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A True Game Changer: The First Touch

January 10, 2016

 

In a 90 minute game, how long does the average player have the ball at their feet?

A. 11 minutes

B. 3 minutes

C. 1 minute

D. 7 minutes

 

Believe it or not, the average player has individual possession of the ball for around 90 seconds…on a good day. A study in the Journal of Sports Sciences compiled various player statistics from professional and youth leagues. They found that on average:

·      Players had 47 possessions per 90 minute match.

·      Central forwards had the fewest possessions at 35 while outside defenders had the most at 56.

·      Professional players mostly had two-touch possessions before the ball was passed, shot, or lost.

These statistics suggest that a player gets about 90 touches which translate to about 53 seconds of individual possession which is less than 1% of the time played!

Games are won and lost in a split second. In a way, our individual games are won and lost in those split seconds as well. If we have a good first touch, keep possession, and do something meaningful with the ball, the game is enjoyable. Our confidence rises, we ask for the ball and get more involved. If we have a bad touch that results in a turnover, it’s easy to get self-conscious and want to hide on the field.

Improving your first touch comes with practice, but below are a few things to keep in mind.

A good touch starts before you even receive the ball.

Take a look at your surroundings. Are there defenders on you or do you have space to dribble? Where you want to go with the ball will determine the type of first touch you want.

Be ready to react.

As you see the ball coming, make sure you are on your toes. This allows you to adapt to any bounces or redirects the ball may take, and makes it easier for you to position your body to get the exact type of first touch you want.

Finding the sweet spot. A good first touch is difficult because you have to hit the ball just right. If your first touch is too far away from your body, you are no longer able to control and protect the ball, which makes a defenders job very easy. If your first touch cushions the ball too much, then you’ll end up on top of the ball and it will take extra time and touches to set up your next move, allowing the defender to quickly close you down.

When we have the ball at our feet for such a limited time, every touch matters. What element of your first touch could you improve on?

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