First Touch Training in ‘The Cage’

When I’m constructing an activity for a training session I try to make sure there is an opportunity for the players to work on their first touch. After all, every individual action begins with a first touch. A one touch pass is really just a controlled first touch to another player.

I also like use an exercise to specifically focus on the player’s first touch with a warm-up activity that I can not take credit for coming up with. I observed a very well respected local coach run this exercise with his team and I later asked him to break it down for me. Since then I’ve made it a regular part of every training cycle.

The Cage


Here is the basic set-up. You can add more ‘Cages’ on either side as long as you maintain the pattern so that flow remains the same.


Here is how the players pass and move from one station to the next. The passers follow their pass to join the back of the line behind the cage.

You can begin by asking the players to control the pass with one touch and then take another touch before dribbling out the SIDE of the cage. Allow the players to dribble out of either side at first but as the become comfortable with the pattern ask them to control the ball with one foot and dribble out of the cage with the other so that they are receiving the ball across their body.


Coaching Points

  • The receiver should check toward the ball and call for it to trigger the pass
  • Quality of pass
  • Lock your ankle when passing and receiving the ball to create a solid surface to control the ball
  • Absorb the energy of the ball and direct it where you want it to go



  • Control the with inside of one foot and then use the outside of the same foot to dribble out of the cage
  • Control with the outside of the foot and then take a second touch with the same surface to dribble out
  • Receive with the inside of either foot across the body so that the ball goes through the side of the cage with one touch
  • Receive with the outside of either foot so that  the ball goes through the side of the cage with one touch
  • Open up to receive the ball with the back foot and play in out the BACK of the cage with the next touch

There are many other techniques you can ask the players to perform but these are the first ones I use.


As a further progression, the passer becomes a defender that pressures the receiver. You can ask the defender to pressure the attacker on the same side that they receive the ball to force the attacker to move away from that space or allow the defender to choose where he pressures.


You can also have the pressure come from behind and challenge the next player in line to try to touch the ball away from the receiver so that he can work to move the ball away from that type of pressure.


Having the passers throw the ball in to the receiver challenges them with a more difficult ball to control. All of the previous progressions can also be used with a ball that is thrown rather than passed on the ground.

Do you have any other ways that this format can be used to develop the players first touch? Please leave them in the comments section below.

Have a great day!



  1. Istvan says:

    I think it’s a great exercise. I also use it with a slight difference. I set the cage up of two different colours. Let’s say blue and red. So two corners on the same side of the cage are marked with these colours. The idea is to control the way out from the cage by saying blue or red to the player inside the cage, just before reciving the ball.

  2. Joe Andrews says:

    Great warm up. Would you consider this age-appropriate for U-17? Thank you

    • says:

      I’ve used it with U17’s and they enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. You can challenge them with a longer pass if they find it too easy.

  3. Joe Andrews says:

    awesome. thanks so much. I’ll give it a go tonight

  4. Ouesso says:

    Very nice exercise. I’ve implemented in female football team this evening and they really enjoyed it. I developped mustly their mobility and the pressure of the defender on the player receiver. Thank you very much because something more has been added in my knowledge.