By Justin Cresser
A good first touch is essential in soccer; and as a coach, one of the coaching points that I repeatedly stress is taking the first touch into Space. Whether it is the space you want to attack with a dribble, or it is into space away from a pressuring defender, taking a dynamic first touch will prove beneficial.
The following exercise is geared towards developing the ability to take the first touch into space, but also incorporates speed dribbling and sprinting.
Divide your players into groups of 2. Each group needs 1 ball. Set up the following station for each pair: Place 2 small cones 5 yards apart so that they are in a straight line. Have both players stand at a cone each so that they are facing each other and ensure one of the players has a ball at their feet. Place another set of 2 cones (5 yards apart) 20 yards to the side of the first two cones so that both sets are in line with each other (Figure 1).
When ready, have the player with the ball pass to their partner and then immediately sprint towards the cone that is 20 yards away. With their first touch, the player receiving the pass should play it in the direction of the cone 20 yards to their side (Figure 2).
After taking their first touch, they must then immediately speed dribble as fast as they can, but under control, until they reach the other cone (Figure 3).
As they reach the cone, they must immediately pass to their partner who then takes their first touch back towards the first set of cones and then speed dribbles (Figure 4).
Continue this this sequence of pass—touch into space—speed dribble for 45 to 60 seconds and then rest for 90 seconds to 2 minutes.
Do 4 or 5 more repetitions for a total of about 15 minutes. Vary the way or part of the body they use to take their first touch. For example, begin by having them take their first touch with the inside of the foot. You can then switch to the outside of the foot; bounce passes and finally tosses to the chest. The format of the exercise also targets the anaerobic capacity of your players, so encourage them to work at a high intensity.
- Players must get behind the ball as quickly as possible and present the surface of the body they are using to the ball
- When using the inside of the foot, the toes should be up and the heel down; whereas when using the outside of the foot, the toes should be down. In both cases, the ankle should be firm
- Their first touch must not be too far away so they must judge the weight of the ball
- When using the chest, they must open their hips in the direction they want to go as the ball is about to make contact
- When speed dribbling, they should use the instep/laces and the toes should be down and the heel up upon contact with ball
- Ensure that the player who passes the ball SPRINTS, not jogs, to the other cone
Best of Luck,
Justin Cresser - Has coached soccer at various levels both in North America and abroad (Hong Kong and Africa). His most recent position was as the Assistant Technical Director at the Soccer Club of Toronto. He has his National Diploma from the NSCAA and is also a certified strength and conditioning coach.