How to coach passing in football

Guide All Ages

Ever wondered what makes a player good at passing? In this article, we explore how The FA’s six core capabilities can help your team master this skill.


1. SCANNING

Passing. The idea is to find a teammate in a better position and share the ball with them at the right moment. The key word there is ‘find’. Players need to spot who they’re going to pass to before playing the ball. And, to do this, they need to scan.

Getting your players to lift their heads and look around is incredibly important. It’ll help them see the bigger picture and aid their decision-making. Once they’re comfortable doing this – particularly while on the ball – you can help them notice the right things. This includes spaces to explore, teammates to find and opponents to avoid.

To develop your team’s ability to scan, try using directional practices that involve an opposition (or at least other players to avoid). Small-sided games also offer opportunities for scanning, with more direct involvement for each player than larger formats. If your players are more experienced, try to transfer their scanning skills into larger formats, such as 7v7 and 8v8.


2. TIMING

If you’re looking for effective passing – the kind that unlocks a defence – timing matters. Choosing when to play the ball is a skill that players refine over time. It’s down to experience and the opportunity to make their own decisions.

Unfortunately, at matches across the country, it’s common to hear shouts of “pass, pass”. Although these yells are well-intentioned, passing isn’t always the best option for the player in the moment. Plus, the instruction discourages players from discovering when is best to pass or hold onto the ball.

As well as providing the freedom to make their own decisions, you can help players explore timing by using a challenge. Try asking them to see how close they can draw a defender before passing, or if they can find their teammate with a pass that allows them to continue their run. This gives players an excellent opportunity to explore how staying on the ball can sometimes lead to better possibilities.


3. MOVEMENT

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.


4. POSITIONING

Positioning is really important – 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.


5. DECEPTION

Being able to hide and disguise intentions can be very helpful. Ultimately, this skill can help a player 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.


6. TECHNIQUES

Finally, to be able to execute a perfect pass, players need to have sound techniques. To make it easy for the receiver, the ball to them 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 ALTOGETHER

To be efficient at passing, players need to work on the six core capabilities above.

Watch the video below to see what this looks like in an actual game.

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The big six: passing

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