All posts by Tom Mura

Combination Play

By Gregg Gillies –

Set Up: 20 yds x 10 yds up to 30 x 20 depending on age, skill level, etc.

The Drill:

  • Players 1 and 4 stand at opposite ends of the 20 yard rectangle. Player 5 stands in front of Player 1 as a passive defender. Player 2 stands on the side, off the shoulder of Player 5 (the defender). Player 3 is on the other side, diagonal from Player 2.
  • If you have more than 5 players, you can have lines where player 1 and player 4 begin.
  • Players 2 and 4 stay in their positions for the entire drill, so swap them out every few minuts so eveyone gets a chance at those positions.
  • Player 1 starts with the ball.

Diagram 1

Diagram 2

Player 1 passes to Player 2 and makes run around Player 5 to receive a return pass from Player 2.

Player 2 should receive the initial pass with an open body shape, letting the ball roll across their body to play a one touch return pass to player 1 with the outside foot (in this diagram that would be the left foot). Initially, especially with younger players, allow for a first touch to control the ball before the return pass but eventually make it one touch only.

Diagram 3

Player 1 takes the return pass with a directional touch toward Player 3 waiting on the other end line and passes Player 3 the ball.

Player 5, the intial defender moves toward the endline where player 1 started (essentially replacing player 1).

Player 1 follows their pass to player 3 and stops in front of player 3 to become a passive defender.


Diagram 4

The drill now restarts at the other end and works its way back. Player 1 has become the passive defender at the other end. Player 5 is now where Player 1 was. Both outside players, Player 4 and Player 2 stay in their respective locations.

Now Player 3 makes the pass to Player 4, who lets the ball roll across their body to play it with the outside food. Player 4 makes the run around Player 1 to receive the return pass.

Diagram 5

Player 3 receives the pass from Player 4, takes a directional touch toward the other end line and plays a pass to Player 5 waiting on that endline.

Diagram 6

We are now back in the original starting position, with Player 3 as the passive defender and Player 5 starting the drill again with a pass to Player 2.

Coaching Points

Quality of the Pass – The initial pass (from Player 1 in diagram 1) must be accurate and weighted properly. Player 1 needs to be close enough to the defender before making the pass so the defender can’t easily drop off to cover the run but not so close that the defender can easily intercept the pass.

Once your players are comfortable with the drill, the initial pass should be practiced with the outside of the foot, as this can be quicker and easier than a pass that brings the right foot across the body and closer to the defender.

The weight and accuracy of the second pass (in diagram 3 this is Player 2) is key so their teammate who made the initial pass to them can run on to the ball space without slowing down.

In order to player a quick 1-2 in small spaces the outside player (again Player 2 in Diagram 3) must be off the shoulder of the defender and get into an open body position. This way, the ball can roll across the body so they can take it with the outside foot, allowing them to play an accurate one touch return pass.
Progressions / Variations

You can make the first pass have to be taken with the outside of the foot
The return pass from the outside player must be 1 touch
You can increase the pressure from the passive defender. For example, in diagram 1, when Player 1 collects the return pass on the intiial 1-2, he must only take a touch and then pass to the other endline, and then run to pressure the endline player with the ball as a live defender.


If you have at least 10 players, you can break up into groups and they can compete against each other for the most number of successful 1-2’s in a specific time period, such as 2 minutes. Every time the ball goes from one end lines to the player at the other endline, that’s one.

Have a coach at each group doing the counting and enforcing the rules. For example, if the rule is outside of the foot for the initial pass, one touch for the return pass and two touches max to play to the other endline, then the coach does not count a 1-2 that violates those rules.

By Gregg Gillies

Gregg Gillies is a nationally licensed coach through the USSF and is a Youth Athlete Development Specialist and Head Coach at Mount Laurel United Soccer Club, where he currently coaches a u14 girls team, the MLU Raptors. He also is the owner of, where his focus is on maximizing a player’s individual technical skills, soccer IQ, and overall athletic development.

Passing Patterns

By David Johnson –


This session will focus on passing and game like patterns of play.  The focus needs to be on proper weight and direction of the pass and the quality of the runs.  The focus is also on moving without the ball.  This should be done as close to game speed as possible.  Communication including calling for the ball and what areas are open such as calling “line” are critical.   Over emphasis is very critical for players to remember not only the passing patterns but the verbal commands as well.

Diagram 1

Set Up

There are 2 lines facing each other with 2 players facing the line with the ball.  The drill begins with the players nearest the ball calling for the ball.


The first pass is to the nearest player.   The passing player moves to the right or the left opening up space for a pass back.   This determines the angles of the rest of the drill.  The second player checks to the same line as the passing player.  The ball is played back to the original player.

Diagram 2

The next movement is for the player to pass a long ball to the checking second player.   Once that pass is made the original player makes a diagonal run through the space calling for a return pass.   The player on the line plays it to the feet of the diagonal run.

Diagram 3

The drill then flips to the other line and the drill flips.   The most important movement is the first decision by the passing line as to the which direction they go – that determines which line the pass is made to and what angle the diagonal run is made.

Diagram 3

Coaching Points

  • Change the middle two players frequently. Every minute or so
  • Passes must be weighted properly and sent to the correct foot of the receiver
  • Remind players of in game situations where this is valuable and how the decisions of your teammates affects your decisions and options.

By David Johnson

David Johnson has been a high school coach for more than 20 years.

Heads Up Game

By Steven Smith

Area Size: 40 X 35 Grid

Teams:  Everyone on the team in groups of two

Time: 10-12 minutes

Objective:  Increase passing skills in teams of all developmental levels

This warm up activity can take away the boredom that often comes with warming up. It is a gradual progression of passing and receiving with partners that turns into a fairly intense and fun way of getting your athletes to focus and be fully prepared to go hard once you hit the main training phase.

Set Up
A large grid of 40 X 35 is constructed for players to pass and receive with their partner. Every player finds a partner to pass and receive with inside of the grid.

This activity is a three step progression of intensity.

The activity begins with each set of partners having a ball. The ball is passed and received only with their own partner. After intervals of passing and receiving with intervals of stretching and range of motion activities the intensity is increased by inserting a set of rabbits (defenders who chase down ball). The rabbits simply attempt to knock the ball of the partner passers out of the grid to eliminate the partners.

The activity momentum increases with the number of defenders that the coach chooses to insert into the grid.

The final progression is where the intensity reaches it’s peak. Two sets of partners give up their balls and are joined together by holding onto a towel. The defenders with the towel must work together to tag a player without the ball. This means that the partners who are passing and receiving must pay attention to the defenders with the towel and when their partner is being chased they must get the ball to their partner. Once a player has the ball on their foot they cannot be tagged. If a player is chased out of bounds (grid) then they have been tagged. Once tagged the chasers drop their towel and the tagged player picks up the towel and his partner joins him or her to become the taggers. The former taggers become passers and receivers. It is a continuous game until the coach ends the activity.


Goalkeepers can be introduced into the game with the restriction that they pass and receive using their hands to catch.

By Steve Smith
Steve Smith has been a men’s college coach that holds an NSCAA Advanced National Diploma and a Doctorate in Physical Education.