“One of the most important skills you can learn from any age is how to control the ball — and what’s really important is your first touch,” world soccer champ and internationally acclaimed defender Becky Sauerbrunn says.
RECEIVING THE BALL
When receiving a soccer ball, you will typically want to use the inside part of your foot. This helps direct the ball into the space you will move next and allows you to cushion the ball. Avoid moving your foot toward the ball, where it will just bounce away on contact. Rather, as you’re about to receive the ball, move your foot slightly back and absorb the impact. Imagine it as trying to catch an egg or a water balloon.
CONTROLLING THE BALL
An advanced first touch doesn’t just control the ball; it allows you to dictate your next move as well. You don’t want to angle yourself too much toward the player passing to you. You want to open up, almost do a half turn, so that it is easier to pivot to where you are going next. This makes everything more efficient and you can play the ball much quicker. Keep your head up prior to receiving the ball so you can see where that next move is. Once your teammate passes you the ball, watch it in to your foot.
Training with teammates or a wall is an effective way to develop and hone your first-touch technique. A three-person pattern is a great way for the player in the center to work on opening their body, prepping the ball and making an accurate pass. Challenge yourself to accelerate the pace with which you can receive, prep and pass the ball. That will ensure your hard work in practice translates to success on the pitch come game day.
As a final word on first touch, Becky has this to say: “Soccer is a very difficult sport, but if you can control the ball, it makes it a lot easier. So your first touch is really, actually, quite imperative with your comfort on the ball.”