Soccer: Controlling the Ball

Controlling the ball is the single most important skill in soccer. To play effectively you must learn to control the ball.

First Touch

The most important touch you will make when controlling the ball is the first touch. This is when you get the ball, what you do with it when you first touch the ball. Ideally you will be able to do something productive with the first touch. Either pass the ball to another player or move the ball away from the defenders to where you want to go. However, sometimes this is not possible and you have to first trap the ball, get control of it, and then make your next move. All soccer players should practice their first touch.

Trapping the Ball

One way to gain control of a difficult ball is to trap or “catch” the ball. The key to trapping is not to be rigid. Whether you are using your feet, thighs, or chest to trap the ball, the concept is the same.

Let’s take using your foot, for example. When trapping the ball with your foot you want to hold your foot still and then move it backwards when the ball hits. This way the ball should just stop. You don’t want the ball bouncing off your foot and away from you.


Learning to use your feet to control the ball is the first step in soccer. Whether dribbling, passing, or shooting the ball, you will use your feet more than any other part of your body for soccer. You should practice trapping the ball from the ground and from out of the air. Passing, shooting, and dribbling drills can help you improve your ability to control the ball.

Knees and Thighs

Sometimes you just can’t get to the ball with your feet, but you can use your knees or thighs to trap the ball and get it under control.


If the ball is too high to trap with your legs or feet, you can use your chest. You can either catch or trap the ball with your chest, causing it to drop in front of you or you can “run through” the ball. When you run through the ball you can cause the ball to move in a direction that you want to go.


NOTE: We don’t recommend that kids practice or perform headers. Some doctors and studies show that repeated blows to the head can cause serious injury. However, we do discuss headers on this page as they are a part of the sport of soccer.

For very high balls and sometimes for scoring, you can use your head. The best place to connect with the ball is in the middle of the forehead. You can use your head to trap the ball, pass it to another teammate, and even score off of a pass or a corner kick.

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