Receiving the ball

“If you keep the ball… the other team cannot score.”

A player who is not confident in his ability to receive a ball and use possession productively is about as effective as a basketball player who cannot catch!

So if you’re coaching young players, you need to plan regular coaching sessions, in which the focus is on improving their first touch and ball control.

Unfortunately, too many coaches show their players the basics of receiving once or twice then move on to more advanced skills without allowing them the time and opportunity to consolidate this crucial skill.

Receiving the ball… the key elements

1. Take a mental photo – what are you going to do when you receive the ball? Are you going to shoot, dribble, pass, hold or run with the ball?

2. Anticipate the flight of the ball – is the ball coming straight at you or do you have to move to get your body behind it?

Note: Not anticipating and reacting to the flight of the ball is a very common fault with young players. When you see children:Sticking a leg out in the hope they will make contact.

Missing the ball completely.

Allowing the ball to bounce off them as though their foot was made of concrete.

You can correct these faults quickly and easily by showing them the importance of getting their bodies behind the ball more quickly.

3. Choose the correct receiving surface – while it’s pretty obvious that the foot is the correct part of the body to use if the ball is being passed along the ground, your players need to decide which part of the foot should be used.

If the ball is in the air will the thigh, chest or head be used to control the ball?

4. Softly, softly – whichever part of the body makes contact with the ball, it’s essential that your players’ first touch takes the pace off the pass.

The foot, head, thigh or chest should be withdrawn as contact is made, allowing the ball to drop to the ground lightly. I tell my players that they have to be like a sponge and soak up the speed of the ball.

5. First touch should be out of feet and away from pressure – as contact is made, the ball should be directed away from the receiving player’s feet in the direction they want to dribble, pass, shoot or run. If the ball is “trapped” close to the player’s body, he won’t be able to get his head up to see what is going on around him.

How to practice and improve receiving skills

  • Numbers Passing

Tell your players to give themselves a number.

As they jog round in the playing area, they pass a ball to one another in sequence, i.e., one to two to three, etc.

After a minute or two, add a second ball or reverse the numerical order.

Tip: If your players find this easy, limit them to two touches of the ball or make the playing area smaller.

Ask: How can you make it easy for the player with the ball?

  • Ping Pong

Players work in groups of four.

Three players (the servers) stand in a semi-circle facing the fourth (target) player. The three servers share two balls between them.

The target player receives a pass from a server and has two touches to control the pass and return it to one of the players facing him. He can’t return it to the server who made the pass.

Rotate the players so that everyone gets a turn as target player.

Make it competitive – which group can deal with 20 serves with fewest errors?

Progression: Servers throw the ball in the air and the target player calls out the surface he is going to use before the ball gets to him.

What to watch for:

  • Getting into line with the pass.
  • Choosing the right surface to receive.
  • First touch soft and out of feet.
  • If you see any errors, step in and coach the player(s) in question. Remember that a good demonstration is worth a thousand words!

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