How to Control a Soccer Ball? Types of Touches & Control Techniques, Tips & Drills

By | Last updated October 14, 2017

By now you’ll surely already know:

NOT all players can possess a good touch.

Really?

To be true, there’s no such case as “butter fingers” soccer players since…

… everyone can greatly develop their ball control skills just by doing the right drills.

In this post (and videos) here, I am going to tell you what those drills are and everything you need to know to take your touch abilities to next level.

Besides our soccer ball control drills, you’ll learn about the four types of touches, the different types of ball control techniques and you’ll even be presented with tons of useful tips on how to control a soccer ball.

The Importance of Ball Control In Soccer

Throughout the years, ball control has become a skill of ever-growing importance, alongside the evolution of the game of soccer.

Nowadays, it is considered to be the most important soccer skill.

Having a proper reception and touch (i.e., a good first touch) allows you to have enough room and time to figure out your next move and prevents you from wasting time with extra touches.

It will end up reducing the amount of pressure you might be facing and allow for better decision-making in tough situations.

On the flip side, not being able to come out with an effective first touch might get you in trouble, make you lose possession and ruin an attacking move.

Possession is nine-tenths of the law and to able to keep possession and hamper your opponents you must first be able to keep great control of the ball.

This set of skills (control and possession) is the hallmark of the world’s best teams and the basis for all of the success of sides like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

To fully understand how to control a soccer ball, we need to differentiate the types of touches and techniques that we can utilize. Only then can we be truly proficient.

What Does “Touch” Mean?

You may have heard someone say “that was a great touch” before.

“Touch” is a term that is used a lot on the field all over the world.

In case you don’t really comprehend what that means, “touch” basically means that a player either:

  • Has made a great movement with his/her feet or body to control the ball which allowed him/her to keep its possession.
  • Has executed a classy and difficult-to-accomplish pass to a teammate.
  • Was able to evade an opponent using an impossible dribble.
  • Has protected the ball from opposing players in order to be able to achieve something for his or her team.

“Touch” or “touches” go hand-in-hand with control and you rarely can have one without the other.

Can the Ability to Perform a Good Touch Be Taught?

There are a lot of coaches from all over the world that believe that this kind of skill (having the ability to come out with a good touch) cannot be taught.

They trust (much like in basketball or any other sport) that a case of “butter fingers” is too much to teach against.

I defiantly refute this assertion.
I honestly believe that a player can be taught control.

Are some players better and more natural to it?
No doubt!

But to think that one can’t be taught how to have a “good touch” is just wrong to me.

Quite the contrary, this is a must-have skill that all players ought to work on.

This is what sets apart the best from the rest.

Look at professional matches and you’ll quickly see why those players are getting paid while you watch!

Types of Touches

There are four basic types of touches that a player needs to know and learn.

These touches are crucial in their development, but they are not to simply be looked over once a player has moved on to bigger and better things.

These skills should constantly be worked on and I suggest them to be used as a warm-up, whether formal or impromptu, wherever you go to play.

Doing this will keep you in the right frame of mind when you actually do come to need these skills.

Inside

The inside touch or using the “insole”, as many like to refer to it, is the zenith of many players’ revolution. After the lace touch, most learn this and then stop suddenly and never progress.

The reason why is because this is probably easily the most comfortable touch to have.

Here’s how to execute the inside touch:

  1. Move your kicking foot out just a slight bit and lock your ankle.
  2. >Nudge the ball to the side, across your body, using the middle of the inside part of the foot.
  3. >Adjust the ankle of your foot to prevent the ball from going too close to you or too far in front of you.

Being able to do this successfully with both feet is often good enough to make a player great at youth level.

Outside

Using the outside or the outsole of the foot is one of many skills often forgotten about.

However, it is particularly useful at keeping defenders away from challenges and helpful to very skilled players.

The outside touch actually takes a lot less effort than the inside and lace touches in terms of body movement.

Here’s how to execute the outside touch:

  1. Move your foot inside just a small bit and lock your ankle.
  2. Shuffle your foot out wide to knock the ball to the side and/or forward.

