How many times have you heard a coach blurt out a command? Johnny when you get the ball pass it to Billy! Jane get a head on that one!
The main ingredient to all of those circumstances being successful for the youth player is the first touch.
Why is the first touch so important? It determines the ability for success and speed of play. A positive first touch increases the percentage of success and speed of play. A negative first touch decreases the percentage of success and speed of play.
There are some factors that we have to consider for the youth player. Positive first touch comes naturally to some youth players but for most it is a skill that needs to be trained and practiced throughout their playing career. Skill is always paramount and foremost!
There are two elements that need to be considered. #1 Relieve the pressure of the pass (cushion the ball) # 2 placement of the ball after the first touch. #2 is directly effected by mental speed* and speed of action.* (The decision making process.) I will touch on that later.
Relieve the pressure of the pass (cushion the ball) each time a player receives a ball it come to them at a different rate and to a different part of their body. If the ball bounces far away from the player after the first touch they loss the ability to effectively control it and turn it in to a positive first touch. To effectively improve the players’ ability to make their first touch a positive we must create an environment where there are opportunities for multiple repetitions at different rates to the players receiving surfaces. While this can and is done in team training each player should be self training to improve their first touch. Self training is not a difficult as it sounds although it does take motivation from the player. Mom or Dad, Sister or Brother can help out with the self training by serving balls to the player at different rates and body surfaces. When there is no one to help there is the old saying “A Boy / Girl a ball and a wall “are all you need to self train. Personal motivation is the key here!
Placement of the ball after the first touch Once we have master the skill of receiving the ball with a positive touch, where we place the ball is the next most important function of the players’ first touch. Here we must take into consideration mental speed and speed of action. Regardless of which part of the body the ball is received with the player must be trained to think ahead of their actual first touch. If their touch is good but the secondary placement is off the situation could turn from positive to negative instantly. Each player has to go through a decision making process to complete the placement of the first touch.
Mental speed: The rate at which the player processes the information at hand important to the success of the situation.
Speed of action: Taking into consideration Mental speed, The time it takes to process, your position on the field, your options once you have received the ball, your support, the flight and pace of the ball, the proximity of the opponent / pressure and what part of the body to best use. Where do I want my first touch to go, on the floor, in the air or to another part of my body? Receive for possession, shield away from pressure, dribble or to pass? Redirect on the first touch to supporting player or defensive clearance? Shot on goal? All players have speak to themselves as they play the game and make decisions using the “ SAID” Principal “ Specific adaptation to implied demands.”
For example: A U.S. Women’s national team player during a match speaks to herself at the rate of 600 words a minute while she is on the field. That figure sounds mind boggling! It took about 100 words to explain the thought process of speed of action and we are not playing the game. I am sure you can understand how in the game in an ever changing environment that 600 words a minute is possible.
In understanding of how many elements are directly related to the players’ first touch it is still the skill that initiates the opportunity for success. Therefore we must always strive to improve our touch on the ball and the more touches the better for players of all ages and skill levels.
See you on the pitch,
Back of the Net
Better Soccer more Fun.com/
Delaware Valley Warrior Camps
East Hudson Youth Soccer League
Hudson Valley Soccer Referee Association
Major League Soccer (MLS)
National Soccer Hall of Fame
NYS Public High School Athletic Assoc