Develop Your Passing Ability


Players must learn to pass under varying degrees of pressure; pressure from opponents restricts the time that players have to make decisions and then execute that decision (example – ‘passing’).

Passing ‘drills’ around sticks, cones, un-opposed and without pressure have minimal transfer to a game environment although these activities can be utilized in certain circumstances where basic technical execution of passing is required.

In Soccer (Football) we can say that ‘Technique is the Execution of a Decision’ – therefore we must attempt to place players in situations whereby this ‘Decision-Making’ process is enhanced.

The following activities place players in various game-like scenarios and under varying degrees of pressure from opponents. The activities can also be adjusted – more/less challenging – through touch restrictions, pitch size etc.

Tactical aspects of Attacking, Defending, Transitions are also incorporated into each activity.

Give these activities a a try –some are more complex than others: encourage your players to get comfortable in uncomfortable game-like environments!!

Develop Your Passing Ability

1. Warmup Activity: Possession / Switching Play


10 Players split into two teams of 5 / 2 grids side by side.

Develop Your Passing Ability |
Diagram A


The 5 players in possession attempt to maintain possession against 2 Defenders (Red); 20 completed passes = 1 goal.

Defensive (two) players must attempt to win ball and immediately switch play to their 3 teammates in the opposite grid – the Black team then send two Defenders to continue the game.

Coaching Points:

  • Possession Team: Quick ball circulation and movement
    • Angles of support
    • Quality of passing – Decision-making + Execution
  • Defending Team: Work as pair to regain possession
    • Understand that advantage is on opposite side of pitch so look to switch quickly

2. Possession – Transition Boxes


Setup with 3 or more boxes depending on size of group. If 14 players – then 3 boxes; 2 x boxes with 4v1 and 1 x box of 4v0.

Develop Your Passing Ability |
Diagram B


Players pass the ball with a two-touch focus. If defender wins the ball, they now become passers.

The player who lost possession quickly leaves their box and sprints to whichever box has the 4v0 to try and disrupt possession.

Activity is continuous.

Coaching Points:

  • Quality of passing + receiving in congested area with pressure from opponent.
  • Focus heavily on reacting to transitions.

3.  Passing / Possession with Counter-Pressing


Players are organised into groups of 7-8 (Only one group illustrated in diagram: 2 groups set up to accommodate 16 players) Two players are designated as ‘defenders’ (Black). High cones are used to create goals as shown.

Develop Your Passing Ability |
Diagram C


Warmup Activity to introduce the concept of ‘Counter-Pressing’.

A 6v2 takes place within the central grid; The 2 Defenders attempt to win possession of the ball – if they win possession they must attempt to score immediately through any of the goals (high cones).

On losing possession the Red team is instructed to immediately counter-press against the 2 Defenders to win back possession as soon as possible.

Rotate Defenders on each loss of possession.

Coaching Points:

  • Emphasis on Counter-Pressing; react immediately on the loss of possession + immediately close on the opponent to regain possession
  • Develop the habit / quick thinking ‘Press’

4. Possession: Defensive Organisation – When to ‘Press’, When to ‘Cover’?


Two grids end-to-end with a 3-4yd central zone (shaded in diagram).

Develop Your Passing Ability |
Diagram D


Two groups of 5 Players (Red + Black) are positioned in the grids; 3 Defensive Players (Yellow) start in the central zone. Play begins with 2 Defenders entering the grid to gain possession of the ball or force errors.

The Black + Red teams attempt to maintain possession and switch the ball from grid to grid.

*The 3rd Defender must make a choice – (1) Enter the area to create a 5v3 situation or (2) Stay in the central zone to close passing channels.

On any loss of possession or error the player responsible becomes a Defender.

Play is continuous.

Coaching Points:

*Activity can be modified to 6 Players in each grid vs. the 3 Defenders – this accommodates 15 players.

