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Soccer Passing Drills

Passing soccer drills are all about keeping possession of the ball – if you have the ball your opponents cannot score. Players need to practice their passing technique, their judgement about how hard to pass the ball, being accurate with direction of pass and which part of the foot they need to use.

The 10 best passing soccer drills in this guide will help you coach your players to keep hold of the ball and get it into attacking positions with good passing build-up play.

Passing Soccer Drills - How?

Passing is easier if the ball is moving so take a little push with the side of the foot to get the ball out from under your feet to start any passing move. You can pass the ball in many ways but the one thing all players should practice every day is what should be the simple art of playing a sidefoot pass. Easily the most accurate way to pass and with practice you can make sure you hit the right weight for your teammate to run onto or receive on his/her back foot.

Push Pass - Side-Foot Soccer Passing Technique

A side-foot pass uses the area from the big toe to the main area of the foot between the ankle bone and the base of the foot.

  1. Face the ball and kick with the foot at right angles to the ball
  2. Make sure your standing foot is alongside the ball
  3. Knee and ankle joints held firm
  4. Body over the ball
  5. Keep your head steady with your eyes on the ball
  6. Use the arms for balance
  7. Aim to kick the ball through the horizontal middle, too low and the ball will go up in the air, too high and it will threaten being a miss-kick
  8. Kicking foot follows through towards the target

These are tips for kicking the ball but there are other factors that come into kicking a ball with the side of the foot: timing and weight.

1. Timing of Pass

Timing is essential for keeping a passing move going – passing too early or too late will kill the momentum of the move. Passing before a teammate has started to run will make it difficult for him/her to get to the ball and if they do manage to get to it control is much harder. Delaying a pass can mean your attacker is offside or give defenders time to get across and cover.

2. Weight of Pass

Weight of pass is important because you want it to be as perfect as possible so the player receiving the ball is not hit by a hard pass that bounces off him/her and too light means the receiving player is going to have to move back towards the ball or risk losing it to an opposition player.

The Chip Pass

This can be a pass over any distance depending on where the player is and where the receiver is. Getting your foot under the ball is vital in making this pass. Chip a defence to get behind it or chip the goalkeeper into the net. Aim to kick below the horizontal line, swinging the leg through like a golfer chipping a golf ball

The Driven Pass

A driven pass can be done over longer areas like switching play or passing to a player on the run. 

  1. Foot Pointed DownKeep the foot locked and pointed down as you kick the ball allowing a solid contact
  2. Land On Passing Foot - For a nice low driven ball try and swing through the ball and land on that same foot you are kicking with. This will help to keep the ball straight and low to the ground
  3. Arm SwingSwinging your arm out is a great way to keep balance during the kick. A right footed kick uses the left arm out wide just before you kick the ball
  4. Hit Across the Ball - You want to get slightly under the ball but don't hit it straight on. If you can imagine the ball as a clock you want your foot coming in at it at about 5 o'clock.
  5. Head Down - Keep your head down. Pick out your target then keep your head down and focus on the ball until you swing completely through it.

The Wall Pass One - Two

A one-two is a great way to keep possession of the ball in all areas of the pitch working in triangles. Great to use in the opposition penalty area. It involves timing, passing and speed of play. Acceleration after the first pass to move into a position to receive the ball back is key to the success of the skill.

The Back Heel Pass

A backheel pass is a great skill to use to fool defenders in the attacking third of the pitch or to pass to a teammate in space when the way forward is blocked. It is a clever pass but beware of using it in the wrong place as a counterattack could result.

Passing with Both Feet

Nearly all players, especially youth players will have one well-developed foot and one less well-developed often referred to as the weaker foot although this is not an accurate description as it is just underdeveloped for playing the game. But using both feet is key in some areas of the pitch – a striker for instance will not always get the ball onto their preferred foot and will often shoot with the less developed foot so they should practice with it.

Goalkeeper Passing 

It is very fashionable to have goalkeepers who can become an extra defender to pass to when playing out from the back or when a defender is in a tricky situation and needs a get-out pass. Being able to use their feet is important so they should be part of your passing drills when you are at training.

