How to Coach – Passing

An excerpt from the US Youth Soccer Skills School Manual – available in full under “Player Development Resources” on the ASC website.

(The age group in maroon is the age group when you should focus on developing the skill.)

Passing

The thread that ties together all types of passes is crafting good passes that make the receiver, the passer’s teammate, look first rate. This threat then ties the team together.

Ground

  • Push pass (U7/U8)
  • Toe poke pass (U7/U8)
  • Flick pass (U11/U12)
  • Heel pass straight (U11/U12)
  • Heel pass cross over (U11/U12)
  • Instep pass (U9/U10)
  • Crossing (U9/U10)
  • Inside of foot bent pass (U14)
  • Outside of foot bent pass (U14)
  • Chip pass (introduce at U7/U8, focus at U11/U12)

Half-Volley&Volley

  • Inside of foot (U11/U12)
  • Instep (U11/U12)

Clearance (U7/U8)

 

ASCPassing_1

Table 1 Features of a High or Low Pass

Push Pass

Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: run up approach to the ball is a straight line; plant foot is beside the ball about 6″ away and the toes are pointed in the direction of the pass; knee of the standing leg is bent; hips facing the direction of the pass; turn the kicking leg outwards from the hip; the toes of the kicking foot point out and the sole of that foot should be parallel to the ground; lean a bit forward at the waist; head down with the eyes on the ball; arms out for balance; a medium backswing of the kicking leg
  2. Contact: lock the ankle of the kicking foot; toes of the kicking foot up slightly; hit across line A (equator) preferably where lines A & B cross; the kicking foot is turned out and pushes through the middle of the ball; contact the ball near the arch of the foot; the downswing of the kicking leg comes from the hip; upon contact with the ball the knee and ankle of the kicking leg should be locked to provide a firm striking surface and more power; push through the ball towards the target
  3. Follow Through: keep the kicking foot in place; follow through with the foot towards the target; the knee of the kicking leg should come up on the follow through so that the thigh ends parallel to the ground; the upper torso becomes more upright on ball contact and the follow through; the head should remain down until the kicking foot lands once again

 

Toe Poke Pass

Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: feet in a balanced position; kicking foot locked at the ankle joint
  2. Contact: take a short stab at the ball from the knee joint; contact the ball at the point of intersection of lines A and B
  3. Follow Through: follow though only to the extent of straightening the kicking leg; finish the movement with the sole of the kicking foot parallel to the ground

 

Training Activity: Cliffhanger

Mark off a grid in the shape of a square or rectangle. The dimensions will vary depending upon the age group involved in the activity. Every player has a ball and lines up on one end of the grid. Each player makes a pass so that the ball stops as close as possible to the opposite line without going over the cliff. Players can pass all at once or take turns.

Depending upon the distance between the end lines the activity can be used to teach long or short push pass technique. If the grid is small then toe or heel passes can be made.

AASC_Fig_11_Passing_Cliffhanger

Figure 11 Cliffhanger

 

Flick Pass

Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: plant foot alongside the ball; arms and upper body poised for balance
  2. Contact: hit the ball around line A and on the near side of line B; use the long outside surface of the foot; flick the foot from the ankle joint
  3. Follow Through: the toes of the kicking foot come up on the follow through and pointed in the general direction of the target

 

Heel Pass

Straight

Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: plant foot as with the push pass; knees a little bent for good balance; the kicking foot is passed over the top of the ball and then lowered in front of the ball
  2. Contact: eyes on the ball to ensure a clean and central contact; a short and sharp backswing of the lower leg from the knee joint; the sole of the kicking foot is parallel with the ground and the toes are turned slightly up; the heel contacts the ball at the intersection of lines A and B
  3. Follow Through: the heel goes up towards the back finishing at almost a 45° angle

Cross Over

Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: plant foot as with the push pass; knees a little bent for good balance; the kicking foot is passed in front of the ball and over the support leg
  2. Contact: a short and sharp backswing of the lower leg from the knee joint; the rear of the shoe provides the striking surface; again the ball must be struck centrally if it is to go straight or to either side of line B if swerving is required
  3. Follow Through: step onto the kicking foot and bring the support leg around to continue in stride

DISGUISE THE INTENTION ONCE HAVING DONE THE BACK-HEEL BY CONTINUING TO MOVE QUICKLY IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION

 

