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Competitive Technical Passing

By Gregg Gillies –

Warm Up

Set Up: Space can vary depending on number of players and how difficult you want it to be. Set up a variety of cone “goals” randomly throughout a space and pair up your players in teams of two, each team has one ball. Use at least 5 cone “goals.”

The players, in pairs with one ball, are to complete as many passes as they possibly can through the cone goals scattered thoughout the playing area, in a set amount of time (30 to 90 seconds). The team with the highest number of completed passes wins.

Players can not complete multiple passes through the same goal without going to at least two other goals first.

You can vary the number of goals and size of the playing area to make the drills more or less difficult. The smaller the area, the more traffic that each team needs to be aware of and avoid, making the game more challenging.

Make the receiving player of a pass that scores a goal call out the number of that goal, loud and proud. This helps with getting players to talk, especially at younger ages.

Coaching Points:
The accuracy and pace of the pass, as well as good communication between players on a team are extremely important in being successful at this drill.

Players need to keep their heads up and be aware of their surroundings so they don’t run into other players or have a pass fail because it hit another player or another teams ball.

The quality of all touches is important so traffic can be avoided, causing time to be lost if a ball is knocked away via a collision with another player or another ball.

Progressions and Variations

Set Up: See below in diagram two. Divide up into multiple teams of four to six players. The cones that need to be passed through and the distance between the cones will depend on the skill level of your players. 10 to 12 yard passes are long enough distance wise as we are looking for quick, quality passes on the ground with at most two touches, one if possible.

Passes must go between the two cones in front of the player you are passing to. That player can then play a one touch pass or take a first touch. The return pass must also go through the far two cones. When a pass is made, that player goes to the back of the next line.

The teams are competing to complete the most number of passes in a set time like 30 or 45 seconds. Any pass that does not go through the far two cones, does not count. This is true if the pass goes wide, but also true of the receiving player steps up and takes their first touch ahead of the cones without letting the ball travel through.

Coaching Points
Focus on accuracy and weight of the pass. A good, solid pass that allows a teammate to return it with one touch will give a team the ability to complete more passes in the time allowed. The more touches a teammate must take to control the pass, the fewer total passes that will be completed.

Whichever team completes the most number of passes wins.

The competition and cones takes a simple, boring passing drill and dramatically increases the intensity and focus of the players.

Progression/Variation #2
Same Set up but add a 1-2 into the senquence as shown below in diagrams 4 and 5.

In this version, count all passes completed that go through the cones.

These drills and variations are a great way to work on technique without defense but also add an ellement of pressure and intensity (as well as focus) that you don’t get with typical drills. Adding that element of competition can help players more quickly develop their technique and skill.

One last thought on the competition element. You can create two (or three or more depending on total number of players) to make it one overall competition by adding the total number of passes completed through each variaton.

For example, let’s say you have 12 players and in the team passing drill, you have 3 reams, which is 4 players per team. For the first drill, when they are working in pairs, separate them into 3 teams of 4 players and then into pairs within each team.

The total number of completed passes is the total of the passes completed by the pairs within each team. Then keep the same teams throughout all variations, with the winner being total number of passes completed throughoug the session.

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 www.NoLimitsSoccerTraining.com, where his focus is on maximizing a player’s individual technical skills, soccer IQ, and overall athletic development.

Color Passing and Movement

By David Johnson

This session will focus on players thinking before the ball is passed and moving without the ball to open space.   Following a color sequence predetermines the passing but movement is player driven.  The players should open up to the passer as well as be in a position to pass immediately the next player in the pattern.   1-2 touch is the objective with constant ball movement and communication.

Set Up
Using the set up as above. 4 cones are placed in a diamond shape 10-12 yards apart.   4 players each wearing a different color practice jersey start at each cone.  1 player starts with 1 ball.

The coach calls out a color pattern such as RED, GREEN, YELLOW, BLUE.   This indicates to the players the order in which the ball must be passed to each player.  So the RED players passes to GREEN and then GREEN passes to YELLOW, and then YELLOW passes to BLUE.  The last color in the sequence then passes to first color to start the pattern again.  So in this example BLUE would pass to RED to start the pattern again.   The excrise begins with no player movement as the ball just passes around based on the color pattern.   The coach should change the color pattern every 45-60 seconds to make players adjust to new angles.

After the ball is passed the passer must switch with the player on any other cone except the player that just received the ball.  So if RED passes to GREEN then RED must switch with either YELLOW or BLUE.  This requires thoughtful movement of the players without the ball.  Now the ball might be passed to a player on the move between cones.  This creates much more game like dynamics.

