If we had to identify one skill above all others which marks the difference between a good player and an average one, it would most probably be their first touch. A good first touch creates time, it enables options to be considered, it engenders control. Who would not want those traits in their soccer playing arsenal?
By the time players reach Under 12 they should understand the basics of a good first touch. They should know how to cushion the ball, how to scan for pressure and to consider their options and how to hold their body shape to protect against a tackle. We will assume these are in place, but certainly if they are not, they are important skills on which the coach should work.
The next element to securing an excellent first touch is to become comfortable at receiving the ball on the half term. This enables the receiver to hold up play, turn quickly, increase their passing options and inject speed into a counter attack.
u12 First Touch Soccer Drills: Receiving on the Half Turn
This is a good, rondo style drill because it allows some players to develop the skill under little pressure while other, more accomplished team mates can advance the skill while under heavier pressure.
Seven players, five v two in an 8x8m grid. The grid can be made smaller (for more challenge) or larger (for less) depending on the ability level of the players. One ball.
- One offensive player on each side of the grid. One inside the grid. Two defensive players inside the grid.
- The ball is played into the grid for a first or second touch pass to a team mate. Alternatively, if no pass inside is on, the players on the outside can pass it to another team mate on the outside to change the angle and make space.
- The defenders attempt to win the ball off the grid attacker, or intercept a pass across the grid.
- If the ball is lost, it is returned to the outside to restart the drill.
- Change positions every couple of minutes.
- Ensure all players receive the ball on the half-turn:
- Shoulder towards the passer.
- Arms for balance.
- Low body position.
- Receive with forward foot (nearest the passer) when under pressure.
- This protects the ball,
- Gives more time to the receiver,
- Requires more touches,
- Usually results in a safe backwards or lateral pass.
- Receive with rear foot when not under pressure:
- Allows for the body to complete the turn on receipt of the ball,
- Encourages a more dangerous, forward pass or dribble to launch an attack.
- Cushion the ball so it moves into a perfect playing position (6 inches from the controlling foot, at the angle for the chosen next move).
- Encourage communication.
- Ensure players are constantly moving to find space and be in position to receive the pass.
Add an extra defender.
u 12 Soccer Drills: First Touch to Launch an Attack
Another rondo drill, but one which is closer to a match situation.
- Two teams, attacking side of four players, defense of two plus a keeper.
- Half pitch.
- 3x3m grid in centre.
- Several balls.
- Initially the attack lines up with one player in the grid, two wide and one on the half way line. Defenders each cover one wide player.
- Attack not allowed in front of grid at this stage.
- Play begins with passes into players, who receive on the half turn. They must keep possession, but can only pass laterally or backwards.
- Defense is not allowed in the grid, but can pressure other players.
- After three or four passes, the coach blows their whistle. Now the attack has twenty seconds to score.
- When the ball is now played into the grid, the player there may turn, and all attackers can now advance.
- Still no tackling in grid, but out of grid it is permitted.
- Swap players after each attempt.
- Encourage injection of pace after whistle.
- Ensure movement and communication.
- Ensure first touch remains secure even when attempting to score.
Add additional defense.
(First diagram shows the set up before the coach blows their whistle. Second diagram shows how the attack is launched.)
u12 Soccer Drills First Touch Key
(Diagrams created by Abiprod, using ‘Soccer Drive’)