Soccer Passing Tips

  1. SCANNING - Make early decisions by scanning and knowing where your teammates are.
  2. TWO FOOTED - Using two feet to pass and receive and to dribble helps to keep possession of the ball and gives you options when receiving in the attacking penalty area.
  3. OPEN BODY POSITION - Try to be on the half turn or side on so the next pass is much easier.
  4. KEEP IT SIMPLE - Keeping possession is much easier with short accurate passes.
  5. BE CONFIDENT - Don't hide away always be open to receiving a pass from a teammate.
  6. ONE OR TWO TOUCHES - Quick passing moves are better with just one or two touches before the ball is passed on

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10 Best Passing Soccer Drills

1. Washington DC Control Pass Drill

Washington DC Control Pass Drill

Passing Drill Purpose

The petagon passing drill is a great way to get your players concentrating on the direction of the pass, their first touch to control the ball and get it out of their feet by receiving on the back foot and passing the ball so it is not bobbling along with a nice smooth ball that is easy for the next player to receive and pass on.

2. Pass in Tight Areas

Pass in Tight Areas

Passing Drill Purpose

Their are lots of places on a soccer pitch that make it hard to keep possession of the ball because space is tight and players need good technique and skills to keep possession of the ball. In this soccer drill a tight area like the penalty area is used to give players experience in keeping the ball when space is at a minimum.

3. Breaking Lines

Breaking Lines

Passing Drill Purpose

In this soccer drill players create overloads by splitting their opponents with good passing and receiving skills that move the ball through the thirds of the pitch into attacking areas where players can score goals.

4. Under Pressure Passing

Under Pressure Passing

Passing Drill Purpose

Here players are put under pressure with tight pressing from the defending team so they have to play quickly or risk losing the ball. Practicing keeping the ball under pressure puts individual skills to the test and gives your players the edge in match play.

5. Link Passing in Waves

Link Passing in Waves

Passing Drill Purpose

Movement and support play is key to a good passing and possession game. Here the passing team us under pressure as they keep the ball in this drill.

6. 5v2+1 Rondo Possession

5v2+1 Rondo Possession

Passing Drill Purpose

A Rondo possession game in which one team has a big overload and must try to keep possession away from the passing team. After an agreed number of passes the possession team moves from one square to the other with a pass to the player at the top of the area.

7. 2v2+1 Positioning Game

2v2+1 Positioning Game

Passing Drill Purpose

Passing in triangle is one of the best ways to keep possession because the triangles make a lot more passing options for the player on the ball than they would get in a normal passing game. The triangles make it easier for the players off the ball to make themselves available for a pass.

8. 4v4+4 Beat The Block

4v4+4 Beat The Block

Passing Drill Purpose

This passing drill works on switching play and keeping the ball under pressure. There are options for playing out from one zone via the players on the half way line. Great for possession play and moving the ball around the pitch.

9. Build up Play: Lone Striker

Build up Play: Lone Striker

Passing Drill Purpose

Special attention should be given to passes into a lone striker so he/she can receive the ball and set up team mates for shots on goal. Passing and receiving is key as is good shooting skills and link up play.

10. Playing Through Passes

Playing Through Passes

Passing Drill Purpose

Seeing a pass through opponents is a key way to work on player movement into space and anticipation of where and when the pass will be played. Great for getting behind a defence to open up routes to goal.

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Soccer Passing Drills FAQ's

Important faq's when working on passing drills at the grassroots level to make sure you are equipped to have the correct coaching techniques in place when required.

Practice Fast Attacking Passing under Pressure

Passing at speed under pressure is a classic way to attack in the final third. But it takes a lot of practice with passing one and two touches and of course receiving where the first touch becomes the crunch part of any move. Passing should be a part of every practice session because it is vital to the game. You need to plan out your sessions throughout the season to work on every type of passing. Start with simple passing out from the back and general side foot passing – players need to get the hang of the side foot pass first and foremost, it is the bread and butter of their playing style with weight and direction key.