This is a quick touch and, for those who are able to master it, it can give you the ability to leave opposing players on their backside, cut to the side or turn instantly.

Lace

The lace touch is a very popular touch amongst players.

By making use of the lace touch you’re able to dribble quickly in a straight line or diagonally, move into open spaces and it can also allow you to control the ball out of the air when you’re more advanced.

Here’s how to execute the lace touch:

  1. Lift up your knee, take your foot pointing it down toward the ground and lock your ankle.
  2. While you’re doing that downward movement, give the ball a “pushing motion” with your laces.
  3. Be firm and decisive and you don’t want to push too hard or too gentle.

Sole

A move even less used in general than the outsole is that of the sole. The sole we refer to is the bottom of the foot, so basically the place where your cleats touch the ground.

This move can be tricky to learn at first, but it is absolutely devastating when used correctly.

When I was growing up and still developing, I had a friend that used this to torch opponents with ease.

Here’s how to execute the sole touch:

  1. Get your foot gently on top of the ball.
  2. Drag (or roll) it quickly to the side or behind you.
  3. Or roll it while doing a small hop with your other foot.

This leaves your opponent “for dead”, it allows you to quickly transition into another touch, move to a new direction or turn.

Types of Soccer Ball Control Techniques

Sleep Control

Also known as “cushion control”, what this basically means is trying to absorb the speed, pace or energy of the football so that it stops right where you want it too.

Here’s how to perform the sleep control:

  1. Try to understand where a flying ball is going to fall and position yourself accordingly.
  2. Lifting your leg, place your foot halfway between the ground and the ball’s dropping path.
  3. Lock your ankle and cushion the ball with your toes while bringing your foot down and backwards to absorb the impact. This is how you prevent the soccer ball from bouncing off of your foot.

Alternatively, you can cushion it with your chest. You just need bend down and back to absorb the ball’s speed.

Check the first minute of this video to see how it is done:

Wedge Control

Also referred to as “wedge trap”, this control technique is useful to stop the ball when receiving a pass, you have to force it downwards or you need to send it into a free space.

Here’s how to perform the wedge control:

  1. Stay on your toes to be prepared to move quickly if the ball bounces off or you fail to catch it.
  2. Make the sole of your foot more rigid before making contacting with the ball.
  3. Now gently wedge trap the ball between your foot and the ground.

You can also use the outside or inside of your foot to do a wedge trap.

  • With the outside of your foot, you need to lift your leg and bring the ball down towards the ground with your foot.
  • With the inside of your foot, you need to let the ball bounce once on the ground and touch it to the side with the inside of your foot to wedge trap it.

Watch these two quick videos to see how the wedge trap can be achieved:

Soccer Ball Control Drills

All of this information is a lot to take in to start with.

But if you are able to break it down into small, manageable chunks, your players (or you, the player) will be able to follow along and get the gist of everything.

The first thing I suggest if someone is learning to play for the first time is to start slow and with the simplest thing they can do.

So, for this drill we are going to be leaving the ball on the ground; because control and possession are so interlocked, we are going to work on passing.

Drill 1: Two-Touch Passing

What you need: All you need for this drill is a ball, a player, and a second person or a wall.

How to:

  1. The first thing you want to do is make sure you know how to pass the ball. Simply use your insole to tap the ball to the player or to yourself if you’re using the wall. Keep everything on the ground, so it’s easier to control.
  2. From there, what you want to do is have the receiving player practicing their touch.
  3. Pass the ball (or have your players do it) back and forth with a touch in between each pass.
  4. Knock the ball slightly in front of yourself before giving a pass to the other person and repeating the procedure.

TIP: Teach your players that the ball is an egg. The reason I say this is because an egg must be cracked firmly. If you crack it too hard, all of its contents will be wasted.

This equates to kicking the ball out of bounds. If you crack it too gently, it either won’t crack or it will crack just a small amount and have its contents come out too slowly.

This in soccer leads to you getting the ball “stuck in your feet”, which basically means you will have to twist your body into an unnatural position in order to get somewhere effectively.