Instep Pass

Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: in the approach to the ball the last full stride of what will become the standing leg must be a long one; plant foot beside the ball about 6″ away and with the toes pointing toward the target; bend the knee slightly; the angle of approach can be straight on or diagonal; the backswing of the kicking foot takes the heel towards the buttocks; toes of the kicking foot are pointed down; ankle is locked; eyes on the ball; lean forward slightly over the ball; arms out for balance
  2. Contact: on the downswing the leg swings fully from the hip; keep the toes of the kicking foot pointed down; strike through the ball at the point of intersection of lines A & B; knee of the kicking leg is over the ball; keep the head down; watch the foot connect with the ball
  3. Follow Through: the arm of the standing leg side comes across the torso; the arm of the kicking leg side stays back slightly; the kicking foot follows through in the same plane as the flight of the ball for a medium or high pass; for a low pass the follow through of the kicking leg is across the midline of the body so that with the leg on one side coming across and the arm on the opposite side coming across the body ends up in a corkscrew shape momentarily

 

Crossing

Instep

Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: during the dribble down field sight the target space across the field to pass the ball to; from the dribble the next to last touch of the ball should be to push it slightly and diagonally towards the inside of the field (prep touch); on the last stride the plant foot should go beside the ball about 6″ away from the ball with the toes pointed across the field toward the opposite touchline; the knee of the standing leg should be to some extent bent for balance; the heel of the kicking foot should rise sharply towards the buttocks; the entire kicking leg should go back from the hip; the head should now be a bit forward and the eyes on the ball; arms out slightly from the sides for balance; on the downswing of the kicking foot the toes of that foot should be pointed down and the ankle locked
  2. Contact: strike the center of the ball, where lines A & B meet, with the instep (for an out-swinger strike the ball to the outside of line B and for an in-swinger strike the ball to the inside of line B); connect with the ball a little below the horizontal midline (line A) of the ball to increase height (or on the midline for a flat flight); watch the foot connect with the ball
  3. Follow Through: follow through with the kicking leg forward and slightly across the midline of the body; hips should now be square with the opposite touchline; come down on the kicking foot at the end of the follow through swing and then look up

 

Training Activity: Wingers

The training area dimensions can vary from 35 x 25 yards to 60 x 40 yards depending upon the age group. Use two age group regulation goals on each goal line. In the activity are two goalkeepers (yellow), two wingers (white), two defenders (blue) and three attackers (red). Flank zones (dark grey area in the diagram) should be marked off with flat or disc cones. Only the wingers play in the flank zones and they are confined to it. The defenders and attackers play in the middle zone (white in the diagram) and they are confined to that space. Each time a goalkeeper has possession of the ball he should distribute (1) to either of the wingers. The winger in possession of the ball dribbles (2) towards the opposite goal and crosses (3) the ball to the attackers. The goalkeeper and defender contest the attackers for the ball. The attackers try to win the cross and score (4) from a header, volley, half- volley or shot from the ground. The attackers could also set up shots from a knock-off. The defenders stay in their half of the field. The attackers go end to end as do the wingers. After two to five minutes have the field players switch roles. Play to ten goals scored.

U5/U6 & U7/U8: inappropriate activity

U9/U10: use the smallest dimensions written above

U11/U12: use a variety of training area dimensions to get practice at crossing the ball to either the near post or far post space

U14: use the largest dimensions described

 

AASC_Fig_12_Passing_Wingers

Figure 12 Wingers

HEIGHT OF PASS CATEGORIES LOW – KNEE HEIGHT OR LOWER MEDIUM – KNEE TO HEAD HEIGHT HIGH – ABOVE HEAD HEIGHT

Bending (swerve) Pass

Inside of Foot

Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: plant foot beside the ball about 6″ to the side with the toes pointed toward the target; knee of the standing leg slightly bent; lean forward a bit at the waist; head down and eyes on the ball; the arm opposite to the kicking leg should be out from the torso and the arm on the kicking leg side should be nearer to the torso; the heel of the kicking foot goes up towards the buttock on the backswing; on the downswing the toes of the kicking foot should be up and the ankle locked
  2. Contact: strike the ball to the outside of line B (above, at or below line A depends on the height of the pass desired)
  3. Follow Through: the toes of the kicking foot stay up on the follow through; bring the kicking leg across the midline and slightly upward; the arm opposite the kicking leg comes across the chest; the head should stay down and steady

 AASC_Fig_13_Passing_Bending

Figure 13 Flight of the Ball when Struck with the Inside of the Right Foot

Outside of Foot

Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: plant foot beside the ball about 8″ to the side with the toes pointed toward the target; knee of the standing leg slightly bent; lean forward a bit at the waist; head down and eyes on the ball; the arm opposite to the kicking leg should be out from the torso and the arm on the kicking leg side should be nearer to the torso; the heel of the kicking foot goes up towards the buttock on the backswing; on the downswing the toes of the kicking foot should be down with the little toe angled down toward the ground and the ankle locked
  2. Contact: strike the ball to the inside of line B (above, at or below line A depends on the height of the pass desired)
  3. Follow Through: the toes of the kicking foot stay down on the follow through; bring the kicking leg across the midline and slightly upward; the arm opposite the kicking leg comes across the chest; the head should stay down and steady

