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Passing technique based on purpose

This is an excerpt from Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Soccer by Lindsey Blom & Tim Blom.

Teaching Passing

Different types of passes can be used depending on the purpose of the pass. Here they go again, you think. Isn't the purpose to get the ball from one player to another? Yes, that's correct, and for young, inexperienced players (4 to 8 years old), this is the only purpose they will need to worry about while playing. As players develop their skills, however, they will need to understand the other types of passes. You should understand the three main factors that determine the purpose of a pass so you can help your players choose when to use the different types of passes.

The first factor is how hard to pass the ball-in other words, how much pace, speed, or power to put into the kick. The more distance there is between the passer and the receiver, the more pace must be put on the pass (say that 10 times fast). The second factor is the need for accuracy. All passes need some accuracy (we don't want any spectators to get hurt), but some require more than others. The closer the opponent is to the receiver, the more accurate the pass needs to be. Sometimes it is helpful to play the ball into the space in front of the receiver; in this case less accuracy is required. The final factor is the timing of the pass. The passer must decide when and where the receiver wants to get the ball. Does he want it at his feet? Does she want it out in front of her so she can run onto it? Should the ball be played as quickly as possible, or does the teammate need time to create space from a defender?

This probably sounds like a lot of information for young players to process. To simplify, start them with the rule that passing to an open teammate equals a good choice. The rest will come with time and well-planned practices. Look for opportunities to stop a scrimmage and point out open players and good passing options. As far as types of passes, young players will primarily pass with the inside of the foot (push pass, short pass), but as they develop, they'll need to know the driven pass (long pass), cross, chip, and wall pass (one-two pass, give-and-go).

Inside-of-the-Foot Pass

The inside of the foot is used to move the ball with accuracy a short to moderate distance. This pass is the most important pass and should be used often, so give your players plenty of opportunities to practice it frequently. As with all passes, the entire leg is involved in passing the ball. Instruct the players to swing the leg from the hip rather than just from the knee. The quadriceps (thigh) is the biggest muscle group in the leg, so players should use that part of the leg.

To perform the inside-of-the-foot pass, a player stands facing the ball, which should be between the player and the target. The player places the nonkicking foot, or plant foot, about 3 to 5 inches (8 to 13 cm) to the side of the ball, with the toes pointed toward the passing target (see figure 4.2a). Both knees should be slightly bent. (The stance should be comfortable-legs like slightly cooked spaghetti rather than uncooked spaghetti.) The middle of the body should also face the target. Tell kids to keep their belly buttons facing the target. The arms should be at the side of the body to be used for balance. They should not be out to the sides like a helicopter.

The player plants the nonkicking foot and takes a short backswing with the kicking leg, opening the hip so the inside of the foot faces the ball (figure 4.2a). The foot should be slightly off the ground. The player should strike the middle of the ball with the middle of the inside of the foot (closer to the ankle bone than the toe) to send it in the targeted direction as shown in figure 4.2b. Instruct players to strike the ball with the logo on the inside of their cleats. At contact, the angle of the foot should be locked, with the heel down and toes up.

Young players should keep their eyes on the ball as they strike it. Encourage them to find a mark on the ball that they want to hit as they make contact. As players master the skill, keeping an eye on the ball is less important, but novice players need to watch the ball or they may end up on the ground after pulling a Charlie Brown. The foot should follow through toward the target in a fluid motion. Because of this smooth follow-through, this pass is often referred to as a push pass. If the ball is struck properly, it should have some topspin. After the pass, players should look up so they can follow the play. As players become more comfortable with this skill, encourage them to dribble and then pass without stopping between skills.

This is an excerpt from Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Soccer.

More Excerpts From Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Soccer