muscle will also help you to hold off your opponents and still be able to take a good first touch even when under lots of pressure.
Being stronger will also help with your athleticism and agility, which means you’ll be in the right place at the right time more often than not.
Knowing you’re stronger than your opponent will also increase your confidence in your stability and strength, knowing they won't be able to pressure you into making a mistake.
9. Increase Your Mental Strength
Just as important as physical strength is your mental strength.
All soccer players make mistakes.
What distinguishes the good from the great is how they respond to setbacks and react to losing the ball or giving it away cheaply.
By increasing your mental strength, you not only increase your self-belief and confidence but also help eradicate any self-doubt that you may have.
This is invaluable when it comes to improving your first touch as it often takes years of patience, perseverance, and practice to master.
10. Watch Videos of the Pros
To give yourself the best chance of success, it is well worth watching videos on YouTube of your favourite pros controlling and caressing the ball about the pitch with ease.
Watching how they take the ball down, bring it into space, and evade their opponents all with one deft touch will highlight how you can find space and time out on the pitch.
It will also show you how to receive and control the ball, turn with it, and shield and protect it too.
6 Drills to Improve Your First Touch in Soccer
Whether it’s your strength and stamina or your decision making, positioning, and understanding of the game... there are many things you can do to improve your first touch.
Key to all of this is practice and repetition out on the training ground, working over and over again on first touch drills that test your touch and technique.
To help you master this essential skill, here are some great drills to work on either at home, with a friend, or out on the training ground:
Exercise 1: Juggling
Great for honing your touch and technique, juggling is lots of fun to do and puts your control and coordination to the test.
In addition to helping you improve your ball-handling skills, it also works your feet, thighs, chest, and head... all of which you use in match situations to take the ball under control.
As you try and keep the ball up for long as possible, focus on your footwork and touch so that it sets you up nicely for your next touch.
Practicing juggling at home or with a friend will prepare you for lots of different passes and balls you will be expected to control with one touch when it comes around to game day.
Exercise 2: Wall Passes
Another excellent exercise that you can again do at home are wall passes as these get you practicing your passing and first touch.
After you strike the ball against the wall, try to control the rebound with one touch, setting yourself up perfectly to kick it again.
It is important here that you practice taking the ball to either side of you when controlling it and also vary the distance, height, and power when you strike it.
This will prepare you for lots of different situations that you will face out on the pitch.
With A Friend
Exercise 3: Pass and Control
If you have a friend who loves soccer and is just as eager to improve as you are, then it is well worth heading to a nearby pitch to test out each other's passing and control.
When fizzing it to their feet, make sure to challenge them to control it with one touch that takes it to either side or sets them up for a pass without having to break stride.
Vary up the distance, height, and speed at which you pass the ball to one another so you not only work on your footwork but your chest and thigh control, too.
You can also punt it up in the air to one another as this really tests your first touch when it plummets back to the ground.
Exercise 4: Quick Thinking Passing
Another fun drill that you can work on with a friend is one that will get you thinking about which direction you want to take the ball when receiving it.
This prepares you for match situations as you need to feel comfortable controlling the ball with both feet and setting yourself up with just one touch.
To set up the drill simply place a line of cones in between you and your friend with each of you facing towards it.
You then want to pass the ball to each other between them, the key being that you cannot pass it back through the same set of cones.
Make sure to use both the outside and inside of both feet to control the ball with one touch and set yourself up for the next pass.
On the Training Ground
Exercise 5: First Touch Control
With this drill you want to set up one large square of about 15 by 15 metres, with a smaller square in each corner.
A couple of players should stand behind each one, ready to control the ball and pass it to the next square, before following their pass in the same direction.
The idea is for the players to ping the ball either in the air or along the ground to the player to the right of them whose first touch should set it up nicely for them to pass it on to the next square and player.
Players will learn how to control the ball with one touch and accurately pass it on to a teammate, keeping their pass and control in the square where possible.
As you can vary both the direction, height, distance, and strength of the pass, this really tests each player’s first touch and technique.
Exercise 6: 4X4 First Touch Game
At the end of training it’s always fun to have a little game or competition and practice what the players have been learning and working on during the session.
For this drill, set up a short but wide pitch with large goals to either end and four players on either side but no goalkeeper between the sticks.
The aim of the game is for each team to score as many goals as possible from their own half and set themselves up for a shooting opportunity with their first touch.
As players close them down and try to block shots, the players need to control and take the ball into space with their first touch and work an opening before unleashing a shot.
Having a great first touch is one of the most valuable soccer skills due to the time and space it wins you on the pitch.
Not only does it give you more time to weigh up your options and pick a pass, it also helps you to dribble past players easier, retain possession better, and get more shots off at goal.
While it certainly takes lots of practice, perseverance, and patience to master the technique, there are lots of other things you can work on that will help with your first touch.
Along with increasing your strength and stamina, it is also worth working on your positioning, decision making, and understanding of the game so that you don't have to put so much pressure on your first touch always being perfect.
By keeping the above tips in mind and working on the drills we provided, in no time at all you'll see great improvements when it comes to your first touch in soccer.