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Basic Techniques for Receiving the Ball

Ages: 8+; Equipment: Cones, balls; Players: 4+


Introduce some very basic ball control movements, such as hat dance, ball rolls, and forward/backward moves. Do stretches as you switch from one move to another.

Individual Work

The most critical skill which a soccer player can possess is the ability to get the ball under control on his first touch. Without a good first touch, the player is vulnerable to losing possession and is distracted from his task of deciding where to go next (because he has no idea where the ball might go after he touches it for the first time).

This lesson plan deals with very basic receiving and stopping of the ball which is coming toward the player on the ground. Over time, the player will need to learn to control balls which are bouncing or which are coming out of the air. To develop those skills, it is essential that the player learn to juggle the ball. Later practice plans deal with teaching juggling and air-ball receiving.

Two basic skills will be taught in this lesson, because these skills are all fairly easy to learn. As the skills get harder, you will want to devote an entire practice to just 1 or 2 skills.

The skills are: The Wedge Trap and The Outside of the Foot Trap. The first trap which you will introduce is the Wedge Trap (which can be used to stop the ball or push it inward to be played by the opposite foot). This trap is easiest to perform when the player is moving at slower speeds or is standing.

  1. Wedge Trap
  2. The key coaching points for a wedge trap are:

    1. Plant foot is turned slightly outward, with knee bent;

    2. Receiving leg is bent and foot is turned sharply outward with heel dropped down, so that lower leg/foot makes an "L" shape;

    3. Lift receiving foot off of the ground about 4-5 inches, so that contact with the incoming ball is made just below the top of the ball.

    4. Relax the foot/leg as the ball makes contact, so that the ball is cushioned to a stop.

    Teaching The Wedge Trap

    Set up a line of small grids, about 2 yards square. Divide players into pairs. Put one player on one side of the grid, with 2 balls. Put the other player on the opposite side of the grid. The player who has the balls will gently roll a ball towards the opposing player, who traps the ball with a wedge trap. Once the ball is stopped, he passes the ball back to the roller (don't worry about passing technique at this stage - you will work on passing later). Havethe receiver do 10 wedge traps, and then swap turns with the roller.

    The players will discover that, if their foot is set at the proper height, the ball will wedge under the foot and will come to a stop. However, most of the time in soccer, you do not want the ball to come to a full stop -because you become a sitting duck for an attacker.

    So, once the players each have had a turn, do a second round in which the player tries to just catch the ball enough to slow it down and then taps it to the inside (if right-footed, tap to left) so that he can pass back to the roller with his left foot. Again, don't worry about proper passing technique (although you can use it in your demos). Right now, we are worrying about learning how to catch the ball and lay it up to the inside for a pass by the opposite foot.

  3. Outside of Foot Trap
  4. The next trap which will be taught is the outside of the foot trap. This is the most often used trap in soccer, because it can be used quite effectively when moving. Basically, the object of this trap is to simply slow the ball down, and then redirect it.

    Key coaching points are:

    1. Point the toe down and roll the foot over so that the outter edge is pointing toward the ground, bending the knee and pulling the foot towards the opposite side of the body. Experiment so that you can turn the front of the foot into as flat a surface as possible to receive the ball.

    2. Turn slightly away from the ball, so that the knee of your receiving leg can point towards the incoming path of the ball.

    3. Make contact with the ball, catching the ball so that the middle of the foot is vertically centered on the ball and the foot basically wraps around the ball (with the toes at the loweredge and the heel at the upper opposite edge of the ball).

    4. As the ball meets the foot, relax the knee so that the lower leg can swing freely inward ("give"), which allows you to take speed off the ball and allows the ankle to aid in trapping the ball as your leg "gives" backward.

    Teaching Outside of the Foot Trap

    Use the same procedure as before, with a roller at one end of the grid and a receiver at the other. Have the receiver move toward the ball to catch it with the outside of the foot, redirect the ball to the side and then pass it back to the roller. Again, do not worry about passing technique - although it is okay to simply use good technique (kids often will mimic you - even without specific direction). What you want to do is develop the ability to catch the ball with the foot - and then lay it off to the outside for a pass with the same foot.

