First touch and receiving the ball

Having a good first touch is a vital skill for all soccer players.

When players take too many touches to take control of the football or allow it to get away from them, the offensive game collapses. You become sitting ducks.

But, with these six distinct drills, your players will learn to deftly manoeuvre the ball off the pass and greatly improve their fluidity on the field. They’ll move rapidly through the space they’ve created on the field to set up plays and score more goals, before the opponent even knows what‘s happened.

To construct a complete practice session from these drills, combine two or more of them with a suitable warm up and a small sided game to finish the session.

Exercise 1 


A 10- by 10- yards area.

Group of three players.

One ball to each group.

Two players with the ball are positioned on one side of the square.

The third player faces them on the other side.


The player with the ball passes to the third player on the opposite lane who receives with the inside of the foot and takes the ball a couple of yards to the side in one action.

On his next touch he passes the ball back across the square with his other foot.

The pair opposite switch places and repeat the action.


Remind players that it’s important to give a good pass so it is easier for their teammates to receive the ball and control it away with their first touch.

Allow two touches to start before limiting players to one touch.

Remind the receiving player to move toward the ball.

Exercise 2


A 10- by 10- yards area.

Players in groups of three with a ball to each group.

Two players with the ball on one side of the square face the third player on the opposite side.


The first player passes to the opposite player and sprints around him/her.

The receiving player taps the ball to the side, first touch, as the sprinting player comes around him/her.  The sprinting player passes first touch to the next player facing him/her who repeats the action.

The end player changes after several sequences.


Receiving players can start with two touches to make the pass. Once this becomes easy, limit players to one- touch passes.

Exercise 3

Set up

A 10-by 10-yard to 15-by 15-yard area.

Groups of up to four players at each corner.

One group starts with a ball.


Players pass anti-clockwise to the first player in the next group and follow their passes.

The receiving player taps the ball softly by the incoming passer, runs around him to the ball and passes to the first player in the next group.


Have players cushion the impact of a received ball by drawing back their foot as the ball arrives.

Remind receiving players to move to the ball.

To increase difficulty, introduce another ball. Have two groups diagonally across from one another start with balls.

Exercise 4

Set up

A 10-by 10-yard area

Two small 2-yard gates on either side of the square as shown.

Two passers, each with a ball, at opposite corners and facing their respective gates.

Two receivers in the gates.


The passers pass to their receivers.

Receivers take the ball to the opposite side of the square with their first touch and pass to the next corner player.

The receiver then returns to his/her first gate to receive the next pass from a corner player and the sequence continues.

Passers and receivers switch after eight repetitions.


Allow players three touches at first: one to receive, one to turn and one to pass.  After players are comfortable, tell them to try turning with the ball on their first touch.

A good first touch gives a player more time and space during a game.

Receiving players should try to play the ball in the direction they want to go – without stopping the ball. 

Exercise 5


Players in pairs about five yards apart.

A ball to each pair.


  1. Players throw the ball to their partners, who receive with the thigh and pass it back on the ground.
  2. Players toss and partners control with the thigh, let the ball drop to the ground, flick it up with same foot and catch it.
  3. Same as #2, but this time the receivers flick the ball up with the opposite foot and catch it.
  4. Passers throw a high toss and the receivers control it with the chest, thigh, other thigh, foot and other foot, before flicking the ball up and catching it.

Make the action a competition between pairs.  If a pair misses or drops the ball they have to repeat the exercise until the sequence has been mastered.  The first pair to complete all four exercises wins.


Tell players to make their bodies act like cushions; at impact, players should draw the receiving part of their body back.

Remind them to serve the ball with a gentle underhanded toss.

When receiving the ball, players should keep their arms out for good balance.

Concentration is very important- players should focus on the ball.

Exercise 6 

Set up

Players in two teams of up to six players, 5 to 10 yards apart depending on their age and 5 yards from a goal with a net and a keeper.

Each player on the serving team has a ball.


The first server tosses the ball to the first striker, who controls with the chest and tries to volley the ball into the goal before it touches the ground.

Server and striker then move to the ends of the opposite lines.

Change the receiving body part as the players progress to: thigh; head; chest then thigh; head then thigh; and head, chest then thigh.


Instruct players to concentrate on the ball.

Remind players to use their bodies as cushions and that timing is crucial to success. Allow beginners to let the ball bounce once before they shoot.

Every passing exercise in the next section can also be used to teach receiving skills.

Be sure to practice these drills as often as possible. With each repetition the movements will become more instinctual.

Soon your players will be able to take control of a pass and redirect or move it down the field with ease.