A First Touch with a Purpose

The most important touch is a player's first touch. If that touch is a positive touch away from pressure and in the direction that they want to play there is a much greater chance of keeping possession. When the first touch is poor, into pressure and away from support, the chances of losing the ball are much greater. If your player's first touch is putting them into a tackle, it was a poor first touch.

The key to having a good first touch is giving that touch a purpose. Too often players are only concerned with receiving the ball and have not thought about what they will do with it next. The ball just bounces off of them and then they have to fight for possession with defenders in the area. By having the players think about where they want to go before the ball arrives they are able to play the ball into a space, in the direction they want to go and away from the pressure.

I try to weave this concept into every exercise I do so that it becomes a habit for the players. But you can also run a session that focuses on this idea. This is a great idea for early in the season because it sets the expectation and makes the players familiar with certain terms and ideas that will be easy to refer to during games. "Have a plan.", is a quick reminder to think about where you want to play before you receive the ball. Your players will remember key phases like that after they've been through this session.

The Cage


This is a great warm-up and can be progressed in many different ways. In it's most basic form, a pass is made to a player inside the cage. The receiver is challenged to take two touches inside the cage. The first touch goes across the receiver's body and the second touch starts the player dribbling out of one side of the cage or the other. The key point is that the first touch goes across the player's body whether the pass is to the receiver's right or left side.


  • Receive with the outside of the foot
  • Passer follows the pass to pressure the receiver
  • Receiver opens up and controls the ball with the back foot and dribbles out the back of the cage



Exercises that work on turning will improve a player's first touch. You can teach the players to turn in one touch using the inside and outside of the foot.

1 v 1 Attack the Space


This simple 1 v 1 exercise can be altered to work on taking the first touch at any angle depending on where the passer and receiver are positioned.

Two Touch Possession



Once the players understand the techniques required to have a good first touch that maintains possession the challenge is put that understanding under pressure. By limiting the number touches a player has you force them to think ahead and have a plan for their next pass. You can challenge this further by playing a possession game where only the one-touch passess are counted. The team with the most one-touch passess in a period of time, wins.

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What are the best drills and exercises you use to train your players to have a first touch with a purpose? Please share these in the comments section below so that we can all improve our players.

Have a great day!


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