Many young players don’t like to first-time a ball. First-timing means to pass it or play it before it’s trapped or comes to a complete stop. This is partially due to the fact that since they’ve been very young, they’ve been trained to properly trap first and then pass. It takes time before players feel they’re even allowed to first-time a ball. Usually they lack confidence in their ability to play it quickly and accurately. Developing good control is important when it comes to first-timing a ball.
It’s impossible to play the ball first-time all the time, nor would you want to, but first-time play is usually a great way to break through tight defenses because it helps change the pace. There are many creative ways to develop comfort with first-time (or one-touch) play.
Let’s take a look at a few practice drills and games to strengthen this ability in your players. These drills are suitable for kindergarten age players up through more advanced stages, such as under-16 year-olds.
Drill 1) Try a simple practice with a ball between two players standing about 15 yards apart. The idea is simply to pass the ball back and forth without trapping it. This sounds easy, but have the players try to string together fifteen passes, or twenty. Competitions can be created and the team who makes the most crisp first-time passes wins. Players will soon realize that the ball doesn’t always come to them along the ground. Sometimes it needs to be volleyed.
This drill soon becomes a first-time passing practice requiring a high degree of touch and feel, both qualities you want your young players to develop.
Drill 2) Groups of five players with one ball can work another routine in the center circle. Eleven positions should be marked on the edge of the circle, one for each player and a spare. The object of the exercise is for the player with the ball to pass to any other player and immediately run to the spare position.
The player receiving the ball must play it first time to somebody else and again sprint to the spare position which now is where the first player was standing. This continuous practice of first-time passing and running helps players become aware of finding space. You can even add a defender to try to intercept the passes.
Drill 3) Once players are aware of space and support, a six-a-side game, in which everyone must play the ball first time, is a great drill. A full-sided game of one-touch is the next step. Your players will look forward to this exercise.
Instruct your players that they’ll also find that even though they are watching the ball, they can still see other players partner out of the corner of their eye. This awareness enables them to play the ball to their teammates when they move off after playing the ball to you. This introduction of movement is a natural progression from doing these types of exercises standing still. One-touch soccer adds variation to the attack and gives you a natural ingredient to quickening the pace of a game.