What is passing in football?

Guide All Ages

We explore what passing is, why it matters and how to help your team develop this essential skill.


Passing. It’s an art. And with more demand on teams to beat presses and play out from the back, it’s also an integral part of the beautiful game.

Ultimately, mastering passing allows players to connect and combine with each other successfully. This helps them keep control of the ball and unlock stubborn defences with fast-flowing moves and combinations.

Whether it’s a swift one-two to get round an opponent or a mesmerising diagonal ball to switch play to the opposite flank, passing requires players to:

  • scan the pitch to see their options
  • connect with the teammate they’re passing to
  • play the ball with accuracy
  • apply the correct weight to the pass
  • make the pass at the right time.

Getting this right takes time – and your players need lots of opportunities to practice.


To see some examples of receiving, and hear coaches and players discuss the skill, check out the video below.

What is passing in football?


Here are some ways to help your players develop their passing skills.

1. Let players choose when to pass

Shouting “pass it” all the time doesn’t aid player development – even if it’s meant to help them spot an option. Instead, players need the opportunity to look around and make their own decisions. For instance, you can’t know exactly what your player sees when they’re on the ball. It might be that staying in possession for longer opens up an opportunity to play a perfect through ball.

If a pass doesn’t work out, that’s where you can help your players to reflect. Remember, getting the timing of any action right takes lots of practice in game-like situations.

2. Use small-sided games

Game understanding and game craft come from playing lots of – you guessed it – games. Small-sided games are perfect for helping players develop these abilities. They provide variety and randomness, and, with fewer numbers, they also allow for higher levels of repetition. This means that players get more chances to practice scanning and passing. What’s not to like?

3. Develop disguise

Disguise. It’s a great skill to have. For most players, adding it to their game takes time – it’s something they need to build and refine. For others, it’s a natural ability. From an early age, they’re able to use their body, their arms and the ball to disguise their intentions.

But whatever your players’ level of skill, there’s a simple way to encourage them to work on disguise. Just explain that they can always change their mind at the last minute. You may start to see them turning quickly to change direction and play it to another teammate – just as it looked like they were going to make a pass to someone else.

The more they develop this ability, the more difficult they will be to play against.

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