Good passes are positive actions that contribute to the team; bad passes are negative actions taking away from the build up or the attack. In the list below, each action has been assigned a value. While you want your players to always look for the highest-value pass it has to be balanced by the risk to return.
Many children think that they can hit a defense splitting pass every time — no matter where they are or what the situation is. This leads quickly to kick and run and loss of possession. Not good soccer. On the other hand, a player with the opportunity to play a penetrating pass but opts for one that just maintains possession has also played unskillfully. It’s a lost opportunity.
Developing patience in the build up and recognizing when to play the decisive pass is a vital skill to learn. One that is necessary as the precursor to scoring goals.
|Type of Pass
|Shot or goal
|Think of shooting as passing the ball into the goal.
|This pass leads directly to the shot.
|By advancing the ball past a defender(s) or a line, this pass contributes to the build up and gets the team one step closer to an assist. Penetrating passes can be played from anywhere. For example: The goalkeeper rolls the ball out to the right back, who’s behind the opponent’s left wing. This pass puts the left wing on the wrong side of the ball and therefore out of the game.
The greater the number of opponents put out of the game with a pass, the better.
|A pass that keeps possession but doesn’t put any opponents out of the game.
|This pass contributes to the build up by keeping the ball away from the opponents. It represents at best a probe and at worst a safety first approach. While it’s often played backwards or square it can be played forward in front of the opponents.
|Crimes of Omission
|The team keeps possession, but has lost an opportunity. For example, a pass is played backwards, a 1, although a forward pass, a 2 is available.
It takes take a degree of experience to see lost opportunities in the heat of a game — for coaches as well as players. New coaches tend to focus too much on the player with the ball, what’s happening in their immediate space and their problems. Experience will help you to develop the necessary game awareness to see these missed opportunities.
|Crimes of Commission
|Crimes of commission are easier to spot, because the player has just given the ball to the opponents.
|A risk worth taking
|Every player faces opportunities to try a difficult pass that could produce a good result. Encourage players to try when the risk is worth the return and to accept the consequences when they fail. It’s important to have players who will take this responsibility. They aren’t afraid to try the difficult; they can live with failure; and they are mature enough to calculate the chances of success and not just to rely on chance.
|Giving the ball to the opponents unnecessarily
|Sometimes it’s because of a poor decision; other times it’s poor execution. Either way, now the entire team must come together and work to correct the mistake.
The difference between this error and the previous one is a matter of game maturity. This quality only comes through experience and that is best learned in small-sided games.
|Giving the ball to the opponents is met with an immediate counterattack.
|The team’s lost possession and now faces serious consequences. Mistakes like this will largely take place in your own back or middle third.
Just use the above as a general guide for yourself; it won’t mean anything to your players if you tell them they hit a 1 or a –1.
You can utilize small-sided games to analyze your players and use the information to guide your decisions and evaluations. For example, a player who consistently plays -1 passes is a poor choice for a key midfield distribution role.
Tips to Make Passing Pay
There are a few general rules that all players can follow that will improve the passing game.
Don’t overestimate your own ability: Too often players try to hit a game-winning, defense-splitting pass every time they get the football. Relax, keep your composure and if you can’t find a “good” pass quickly, settle for a safe one. The time that you’re thinking about things is time a teammate in another position could make good use of the ball.
Always look for the deep pass first: Look at the players who are at the edge of your passing range, and if you cannot get the ball to one of them, start working your way back. Make the first deep pass that you can make, and try to get as many opponents on the wrong side of the ball as quickly as possible.
Learn how to calculate the risk to return of each pass: There are times to try the risky passes and times to play it safe. When in doubt, don’t lose the ball, play it safe. Pass with a purpose and not just hope.
Don’t telegraph your passes: Look away from your target and use your peripheral vision. Your eyes can tell the defenders everything they want to know, so use them to misdirect the defenders.
Remember your teammate. Keep in mind their situation, and what they need. If you can’t supply them with the quality serve they require you should look for another target. Make them look like a better player.
Quick, simple and accurate passes get the job done. Don’t hold the ball and dwell over things. This slows down the team.
Don’t run with the ball if you can’t keep your head up. Trying to run with the ball half the length of the field doesn’t help if all you can see is the ball and your own two feet. Develop your field vision. And remember, the ball can travel faster without you attached to it.