To help players improve their receiving skills, it’s important for them to understand the importance of two-player connections. This could be as simple as a basic hand signal, look or call that says, ‘let’s work together in this situation’.
The skilful part comes from the timing of this connection. And, where possible, the use of disguise and deception to outwit an opponent. There must also be elements of preparation from both players.
First, the player in possession needs to have enough control over the ball. Being comfortable with it will allow them to look up for someone to pass to, rather than having to focus on the ball. In particular, coaches of primary-age players must prioritise this individual element of skill development. Without this ability, we’ll never benefit from the collective power of teamwork.
Second, the receiving player must scan the pitch. If they haven’t – or aren’t very good at it – they won’t be a great option for the passing player.
So, when working on receiving, start by highlighting the importance of looking around. Glancing at opponents, teammates, and the available space will help your players make their next decision – whether passing or receiving.
If you take time to help players develop their awareness, they’ll become much more effective on the pitch.
To do that, try using small-sided games, such as 2v2s or 3v3s, to provide more repetition of passing, moving, receiving and scanning. You can also occasionally ask a player, ‘what did you see there to decide to play that pass?’ Their answer will show you what they noticed. This will provide an opportunity to praise and reinforce their understanding of scanning.