    At your next practice, you will work on passing. However, spend the necessary time to work on receiving first. Receiving technique is the basic foundation for almost all other soccer skills - and it is essential that theplayers learn to do this task correctly before moving on.

    The absolute best way to perfect receiving technique (so that it becomes automatic) is to find a wall and use it as a backstop (like a tennis backstop) and pass/receive repeatedly against the wall. Good players may spend as much as 30 minutes or more each day on basic wall work. Encourage your players to do this while watching TV or talking on the phone. Because the ball stays on the floor, many mothers can be convinced to allow the child to practice indoors - using stairs or the side of a chair or even an interior wall as the backstop. If Mom prefers that a smaller or lighter ball be used, this is fine. Indeed, the Brazilian National Team reportedly used tennis balls in their hotel rooms for precisely this purpose- and the basic technique and development of eye/foot coordination is the same.

Small Group Work

Now that you have the basic receiving technique down, you want to start learning how to use this technique in game situations. The general Rule of Thumb (ROT) of receiving is that you always receive the ball in a way which will allow you to take the ball into space and away from pressure.

In this work, you will put 3 players in a medium grid (about 15' x 20'). One will be the server, who stands at the end of the grid; one will be the receiver, who will be inside the grid; and the other will be a shadow defender to apply mostly psychological pressure (i.e., he doesn't try to steal the ball at this stage).

The three most common ways in which a player will receive the ball are: with a defender at his back; with a defender standing to one side; and with a defender coming in hard from the front. You will introduce how to receive the ball in order to handle each of these 3 situations.

Start with the defender behind the receiver; have the receiver come towards the ball to receive it in order to briefly shake the defender off his back (which is a technique known as "checking to the ball"); and then pass the ball to the server. Switch positions after 5 serves and let the other players try this.

Next, have the defender stand to one side of the receiver; have the receiver take the ball with the outside of the far foot (the foot which is farther away from the D) in order to carry the ball even farther away from the defender; and then pass back to the server. After 5 tries, switch positions until everyone has tried this.

Now, put the defender at the upper corner of the grid (by the server) and have him start walking towards the receiver as soon as the ball is served. Have the receiver check to the ball at an angle to cut off the defender;receive the ball with the outside of the foot (turning his body to protect the ball as much as possible); and then pass back quickly. After 5 tries, rotate positions.

Coaching Note: You will need to repeat these drills (or some variations) quite frequently as you train your players. Obviously, you will need to get your players to game speed - as their defenders are unlikely to be passive in trying to win the ball. You are slowing things down just to get the ideas across - and to allow success while the receiving skills are still very new. Keep using restrictions and/or extra space to give time for these skills to develop. Ultimately, you will want players who can receive, shield and play the ball back with a single touch in very tight quarters. This will not happen in one day, one week, or even one season of work. However, if you continue to emphasize these basic concepts, and develop the underlying skills needed to make the concepts work, your players will develop very nicely over time.

Large Group Work

Play 2v2+2, as follows. Combine the adjoining grids, so that you have 4 players inside the grid (2 for each team - use pinnies to identify them) and another teammate for each team who is on the outside of the grid. Have 3-4 balls at the side of the grid, to keep things moving.

Have one of the outside players start, by rolling a ball into a teammate - who must receive it and pass it back - or pass it to the other teammate inside the grid before the opponents can touch it. A successful reception & pass is worth 1 point. The ball is then rolled out to the opposing team's outside player (if it was kicked away, use a new ball), and he tries to get the ball to his teammates inside the grid. Continue the contest until one team has 5 points, thenswap the outside players with inside players and repeat.

Scrimmage (optional if running out of time)

Put small cone goals at the end of each grid, and play 3v3 without restrictions. After this much technical and tactical work, the players need a rest - so just let them play and try out the new skills.

Updated 3 April 1999
Overview | Principles | Resources | Guidelines | Practices | Game Day | Very Young | More Reading