It is pointless knowing how to dribble and pass if you are not able to receive the ball and take up possession of it. You can use just about any part of the body to receive the ball, apart from the arms and hands.
The idea is to gain control of the ball — whether it is bouncing, rolling, or flying through the air, slowly or at speed and keep it close to your body. The three most useful parts of your body are your feet, thighs, and chest but you can also receive the ball with your head.
Great players are able to kill the ball dead, in other words, stop it from moving in whatever direction it was heading and take it immediately under their control. Delicacy of touch is the crucial thing here. A good way to conceptualize this is to imagine an egg or a water balloon being thrown at you and you must keep it from breaking. You are a cushion, not a wall.
Receiving by Foot
To receive a pass or loose ball using the foot, a player should use the following method:
- Position yourself in front of the ball.
- Extend your leg and foot out before the ball arrives, a few inches off the ground (roughly about halfway up the ball when it gets to you).
- Pull your leg back as the ball makes contact with your foot, to cushion it and retain possession. Think of it as catching the ball with the instep, almost as though it is nestling in the inside arch of the foot. Keep your foot relaxed because this can help to control the pass, especially if the ball is traveling at speed.
The more experienced player can use all parts of the foot to receive the ball, though it is normal and easier to concentrate on the inside of the foot.
If the ball takes an unexpected hop, either off a divot on the field or as a result of an imperfect attempt to control it, the leg helps control the ball providing you have used the inside of the foot (because the ball is being played close to the ankle).
Receiving by Thigh
The thigh is a very effective tool for controlling the ball when it is played to you above the ground because it offers a large contact area. A player using his thigh should do the following:
- Position yourself in front of the incoming ball.
- Stand on one foot while raising the other knee and thigh to meet the ball. (It is easier to raise your preferred kicking leg, though good players can receive the ball easily with either.)
- Cushion the impact of the ball as it hits your thigh, lowering the knee until the ball drops down to your feet. Swivel your hips to pull your thighs slightly backwards as they cushion the ball.
Keep the thigh as parallel to the ground as possible in order to retain possession of the ball. If you fail to do this, and the leg is at an angle, the ball has a much smaller contact area to hit and may ping away from you.
Receiving by Chest
The chest is the hardest area of the body to receive the ball with, but after you have a solid technique it can be the most effective, pulling difficult passes and clearances out of the sky. Players must do the following to successfully receive the ball using the chest:
- Position yourself in front of, and square to, the approaching ball.
- Puff out your chest just before meeting the ball.
- Pull the ball backwards as it makes contact with your chest, cushion- ing the blow of impact. The ball should fall to your feet.
Do not arch your back too much, because the ball can then rear up and bounce over your shoulder or head. It will initially feel natural to bring your hands in front of your body, either to attempt to catch the ball or as part of an involuntary attempt to shield yourself from being hit by the ball. It is also tempting to use the upper arms to subtly cushion the ball. Both maneuvers are illegal and result in the referee awarding a handball foul against you.
Receiving by Head
If the ball is high in the air, you can bring it down using your head as follows:
- Make sure you are on the balls of your feet, able to either jump to meet the ball in flight or rise up on your feet toward it.
- With your arms extended out to keep your balance, hit the ball gently on the hairline of your forehead, almost as though you are cushioning it.
- Lean backward. The ball should drop to your feet, or onto your chest or thigh, where you can further control it.