In my previous blog I talked about the importance of updating our attitude towards football, to a more professional mind set or thinking pattern.
It's not enough to just think in a professional manner but, in terms of our game we need to upgrade it to a more professional level as well. One of the preliminary steps to doing that is to master our First Touch. This is so basic that as players and coaches we often overlook this phenomenon. We often think we will learn it along the way, but I have been proven wrong time and again. We don't learn it unless we practice it. Even the best of players still continue their practice on first touch.
What is first touch all about?
How a player controls the ball when they receive a pass is what refers to First Touch. When one receives the ball there are three possible things they are bound to do: pass it, shoot it or dribble it.
In my coaching sessions with kids 13 and below, first touch has been my prime focus. Children between 3-6 years of age enjoy kicking and running around with a ball. But with kids from 7-10 years I am keen on teaching them all about first touch in football. This is the age where they begin to feel the ball more with their feet. They watch a lot of soccer which influences them to imitate professionals like Ronaldo, Neymar, Messi, Muller and other prominent players who become their heroes, that is why it is important to start teaching this technique or skill set as you may call it, which emphasises on the ability of the child to control the ball on receiving it and directing it on just the first touch.
The game of football usually gets faster as children grow older. The famous tiki-taka style practiced by the Spanish giants Barcelona, developed by the legendary coach Johan Cryuff is simply based on movement with quick passes. A lot of focus here is on quick first touches.
In a 90 minute game the best of the best players get to touch the ball for a maximum of 80-90 seconds if they are lucky. Therefore, more of the game is played without the ball than with it, because the time with the ball is so limited. It is very important to touch the ball at the right moment and also think ahead to what needs to be done when one is in possession of the ball. In order to improve our game we must get faster and for us to get faster the first touch needs to be perfected.
In a nation like ours where perfect football fields are very rare, awkward bounces often catch our players off guard. During my college football days I had a player from Yemen who could just dribble with the ball in the air. He could control and run with the ball almost across the field with the ball mostly in air. It's only later on I got to know that since Yemen is full of sand, players are forced to play a lot with the ball in the air.
Indian fields are not levelled and awkward bounces make it difficult for players to play. When it rains the fields get clogged by water, but the game doesn't end. The ball needs to be controlled and played in the air. Therefore we get no excuse. Players need to perfect their touch with any part of the ball, whether in the air or on the ground. Coaches need to make it their priority to work on a player’s first touch.
So what can take our game to the next level? It's perfecting our first touch. It makes us faster and more creative. It's time we up our game!
It's not important if you have the ball, what is most important is what do you do when you have the ball?
Vijay David, Assistant Coach, BCFC .