Drill 2: Controlling from the Air

What you need: For this drill, you just need a soccer ball, a coach, and your player. You could even leave out the coach and do it yourself!

Setup: Take the ball and throw it into the air. You will want to mix up the heights and velocities as you go, but to begin with keep it simple and consistent.

How to:

  1. The crucial thing is to make sure the player watches the ball carefully at all times.
  2. You (the coach) or another player can even run by him/her in order to simulate a real game, just to give him/her a taste of what that is like.
  3. From there, you need to take the four skills they already know and assure them that it is the same thing, only in aerial form.
  4. The biggest kicker here, though, is to make sure that they know that they need to point their foot down.

Pointing the foot down more (or even arching the chest for those more advanced) ensures that the ball will drop down closer to them.

This is all about angles, so the better and closer your angle is to the ground, the more success you will find.

Leaning back will cause the ball to squirt further and further away. It could be useful in some situations, but we are seeking to teach how to control a soccer ball here!

TIP: Controlling a flying ball is sometimes regarded as a scary part of the game, but it is a skill that is very important if you want to be successful.

Learning to control the ball from the air is very important for older players, especially, but if you can learn/teach it at a young age you will reap great benefits.

TIP: Remember, if you attack the ball you won’t get hurt. But if you fail to do so and are timid, that’s where injuries come from.

Other Ball Control Drills

You can train (or have your players do it) your ball controlling skills by doing lots of other drills. You just need to use your imagination to come up with all sorts of exercises.

Use these drill ideas, for example:

  • Receive the soccer ball with a first touch and pass immediately with a second touch.
  • Keep the ball close to you while going around training cones.
  • Receive the football at different heights, speeds and angles.
  • Receive and control while facing close-by opponents.
  • Receive and pass instantly with a single touch.
  • Absorbing the ball’s pace for a teammate.
  • Controlling the football while running.
  • Redirecting the ball into a free space.

TIP: Not all of these examples are meant for the same level of players. You should only try doing something more difficult when you feel comfortable and efficient at doing something easier.

Soccer Ball Control Tips

You should always practice all of the above types of touches and types of ball control a ton of times with both of your feet to become better at it

It takes time; you will fail a bunch of times, but take it one day at a time and you will find your way into mastering these soccer skills.

To help you with this process, check out these good and valid tips for improving and maintaining your soccer ball control skills.

Juggling

We’ve talked about how to get better at soccer juggling before on a previous article and juggling is, without any doubt, a great way to improve your ball control skills.

Juggling a football will force you to get used to controlling it while it’s coming up and down from and on your foot.

Try using your weaker foot and keep at it; practice juggling at least once a day.

Pay Attention to Your Standing Foot

Your standing or supporting foot is the one which is not being used to control the ball.

Where and how well you place it on the ground will greatly affect your balance and also your flow and momentum.

You will need to pay attention to where you plant it when you’re just getting started practicing any kind of new ball control technique, touch or other soccer skill.

Get use to place it a few feet (or centimeters) away from your other foot and work on that.

When placing your supporting correctly becomes second nature to you, controlling the soccer ball will be easier, quicker and you’ll be far more graceful at it.

Keep the Football Close to Your Foot

Keep the ball close to you at all times.

If you keep it too far in front of you, you’ll lose its possession much more easily as well as risk getting it stolen by the opposite side.

Control the ball with gentle, but firm touches and try and keep it glued to your foot.

It will seem hard to achieve and you’ll feel slow in the beginning, but the more you practice, the better and faster you will become at keeping the ball close to you and controlling it.

Practice Everything with Both Feet

The more resources you can gather to add to your soccer skills, the greater player you will turn out to be.

Let’s say you are good at shooting, dribbling and juggling with your right foot. By practicing and getting efficient at doing the same with your left foot, you will just have doubled your set of skills.

So… train every ability, touch and skill with both of your feet, especially ball control. It’s probably something you won’t feel like doing, but it will sure benefit you as a player.

When you’re able to control the soccer ball with your two feet, you’ll be better than the vast majority of the other players.

No more will the “force him/her to control the football with the weaker foot” defending tactic have any effect on you!