Now move on to focus on short fast passing which is your coaching target of the session. You focus on this after general passing. You can play control and pass without opposition at first. This works on the actual technique involved. Then add defenders to make it more game realistic. Work up to playing something like 4v4+1 in the penalty area with a goal and goalkeeper. The +1 is a magic man who plays for the team in possession. Now you are working on the very thing you want to get players to do – fast attacking passing under pressure.

How to use Overlapping Passing

Fullbacks and wingers should be able to make overlapping runs out wide which instantly gives your team an attacking threat. So if your fullback/wing back passes down the line to the winger he/she should immediately run past the winger open to receiving the ball on the run into areas where they can cross the ball. Think of Jugen Klopp's Liverpool where Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson overlap and cross the ball into devastating effect. Tell your players to alert the winger to the fullbacks run by a simple shout of “Hold!” to alert the winger to the move so that rather than cut inside the winger can play it down the line into the run of the fullback. The other side of the move is that even if the defenders suss out that the overlap is a danger it will suck the defenders out of the middle and leave that open for the winger to attack.

Overlapping runs are a double whammy – if your players make the run and the defenders ignore it or don't read it then the fullback can race down the wing and cross the ball in. If they read it and move to cover they then leave space in the center to be exploited. This tactic works well with playing out from the back and can disrupt the strongest defence.

How to get Your Players to Pass More

Some players just want to score and will not pass the ball. We've all had them in our team and it is a great thing to have a player who wants to score but they must learn to pass the ball when there is a teammate in a better position. However, build-up play to getting the players into position to attack the goal is all about passing sequences from the goalkeeper through the thirds. Passing sequences are an important part of playing as a team and against very strong opponents is the key difference to having the ball and getting into the final third to attack the goal. You need to use passing and positioning drills like Rondos or 4v4+3 style activities to help you work with your players on the benefits of passing the ball. You can also talk to your players about how a passing game will add to the number of times they get a chance to shoot at goal – from every position on the pitch. There is of course the problem that for the older age groups if they haven't been part of a passing culture from an early age it will take longer for them to understand and relate to playing a passing game. A simple practice is in an area 30 x 15 yards with a goal at each end play 8v4 with the 8 players need to make 5 consecutive passes to score and the team of 4 scoring by winning the ball and shooting into one of the goals.

 How do Players Decide When to Pass and When to Dribble?

When you are coaching your team, you will coach them how to dribble and you will also coach them how to pass the ball. Both are ways to advance the team up the pitch and keep possession. It is always good to have players who are comfortable on the ball and can dribble using both feet or that can take a touch and pass to a teammate with ease. But what happens when they have to decide whether to dribble or pass? Sometimes players are caught in two minds and lose the ball cheaply in dangerous areas of the pitch. When players are in matches you do not want to have to shout to them from the side of the pitch, “pass!” or “shoot!” the players need to make their own decisions or they will forever be waiting for the coach to tell them what to do. It can be a problem for teams that keep losing the ball because they haven't made their minds up about passing or dribbling. Very frustrating for you as a coach to deal with. You know they are good at dribbling or passing but they need to start making those decisions.

Player decisions are one of the hardest things to coach – but don't think that you can't coach it, you just need the right tools. The last thing you want is for the parents of your players to start shouting at them to “get rid of it!” but that does happen a lot if you allow it to. Basically getting players to make decisions is down to them recognizing trigger signs that inform the player that there is space to run into or that the way is blocked so they need to scan the pitch for a teammate in a better position to pass the ball on. A good one to look for is space on the opposite side of the pitch so players are switching play to the area where there is more space.

During your practice sessions, you need to be using a lot of repetition which is a great way to get into your player's soccer brains so that in a match they do it without thinking. When they see the signs on the pitch they make the right decision – which is why practice is so important. Don't use the same drill every week, you want drills that hide the repetition so they don't realize they are having to make the same choice – pass or dribble. And sometimes when you use the same drill players will get used to the dribble or pass moments and allow their knowledge of the drill to make the decisions rather than what is unfolding on the pitch.

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