Top tips for receiving the ball

Guide All Ages

Sharon Muxworthy, FA coach development officer, shares some simple session-based tips to help your players develop this essential skill.

If you think about receiving, you’ll probably focus on the feel of the ball at your feet.

But that’s not where this skill starts. To be successful ‘receivers’, your players must be able to scan the pitch and plan their moves. This allows them to prepare for possession and, once they get the ball, unleash their technical skills.

So, here’s how your sessions can support them.

This is about building an environment that encourages your team’s development. For example, when you design a session that focuses on receiving, you might spot a few nervous players. They’re the ones who hide from the ball and avoid gaining possession – just in case they lose it.

If you identify a player struggling with this fear, it’s important to nurture them with supportive feedback. This aligns to the ‘art of noticing’. Maybe there’s something about their balance or approach that, with a little tweak, can help them gain confidence and succeed while under pressure.

If you want to improve your players’ ability to receive, small-sided games are key.

For example, by playing 3v3 or 2v1, your team get to experience varied and realistic practice. During these games, they receive the ball at different angles and paces, and in different areas. They also get to play against an opposition.

This approach provides a great opportunity to practise essential skills – such as adapting body shape or communicating effectively.

Receiving isn’t just about getting the ball. Skilled players also think about what happens next.

So, during sessions, challenge your team to consider the future. Instead of getting the ball and then making a decision, encourage players to scan the pitch and plan their next move before they gain possession. Useful pointers include asking players:

  • where do you want your pass to go?
  • how should you position your body to complete this pass?

Considering these questions will help players prepare themselves to receive – and succeed once they get the ball too.

As we’ve mentioned already, body shape is an important part of receiving. In fact, players in different positions use their body shape in various ways to maximise their impact.

To help your players understand this, ask them to consider how each member of the team might receive the ball. You could also set challenges, such as: ‘can you get into a position where you can see both the ball and the goal?’. In doing this, players begin to open up their body in a way that allows them to see more of the pitch.

This is about coaching your team to anticipate the game.

Encourage them to move towards the path of the ball – just like you would move to meet a friend. This approach allows players to gain possession early and control the ball in their natural stride. Plus, it means they’re less likely to be intercepted.

A player’s first touch should also be influenced by the movement of their teammates. Being aware of where others are and what they’re doing means that players will be better able to complete a pass or accelerate into space with the ball.

When it comes to receiving, your team won’t get it right all the time. If you want them to improve, you need to give them time to practise in realistic situations. You should also provide positive reinforcement. This helps to promote confidence – especially if a player is just beginning their football journey.

To explore more on receiving the ball, check out some of our sessions here.

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