Soccer Updates

The First Touch and How to Improve it - Part 1

Authors: John Ellinger - US Youth Soccer

In a previous blog, I mentioned the importance of the first touch. I will say it again and again, the first touch is everything. One of the core objectives of US Youth Soccer's player development plan is for players to become more comfortable with the ball under pressure. After observing several US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP) Boys' and Girls' Inter-regional events, both domestic and international, and also every round of US Youth Soccer's National League, I can say without hesitation that improving the quality of the first touch is US Youth Soccer's number one technical objective.

The first touch can encompass a number of different elements. It is how the player receiving the ball deals with the pace of the pass; how does the player deal with spin or bend of the ball; how does the player handle the location of the incoming ball (is it on the ground or is it in the air) and which surface should the player use to control this ball; based on pressure from opponents, space, or time, which direction does the player move the ball with the first touch; does the player have the ability to "feel the pressure" and effectively make a correct angle back to the ball or the proper run into space; can the player receive the ball and turn with it in one fluid movement; because of the previously mentioned type of pressure, does the player make the decision to play it one touch to a teammate; and does the player elect to make a strike at goal on the first touch or take another touch to get a better look at goal or a better shooting angle? 

Watching Landon Donovan develop into a young superstar would be extremely rewarding for any and all coaches to watch. He was simply incredible with his first touch. He knew when he could effectively take it away from pressure, and he knew when to lay it off to another player because of pressure. Coaches often talk to their players about when to take risks or not to take risks in the various thirds of the soccer field. Watch Landon sometime and see how many risks he takes in the defensive third or middle third of the field regarding his first touch-zero. As part of Freddy Adu's development, he and I sat and watched this feat while Bruce Arena and the Men's National Team were training and playing matches in Bradenton, Florida several years ago. Developing young players need to see these types of situations for themselves. They need to understand that mistakes involving the first touch can create scoring opportunities, counter attacks or create numbers up situations for the opponent.

Next week some ideas in training to help improve our players first touch. 

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