Only have 3 players on the 4 cones.  The movement after the pass is then to the open cone.  The color pattern is then only 3 colors.

Coaching Points
– Open up to accept the pass and be ready to send it to the next color in the pattern.
– Ensure players are receiving the ball with the correct foot to ensure position to shield the ball from the defense
– A passive defender can be added to the middle of the diamond

By David Johnson

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

Combination Play Part Two

By Gregg Gillies –

This drill builds off of Part 1 by adding more live pressure and more decision making by the players themselves.

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

The rectangle is divided in half with cones (see diagram 1 below) so a 20 x 10 field would be divided into a 10 x 10 and 10 x 10 next to each other.

The Drill: The drill starts with two defenders. One defender is in a mid pressing position, standing in the middle of the first box. The second defender is in a low pressure position, standing on the far endline of the second 10 x 10 box.

There are two offensive players. One starts with a ball in the bottom right corner of the first box. The second offensive player stands on the opposite sideline off the shoulder ot the mid pressure defender.

The goal is to play 2v1 in the first box, and beat the defender into the second box. The first defender can not move into the second box. If the two offensive players successfully possess the ball into the second box, the second defencer is now “live” and can come off the endline to defend. It’s now a 2v1 in the second box, with the goal of beating the defender over the endline with a dribble and stopping the ball under control.

Diagram 1

As you can see by the set up above in Diagram 1, the start of the drill is designed to encourage the 1-2 combination play in the first box, similar to Part 1. However, the set up and rules are different enough to make this drill more difficult, as well as include quick decision making as part of the process.

First, the defense is live and playing at 100%. Also, the two offensive players are a little futher apart, so both players, with and without the ball, will need to make decisions and move, not only to set up the 1-2, but to make another good decision if that play is not available.

Diagram 2

As shown in diagram 2, the offensive player is dribbling toward the defender to commit them to the ball while the second offensive player moves closer, off the defender’s shoulder, to allow an angle of support to the ball carrier.

Diagram 3

In diagram 3, you can see the two offensive players context on the 1-2 practiced in part 1. The player with the ball dribbles into box 2, with player two taking a supporting angle off the ball.

Diagram 4

Here you see another 1-2 set up, as the defender comes out to close down the ball carrier, who lays it off to the second player, who is moving off the ball to keep a constant angle of support.

Diagram 5

The second offensive player finishes off the game by dribbling across the endline.

Diagram 6

This diagram shows another option for the offensive players. While the main purpose of the drill is to continue work on the 1-2, it has added the element of decision making and creativity. The defensive players know the idea as well. If they look to cut off the 1-2, the offensive players must recognize this and change tactics. In this example, the ball carrier drives toward the defender. The teammate, instead of staying off the defender’s shoulder, makes a diagonal run behind the defender and the ball carrier plays a pass up the line into that space.

Diagram 7

Here you see the continuation of the previous diagram. The original ball carrier continues his run to the other side. The two offensive players have now switched sides in their attack. Many players at young ages struggle with only making runs up and down the field in their lane. This helps to encourage different runs and players switching positions.

Diagram 8

This diagram shows one other effective option. The ball carrier drives toward the defender, makes a fake toward the second offensive player and then cuts back, dribbling into space and across the line. The ball carrier needs to drive hard at the defender and commit them to cutting off the play to the second offensive player.

The second offensive player, when recognizing the dribble move, reverses their run from off the defender’s shoulder, into space to support the ball carrier in the second box.

Coaching Points:

The coaching points for the 1-2 are the same as Part 1.

Quality of the Pass – The intial 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 defnder 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.

Whatever decision they make, whether it’s the 1-2, the ball up the line, or beating the first defender with the dribble, the ball carrier must aggressively commit the defender by going at them.

Encourage communication between the two offensive players. If player 2 is going to make that run in behind the first defender, they need to let the ball carrier know that’s the ball to play.

Timing, speed of play and accuracy and weight of the pass are extremely important.

Progressions / Variations

If you want to encourage passing over dribbling, you can limit the touches.

For the second box, you could make it so dribbling across or receiving a pass across the endline results in a score. Or it could be just one or the other, depending on whether you want to emphasive a finishing pass or a dribble into space.


Divide them into groups of 2. Each offensive group goes X number of times, they get a point for each successful completion of the drill. High score wins. You can make it easier or harder to score by making it a point for successfully getting through both boxes or a point each time you get through a box. For example, get through box 1 but not box 2 could still be a point.

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 www.NoLimitsSoccerTraining.com, where his focus is on maximizing a player’s individual technical skills, soccer IQ, and overall athletic development.