How to coach receiving skills in football
Sharon Muxworthy, FA coach development officer, shares ways to help your players develop their football receiving skills.
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. Your players must be able to scan the pitch and plan their moves to be successful 'receivers'. This allows them to prepare for possession and unleash their technical skills once they get the ball.
So, here's how to design a session that supports your team.
1. Create the right environment
This is about building an environment that encourages your team's development. For example, you might spot a few nervous players when you design a session focusing on receiving. 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. Maybe there's something about their balance or approach that, with a little tweak, can help them gain confidence and succeed under pressure.
2. Use small-sided games
If you want to improve your players' ability to receive, small-sided games are essential.
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 an excellent opportunity to practise core skills – such as adapting body shape or communicating effectively.
3. Ask players: 'what next'?
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 to receive – and succeed once they get the ball.
4. Consider body shape
As we've mentioned already, body shape is an important part of receiving. In fact, players in different positions use their body shapes in various ways to maximise impact.
To help your players understand this, ask them to consider how each team member 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 bodies in a way that allows them to see more of the pitch.
5. Focus on the first touch
This is about coaching your team to anticipate the game.
Encourage them to move towards the ball's path – 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 players to improve, you must 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.