  • Defenders:
    • Pressing direction / angles, timing to make opponent predictable
    • Communication amongst teammates is vital
    • 3rd Defender: right moment to step into grid to win ball or awareness to cut-out penetrating
    • pass?
  • Possession Teams:
    • Look to quickly switch grids – ‘Play Forward’ early

5.  Possession: Decision Making / Orientation / Awareness


Three grids of Approx. 10×10 – 12×12 are organised side by side as shown. Three groups of 3 Players.

Develop Your Passing Ability |
Diagram E


Three players (Black) maintain possession in a 3v1 situation vs the Red Defender; the objective is to move the ball through, around the central Red Defenders to the opposite grid (Green) players. One Player can enter the next grid to offer support – in the Diagram; Player #6 Green has entered the Central grid to offer support.

Players must recognise if they are pressed, where are the passing options etc . Activity is setup to develop good awareness and decision-making in confined spaces.

Play is continuous; any errors – Defensive team changes

Coaching Points:

  • Possession: Can we play around, through the opponent?
  • Where is the pressure / where is the space?
  • Orientation + Awareness to receive passes between the lines – half-turned / eyes always scanning + processing
  • Confined spaces = quick decision-making and execution: 1 + 2-touch play required



Squad split into 3 teams of 4 players.  Playing area 16×25 approximately.  Teams are organised in a 4v4+2+2 perimeter.

Develop Your Passing Ability |
Diagram F


Team in possession may use the free players and perimeter players – this creates an 8v4 for the team in possession.

10 consecutive passes = 1 goal.  3x2min R 1min – each team performs the role of Free/Perimeter group.

Coaching Points:

  • Emphasis is on quick ball movement with 1 and 2-touch play
  • Playing area is congested to force quick ball movement



9 Players – 3 teams of 3.  Playing area is 2 12×15 grids divided by a 4m central zone.

Develop Your Passing Ability |
Diagram G


One team begins the activity in the central zone – they will act of the defensive group.

The other two teams (Red + Black) are positioned in the 12x15m grids – they must attempt to maintain possession through quick ball circulation and movement. Points are scored by passing successfully across the central zone.

Defensive team sends two players to apply pressure and 1 Player to stay in central zone to block passes – all must work to win back possession and deny passes through the central zone. Roles immediately change if the defensive team regains possession.

Continuous – 1x6min

Coaching Points:

  • Defensive team must work as a unit to regain possession.
  • Team in possession must move the ball quickly – no touch restriction – but teams are encouraged to play 1 and 2 touch

8. Passing / Possession – Transitions to Defend


8 players divided in two groups of four (Green + Yellow). Two adjacent grids of 10m x 10m/15m x 15m **(dependent on ability of players).

Develop Your Passing Ability |
Diagram H


4 (Yellow) v 2 (Green) in Grid (A); 2 Green waiting ball at the far end of the adjacent Grid (B).

As soon as Yellow makes a error (interception or ball out-of-grid) the game moves to the adjacent grid with a new ball passed from the Coach (C).

Green team now becomes the In-Possession team with 2 Yellow Defenders TRANSITIONING to apply immediate pressure.

Play is continuous in 4v2 format – (Coach can dictate demand with stoppages for coaching points)

Coaching Points:

  • Passing / Possession activity to create the habit of ‘transitioning’ to defend immediately on any loss of possession
  • “Think TRANSITION”!
  • Immediately change roles from In-possession to Defensive position with your partner..
  • Communication amongst defensive players – intercept / block passes / force errors..

9. Possession – Empasis on ‘Killer’ Passes to Opposite Grid


Three groups of 4 players are utilised. Playing area is 2 grids of approx. 12x15m divided by a 5m wide central zone.

Develop Your Passing Ability |
Diagram I


Play starts with a pass from the Coach (C) to either grid. One player from the Central zone (Defensive group) now enters the grid to create a 4v1 situation. The 4 players must maintain possession and attempt to pass through the central zone to the support players in the opposite grid.

A successful ‘Killer Pass’ through the central zone = 2 points.

Rotate Defensive group each 1.5 – 2min.

Coaching Points:

  • Quick ball circulation and movement to maintain possession
  • Quality execution of passes
  • Decision-Making and ‘Awareness’ – head / eyes always scanning playing area to look for opportunities to play through central zone