By then you’ll be able to cut, change directions, run and move to wherever you like regardless of where you are on the pitch or of whatever situation you’re facing.

Use Ball Control Exercises to Warm Up

As I suggested above, doing ball control exercises as a warm-up routine will put you in the right frame of mind for when you need these skills during a training session or match; plus, your ball controlling ability will greatly improve.

I know for a fact that not every player enjoys this kind of drills, but starting your warm-up with the most difficult and important skill is the smartest approach as you’ll be fresher, more focused and filled with energy.

Make Use of Every Type of Control and Kind of Touch

Unstoppable.

That’s how other players and coaches will see you, when you can make use of every type of control and touch described in this article.

So practice them hard, every day and use them to control the ball at lightning speed, turn instantly, dribble past opponents with class and art and cut to the sides unexpectedly.

Master all of the above and no one will stop you!

Stand on Your Toes

Does it feel really hard to control the soccer ball?
Are you slow at doing it? Does the ball get away from you easily?

Standing on your toes is a good idea to get yourself ready for when the ball bounces off or you fail to catch it. Bit by bit, as you practice controlling the football more and more, everything will become easier to you.

Ball Control Should Be Learned Before Anything Else

Learning how to control a soccer ball should be the very first skill you learn before anything else.

Ball control is the foundation to mastering every other soccer skill there is like passing, dribbling, shooting, crossing, etc.

Use Any Part of Your Body to Control the Ball

You can use anything — i.e., any part of your body (expect your hands, if you’re not the goal-keeper) — to control a soccer ball.

Just check this list of possibilities:

  • Head: Besides being used to shoot, your head can also be used to control a soccer ball. Utilize your forehead, right below the hairline.
  • Chest: As referred above, you can use your chest to absorb the impact of a flying ball. You may have to arch your back a bit and bend your knees or jump depending on how fast the ball is going.
  • Thigh: Your thighs can also be used to control a soccer ball. Use the middle section of the top of your thigh to do it. Or the inside to stop fast balls.
  • Sole: As described in the wedge control technique sub-section above, you need to raise your toes while keeping your heel down to trap a football before taking it forward, passing to a colleague, dribbling or changing direction.
  • Instep: Used to do the lace touch I explained earlier. Cushion a falling from a steep angle ball with your laces by stretching your ankle first and bending it and your knee when the ball makes contact.
  • Outside of your foot: Stop the ball when it’s going across in front of you by reaching forward and intercepting its path.
  • Inside of your foot: Use the arch of your foot to control the football; before you do it, though, don’t forget to place your supporting foot in a 45 to 90 degrees angle relative to the route of the soccer ball.

Consider the Circumstances at All Times

To achieve efficiency at controlling a soccer ball you need to consider the different circum-stances at all times and think about what you need to do.

For instances:

  • How hard or soft your touch needs to be to achieve whatever you plan to do next.
  • Finding passing possibilities before actually having received the ball.
  • Where to go and what to do when you get the ball.
  • Redirecting the football away from defenders.

Other Soccer Ball Controlling Tips

Here are a few more quick soccer ball controlling tips:

  • Notice the ball to gauge how fast it is going and where it’s heading.
  • Pay attention to what’s happening on the pitch.
  • Pick the best position to intercept the ball.
  • Use your arms to keep balance.
  • Be calm, focused and relaxed.

Conclusion

Control and touch are, as crazy as it might sound, becoming more and more important in the modern game of soccer.

Everyone wants to see players that know how to keep hold of the ball for prolonged periods of the game.

Even teams that are setting out to counterattack want players that are able to bring the ball in when they are called into action. Because of this, players need to learn these skills.

Many of them are very simple, and if they are taught correctly at a young age, players can begin to do them without a second thought. This should be the goal of every coach, parent and young player.

If you or your child can master the skills, techniques, tips and drills above, you or they can be well above many of their teammates and rivals for years to come!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and that it has helped you fully understand how to control a soccer ball!

Please share it and/or leave a comment as a “thank you”, it’ll be much appreciated!

Thanks and until next time!
–Coach Mike