Steuart Snooks explains how soccer strategies can also apply to managing your email

Soccer, often referred to as “the beautiful game,” is a sport that is characterised by its fluidity, teamwork, and intricate strategies. One fundamental aspect that often goes unnoticed by casual observers, but holds immense importance in the game, is the “first touch.”

The first touch, which is the initial contact a player makes with the ball after receiving a pass, is a skill that can influence the outcome of a match. In this article, we explore the art and significance of the first touch in soccer, exploring its impact on player performance, team dynamics, and overall gameplay, and how closely this relates to our first touch of new incoming email and the impact this has on our workplace performance, team interactions, and overall productivity.

Good Positioning

In soccer, the first touch is not merely about controlling the ball; it is about doing so with finesse and precision. A well-executed first touch involves the player positioning themselves correctly, reading the trajectory of the ball, and deciding on the optimal surface to use. Whether it is cushioning the ball with the instep, stopping it dead with the sole, or deftly flicking it in a new direction, the technical mastery required for an effective first touch is a testament to a player’s skill level.

Likewise, we must make our “first touch” of a new email with finesse, precision, and correct positioning. We can position ourselves to do this well by structuring specific time in our calendar each day for this task, rather than managing it in an unstructured way as an interruption, distraction, or on an ad hoc basis.

Control and Possession

In soccer, possession of the ball is a cornerstone of soccer strategy. A player’s ability to control the ball immediately upon receiving it determines whether their team maintains possession or loses it to the opposition. A poor first touch can lead to turnovers, putting the team on the back foot and allowing the opponent to launch counterattacks. On the other hand, a well-executed first touch enables a player to quickly transition from receiving the ball to making a pass, dribbling effectively, or taking a shot at a goal.

Likewise, it is critical to get control of an email the first time it is touched or seen. The skillset for this is the powerful and proven 4D methodology (also known as the Eisenhower Matrix) that most time management experts have advocated over all the years I have studied this topic.

Decision-Making Under Pressure

In soccer, with the fast-paced environment, players often find themselves under pressure from opponents who are pressing to win the ball back. A player’s first touch can make all the difference in these situations. A poor touch can result in losing possession, while a well-controlled first touch can create space, buy time, and outwit the opposition.

Likewise, there is constant pressure from incoming email to respond or action the email, and a poor decision at the first touch can make all the difference to your degree of control. Do it well, and you create mental space and free up time for higher-order thinking, tasks, activities, and projects.

Creating Space

In soccer, a skilful first touch can create space for the player to operate. By cushioning the ball away from defenders or using a subtle touch to change the direction of play, a player can open passing lanes and force opponents to adjust their positions. This strategic use of the first touch can be especially crucial in tight midfield battles, where a momentary opening can lead to a breakthrough. By spending less time trying to get the ball under control, you have more time to look up and assess the next pass and strategic play.

Likewise, with email, a skilful first touch can create the headspace needed to operate in the key areas of your role. By spending less time trying to get email under control, you have more time to look up and assess the more important aspects of your role.

Quick Decision-Making

In soccer, the first touch is closely intertwined with a player’s decision-making ability. A player with a strong first touch can assess their options more quickly, as they have better control over the ball. This allows them to make split-second decisions on whether to pass, dribble, or shoot, catching the opposition off guard and exploiting defensive gaps.

Likewise, a good first touch of a new email with quick decision-making frees up an enormous amount of time by eliminating the repeated re-reading of an email.

Team Dynamics and Build-Up Play

Soccer is a team sport, and the first touch plays a pivotal role in team dynamics and build-up play. It’s not just about individual skill; it’s about how that skill contributes to the collective effort.

Email is also a team sport, and the first touch plays a pivotal role in team communications and effectiveness. A highly skilled email technician stands out in a crowd, and a team of them can make a powerful difference in and for an organisation. It is an underappreciated and secret competitive advantage!

Maintaining Rhythm

In soccer, a team’s rhythm and flow in possession are intricately linked to the first touch of its players. A team that can maintain quick and accurate passes through effective first touches can keep the ball circulating smoothly. This not only frustrates the opposition by denying them possession but also creates opportunities for penetrating the opponent’s defence.

Likewise, with email, a team’s communication and workload management effectiveness is intricately linked to their first touch of new email. Quick and accurate first touch decision-making can keep communications and workload circulating smoothly.

Psychological Impact

In soccer, beyond its technical and tactical aspects, the first touch also has a psychological impact on players and teams. A successful first touch can provide an immediate confidence boost to the player. It establishes a positive connection with the ball, making the player feel in control and ready to take on challenges. This confidence radiates throughout the team, influencing their overall performance.

Likewise, the ability to manage email well through the first touch has a positive psychological impact for both an individual and for a team. It increases their sense of control, self-confidence, self-esteem, and morale while reducing frustration, anxiety, stress, and burnout.

Momentum Shift

In soccer, in a closely contested match, a skilful first touch can function as a catalyst for a momentum shift. It can energise the team, invigorate the crowd, and swing the game’s momentum in favour of the team executing the successful touch. Conversely, a poor first touch can deflate the team’s morale and hand the advantage to the opposition.

Likewise, with email, a skilful first touch can provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace as the team has more time, focus, and confidence to provide a better service to their clients and identify and pursue new opportunities for the organisation.


The first touch in soccer goes far beyond a simple act of ball control. It encapsulates a player’s technical prowess, decision-making ability, and adaptability under pressure. It influences team dynamics, dictates the pace of play, and can even shape the psychological aspect of the game. As fans cheer for the spectacular goals and impressive saves, it is crucial not to overlook the elegance and significance of the first touch – the foundation upon which the beautiful game is built.

So much of this also applies to the simple act of handling new incoming emails with great skill the first time they are touched.

Next Step

If you’d like to learn more about the revolutionary Triage Your Inbox process for handling email well on the first touch, click here to watch an introductory video that shows what this looks like. Please reach out if you have any questions – whatever I can do, I am here to help!

Steuart Snooks is an Australian email and workplace productivity expert. He works with senior executives, their Assistants, and support teams who are overloaded with email and crying out for practical, affordable solutions to the relentless demands of ... (Read More)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *