First Touch Is Still King

Jϋrgen Klopp is a hot commodity these days.  You see him interviewed all over the internet.  He is a great interview, loves the camera and most importantly has some excellent advice for us novice coaches.

He was asked to give some advice to players and coaches.  Here is what he said, “The more you do with the ball – the more you play with the ball – the better you will get.  Nobody should think that any world class player recognized when he was 10 (years old) ‘there’s a ball.’  That makes it quite easy then for youth coaches, because we have to start with technical things . . . The first touch for example.  (If) the first touch is perfect – and everyone can train the first touch – then you have time to see what’s around you.  If you take 5 seconds to control this thing of leather (the ball) then everything has changed around you.”[i]

 I am a High School Boys Coach.  Our season is just beginning.  We have a mix of 9-12 grades with skill levels varying from “premier” club players to “I haven’t played since I was 8 years old.”  So where do I start?

I pair up my seniors with my freshmen and juniors with my sophomores.  Everyone has a ball.  And we begin – simply – on controlling the ball.  I yell out, “4 touch lateral motion” and they execute it.  The freshmen may not know it, but the seniors do and they teach the freshmen.  “Drag back turn.”  “Outside hook turn.”  And on we go.

This year I tried something a bit different.  Two weeks before training began I sent all of the players (or their parents for the incoming freshmen) an invitation to download the MOTI app with the foundation, advanced and premier soccer skills preloaded for them to view and work on at home.  I sent them an email to encourage them to check out the skills on the app and practice them before our training began because we would be working on them all season.

On the first day of training, at the first practice I pulled out my cell phone, talked about the MOTI App they all were invited to join and started calling out skills.  “Dribble at your partner.  Now show me your drag back turn with your right foot and dribble away.  Again, this time show me your drag back turn with your left foot.”  On we went.  Right through the foundation skills.

The next day we started the same way.  We went over the foundation skills and then added some of the advanced skills.  By the end of the week all of the foundation, advanced and premier dribbling and passing skills had been introduced and practice in a fun way with the novice players learning not only from the App but also from the veteran players.  Great skills.  Great team building.

Now here is the clincher.  I took a look at the analytics before the first practice.  Less than 20% of the team had looked at the skills on the App, and those were primarily my captains, coaches and senior leaders.  At the end of the week almost 80% had viewed the skills on the App.  Then I looked at the number of uses.  They guys who were really trying to make varsity had a ton of uses.  They guys who really didn’t care that much about making the varsity but just wanted to be a part of the program – at least for this season – not so many views.  And the non viewers where mostly the freshmen who did not have the invitation sent directly to them but to their parents!  Hum.

It shows on the field too.  Just like Jϋrgen said, it is all about the first touch.  Now my players have another tool to help them improve their first touch and I have another tool to help me evaluate my players desire to play at the highest level in my program.

[i] (2017) Jϋrgen
Klopp shares his secrets to coaching success [Video] Retrieved August 21,
2019 from

By Brad Carlson

Brad has coached a variety of sports in the community, middle school, and high school for 40 years including coaching the MN 2021 Class A State High School Champion.  He has coached soccer from U6 at the recreational level to U19 at the club level and all age groups at the high school level, including 11 years as a head coach.  He holds a USSF "B" coaching license and USC diplomas.