Passing shouldn’t be about getting rid of the ball at the first sign of pressure or just giving possession to any teammate. It needs to be the right pass. And, to find it, players may need to stay in possession.
That means they need good movement skills. After all, a player may have to drive forward into a pocket of space, turn quickly to change direction or manoeuvre the ball to create a better angle for a pass. They may even need to use their body as a barrier or stay balanced under pressure.
Click here to see a practice that can help players develop these essential movement skills.
Positioning is critical – for both passer and receiver. After all, a player’s positioning in relation to the pitch, their teammates and opponents will impact what passes are possible. This is also true of their body orientation (where they are facing).
Good positioning often makes an effective pass easier to execute. So, whether a player moves with the ball into space or stands still and plays a first-time pass, the best passers usually put themself in the most advantageous position to play the ball.
Understanding positioning takes time and experience. Playing with overloads, such as 2v1 or 3v2, can help players explore how positioning affects what possibilities are available.
Being able to hide and disguise intentions can be very helpful. Ultimately, this skill can help players create more space and time on the ball – for themselves and others. It also creates uncertainty for their opponents.
When passing, deception could be a back-heel pass in the opposite direction or using front foot passing to make it harder for opponents to read what you’re going to do. It could even be a no-look pass or pretending to pass the ball one way but turning your foot late to play it somewhere else. Truth is, there are a lot of ways players can use deception.
To help your players discover what they can do, encourage them to:
- pass using various parts of the foot
- to use the same part of the foot in different ways
- to explore small late adjustments to their techniques to make it harder for their opponents to read.
Finally, to be able to execute a perfect pass, players need to have sound techniques. To make it easy for the receiver, the ball needs to be accurate and easy to control. If it bobbles across the surface, or it’s an undercooked pass, it could narrow the receivers’ options.
It’s also useful for players to be able to pass in alternative ways. Mastering the ability to use all parts of the foot – inside, outside, front, heel and sole – can be a useful weapon. Also, let your team know they can pass with different parts of the body – chest, thigh and head (make sure you follow the heading guidance). It will provide them with more possibilities when connecting and combining with teammates.
To get players to develop their techniques, ask them to watch their favourite players and try to copy how they pass. Also, ensure that you offer them a variety of experiences, games and practices where they feel empowered to experiment with different passes.
Putting it together
To be efficient at passing, players need to work on the six core capabilities above. If you haven't already, take a look at the video above to see what this looks like in an actual game.