Chip Pass

Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: plant foot beside the ball about 6″ to the side with the toes pointed toward the target; knee of the standing leg should be flexed; the hips should face the target; the kicking leg bends sharply at the knee; heel of the kicking foot must rise sharply toward the buttock; head down and eyes on the ball
  2. Contact: the lower leg of the kicking foot snaps downward; to get backspin hit the ball under line A; ‘squeeze’ the ball between the foot and ground; a good snapping action is needed from the leg below the knee and it must be brought down hard; the toes of the kicking foot should wedge at a 45° angle between the ground and the bottom of the ball; the instep should actually hit the portion of the ball resting on the ground
  3. Follow Through: the sole of the kicking foot should stop completely flat under the ball and thus make a grazing divot in the turf; no further follow through, which causes a backspin on the ball; the head should stay down and steady; the kicking foot stays in place

 

Training Activity: Outside Goals

Play 2v2 up to 4v4 inside a grid with four goals on the outside. The grid should be rectangular in shape with dimensions of 15 x 20 or 25 x 40 dependent upon the age and/or number of players involved. A goal is scored with a pass or shot from inside the grid on the goal outside. This activity allows for the possibility of instep pass, bent pass, chip pass and/or flick pass.

U5/U6: inappropriate activity

U7/U8 to U14: play as described

AASC_Fig_14_Passing_OutsideGoals

Figure 14 Outside Goals

Half Volley & Volley

The technique for passing with the inside of the foot and the instep on the half-volley and the full volley are essentially the same as when the ball is on the ground. The main difference is getting the kicking foot level with the ball to try and strike it through line A. This requires the passer to wait for the ball to have just bounced from the ground for the half-volley or to let the ball drop below knee height for the full volley. To strike the ball sooner the foot needs to be raised to the ball and sometimes this requires a jump.

Other minor differences are the same for both parts of the foot, instep and inside, and are noted below.

Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: backswing is shorter; no essential alteration in the posture of the body and arms
  2. Contact: strike through the proper line of the ball
  3. Follow Through: shorter follow through

 

Clearances

Make the clearance pass with the leg closest to the touchline where the ball will be redirected.

With the Foot

Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: plant foot pointed toward the target space; knee of the standing leg slightly bent; upper body reclines somewhat; arms slightly out to the side for balance; head steady and eyes on the ball; kicking leg should swing from the hip; knee of the kicking leg to some extent bent
  2. Contact: ankle locked for a steady contact surface; use the inside of the foot for a flat and large contact surface to strike the ball; connect with the ball just below line A
  3. Follow Through: follow through with the kicking foot in a fairly straight swing of the leg toward the target space; finish with hips squared to the target space

 

Training Activity: Bombs Away

The target grids should be in the flank channels 5-10 yards in from the touchline. The distance of the target grids from the goal line will vary according to the age group. The grids should get increasingly further away with each progressive age group. A player can make a longer clearance of the ball with the foot than the head. When making a clearance with the foot the inside of the foot should be used the majority of the time. Occasionally the instep can be used, but beware that the ball can ‘roll’ off the top of the foot in this maneuver and go backwards toward the defender’s goal. All clearances should be high, wide and long.

High = above the heads of opposing players Wide = towards the flanks of the field

Long = as far away from the defending team’s penalty area as possible

 

AASC_Fig_15_Passing_BombsAway

Figure 15 Bombs Away

 

Play in one half of an age appropriate field. Mark off two target grids as noted by the shaded areas in the diagram. Place one server on each touchline with a supply of soccer balls. Put two center backs in the penalty area and a goalkeeper. The servers play a pass on the ground or in the air to the center back who clears the ball on the first touch to the target area. The goalkeeper should collect any ball missed by either center back. The center back makes a decision to clear the ball with the foot or head depending on the service of the ball. Servers and center backs can play simultaneously or take turns. Center backs should switch sides after eight repetitions in order to practice clearances with either foot. One set is eight repetitions on each side for a total of sixteen repetitions.

U5/U6: inappropriate activity

U7/U8: practice clearances with the feet only from ground passes – 1 set then switch places between center backs and servers

U9/U10: practice clearances with the feet only from passes on the ground or a bouncing ball – 1 set then switch roles

U11/U12 & U14: clearances with either the foot or the head from passes on the ground or in the air or off the bounce – 2 sets then switch roles

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