Receiving the soccer ball is one of the most critical soccer skills. After all, if you can’t receive the ball you won’t be able to do anything else. Let’s break down how to successfully receive a soccer ball.
- Decide what to do after you receive the ball – this might be a surprise but the before the ball even comes close you need to have an idea of what to do with it once you have control of it. Why? Because it will set up the first touch and the subsequent play. For example, do I want to play a one touch pass, a cross, control and dribble, control and go 1v1, shield and wait for support, etc.
- Get in position – you need to position your body facing the ball to eventually gain control. If you are standing, face the ball. If you are running and it’s an “over the top” ball it will land in front of you and you’ll be facing it naturally.
- Attack and Cushion the ball – It is important to move towards the ball to avoid an opponent getting between you and the ball. At the same time, the last motion prior to making contact is one of slight pull back to cushion it if you want to control the ball (if it’s a one time kick/pass cushioning does not apply). My favourite way to demonstrate this in practice is my “boiled egg toss”. I bring boiled eggs and tell players they are raw eggs. Then I pair up the players and put them a few steps across from each other. Then they get to toss the egg back and forth. I ask them to throw it just a bit short of their partner. You will see players move toward the egg to avoid it falling to the ground. And just before catching it they will pull arms and hands back slightly so that the egg “slides” into their grasp. This is the same way you want to attack and cushion a ball. When I drop my egg and it doesn’t splatter we always get a good laugh.
- First touch – has to be in the direction of the intended next play, based on the decision you made before you received the ball. Always keep your eye on the ball during this receiving process.
- The Play – after the first touch, look up and scan the field to see if the play you decided on is still available. If it is, execute it, if it isn’t, make a new decision. For example if you planned to receive the ball and dribble it down the side but the opponents since closed down the space or an opponent is close to you, you may decide to shield, hold, and pass.
- Move – the final action is to move after you executed the play so that you’re available to offer support and options to your team mates.
Observe your players during practice drills and in games and correct any of the above steps on an individual basis. Our practice plans have lots of soccer drills offering opportunities to perfect ball receiving and control.