By Justin Cresser
No matter what phase of the season we are in, I always include an activity that focuses on improving my Players’ first touch. I think this is extremely important, especially at the youth level.
The following is an exercise I like to use during the competition phase at it emphasizes several components of soccer conditioning. It incorporates short sprints, anaerobic conditioning, agility, and it also develops a player’s first touch. You can also use it as a warm-up routine.
Divide your players into groups of 4. Each group will have 2 working players and 2 non-working or passing players. For each group of 4, set up the following station:
Place two large ones 30 yards apart in a straight line. Have a non-working player stand at each cone with a ball at their feet. Place two small cones in between these two large cones so that they are 10 yards apart and each small cone is 10 yards away from one of the larger cones. Have a working player stand at each of these small cones facing the non-working player closest to them (Figure 1).
As soon as they make the return pass, have them turn and touch the cone where they started, and then sprint towards the passing player at the opposite end. As they start the sprint, the passing player will play the ball in space for them to return with one (or two) touches as before (Figure 3). Note: They must touch the cone before making the sprint. You can also have them do a push-up or jump at the cone instead.
Continue this sequence for 90 seconds and then have the players switch roles. Have each pair perform a total of 4 to 5 working repetitions. However, you should vary the activity after each repetition. For example, you can restrict the players to one-touch; ask the passing players to give the working players bounced passes or air balls; or you can have the players return the ball with a header instead of a pass with the feet.
For the last 90-second repetition, have the players perform the following variation: When they sprint towards the pass, instead of returning it to the player, have them perform a half (180-degree) turn with their first touch so that they are facing the opposite direction (Figure 4).
- They players must accelerate towards the pass using rapid and powerful strides. This exercise is meant to be performed at a high intensity, so encourage your players to work hard for each 90-second cycle
- As they approach, they must get their bodies behind the line of the ball and quickly choose what surface they want to receive the pass with
- When passing they should be compact over the ball. The ankle should be locked and the toes should be pointing upwards. Ensure that the passing leg follows through towards the target
- Coach the weight and accuracy of the passes
- When the player is about to perform the half-turn, have them pivot on the front leg and open the hips on the other side so that they can receive the ball with the back foot and then face forwards
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.