Getting the ball to someone else

There are three fundamental elements when striking a ball. These apply to passing, shooting and heading.

  1. The approach. This involves:
    • The distance. Far enough to allow for a long last stride.
    • The angle. The angle is made up of three points;
      1. The striking surface at the beginning of the approach.
      2. The position of the ball at the moment of contact.
      3. The location of the target.
    • The non-kicking foot plant. Most of the time it’s pointing towards the target. 
  2. The contact. Putting two square inches of body onto two square inches of ball.
  3. The follow through. Necessary for accuracy as well as power.

These elements make up the mechanics of striking a stationary ball. When the ball is moving Timing has to be added. Now you’re trying to put two square inches of body onto two square inches of a moving target at precisely the right moment. It’s not just "Here on there" anymore, it adds "Not too early, not too late."

All of this should flow seamlessly, from the approach, to the contact through the follow through. Players must play "Through" the ball and not just "At" it.

The video below shows how it’s done at the highest level.

Passing as an objective

Each pass should achieve an objective. The objectives in terms of importance are;

  1. Score a goal. Pass the ball into the goal, takes you to YouTube. (The scoring phase.) How kids, and some parents, see every pass, it’s possible but not probable, takes you to YouTube.
  2. Get the ball to someone who can score. Look for the assist, takes you to YouTube. (The creative phase. Try to coach the moments captured in the video.)
  3. Penetrate a level of the opponents. Pass through, around or over one of their lines. (The follow up phase II.)
  4. Bait the opponents. A probing pass in front of a line that creates space, i.e. to a target player up front.
  5. Maintain possession. If none of the above is possible keep the ball. Giving it to the opponents is not good policy. (The Build up phase.)

Here’s a short video of Arsenal holding the ball - (5), baiting the opponents - (4), until they can find the moment, the opportunity, to penetrate a level - (3). Takes you to YouTube.

Guidelines for effective passing

Effective passing follows some simple guidelines.

  1. Look deep first, then work back. Work from 1 through 5 above, in that order. Go with the highest value pass that’s possible.
  2. Do not play long, optimistic passes. Know your limits and play within them. (No Boot ball, Send it or Kick it long in Youth Soccer. If they can’t pass their way out of trouble they can always try dribbling.) (Link to YouTube match highlights. What happens when Arsenal keeps possession.)
  3. Play simply. The moments for genius are 5%. The moments for routine are 95%. Play the percentages and look for the opportunities. Be patient and the time will come. In these match examples how many passes are simple ones?
  4. Play quickly. The team that can dictate the speed of play can control the game. Don’t hold the ball too long.
  5. Pass the ball as fast as possible. (Link to YouTube training session.) - Demonstration of good speed of play in Barcelona’s training. (Link to YouTube match highlights.) - The transfer to Barcelona’s games. Good players can handle and appreciate high ball speed.
  6. Play accurately. Most passes are to feet. Passes to space require extra skill and judgment. In these cases, the ball and player must arrive together.
  7. Disguise. Hide your intentions. Look away from your target. Use your peripheral vision. See Andrea Pirlo at
  8. Keep the ball on the ground. It’s the easiest pass for the receiver and makes for a higher speed of play.
  9. Diagonal pass - straight run, straight pass - diagonal run. A good general rule for the passer and receiver.
  10. Pass to the side away from the defender. Pass to your partners "Advantage space." Put the ball where he or she can get to it before the defender.
  11. Avoid running with the ball. Passing a moving ball involves a higher level of skill, especially when the ball is moving away from you. A simple aid is to slow the ball and the run down just before contact.
  12. Make your teammate look brilliant. Give them a pass that they can use.
    1. Instep drive. Play Like Preki - Takes you to YouTube.
    2. The killer pass, Kaka on

Striking a balance - Passing or dribbling

Every moment that a player is in possession of the ball they are confronted with a world of options. For the u-youngs one of the most basic decisions is whether to pass or dribble. Once they have made that decision they can move onto the next step. Be very careful about offering too much help with this moment. Giving them the answer, even the ’correct’ one hinders their education. Children require years of trial and error to master the process of decision making and this type of help just delays the start of their journey.

Coaches want to help, to be involved, in short to coach. This usually means they want the kids and the team to pass the ball. After all passing requires teamwork and building teamwork is the coaches responsibility. Players who take the game into their own hands take the game out of the coaches. The job is to find the balance between dribbling and passing at practice and in the game. In the end the threat of a dribble opens the pass and vice versa.