Trapping aka First Touch, Receiving
Are these the only 3 things you need as a soccer player? NO
But, these 3 things are needed to get onto the other stuff.
I do not think you should make it onto competitive team if you don’t have these 3 things. I don’t care how fast you are, how far you can boom the ball, who you can knock down or how great you are at scoring. If you can’t do these 3 things, you will make it tougher for everyone else on the field to learn.
I see so many youth and HS teams struggle because they have so many players that can’t do these things and there seems to be no urgency to fix or awareness that it’s a problem.
The good news is anyone can become competent at these things with 6 months of good effort. The sad thing is, there’s no good feedback to encourage it and few do it.
This is a common gripe among coaches I know. They do tell their players to work on it. But, the problem is the players still get to play every week, they get play time and they usually get to play the position that they want, so why should they put in the effort to learn?
The idea that ‘they will figure it out’ if you let them play doesn’t work.
Let me be more specific on these skills.
By trapping, I mean that you should be able to stop a ball with the inside of both feet. Same with passing.
By dribbling, I’m not talking about Leo Messi 1v1 attack dribbling. I’m talking about what I call evasive dribbling. The ability to move and turn with the ball to dribble away from defenders and into space and find a pass. That means basic taps with inside, outside of both feet and pullbacks, to keep the ball close (e.g. one touch on the ball for every step of the right foot), rather than just kicking the ball into space and chasing it.
Again, these aren’t the only skills you will ever need in soccer. But, if you don’t have these, it’s going to be chaos/turnover ball where your key strategy for winning is to hope for good fortune.
The other sad thing is that these are the easiest skills to work on. Players can work on them 365 days a year, in their homes.
The fastest way to get better at trapping and passing is to kick the ball against something. I find that kicking a ball against the base of a couch works just as well as kicking it against a wall or rebounder outside. I also find that kicking tennis balls, size 1 balls or even small foam balls against the wall works. All those build the muscle memory to make you subconsciously competent at these things.
The best way to get better at dribbling is to do it. This can all be done in a small space inside. There are tons of videos out there to give you ideas. Renegade Soccer Training and the Techne app booth offer affordable programs that can also help tremendously and can be done inside.
Even one hour a week over a 6 month period can do wonders.
As a parent or player, here’s a basic test for you: take notice of your turnover ratio in games. If it is less than 70%, there’s work to do.
Also, be aware as you start the work. Watch how the game around you changes from battling for the ball to opening the game up because you become more consistent at being able to hang onto the ball and connect good passes that can really open things up for you offense.
I’ll say it one last time: these aren’t the only things you need. Over time you will want to even advance these skills.
For example, you will want to learn to trap the ball with most of your body parts. You will want to be able to trap the ball dead or first touch in a direction away from pressure.
You will want to be able to dribble past defenders 1v1, which will open the game up even more.
And, you will also want to learn to score, defend, tackle, talk, drive the ball for distance and accuracy and so on. But, without these first three things, you will be struggle to use any of the rest of that to good effect in games because you will be too busy chasing down your turnovers.