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How to Pass and Receive a soccer ball-Lessons for the Player

by Anne Haertel

A few years ago, I was talking to a young player from my club. I asked her how she liked her team and coach. She replied," It's okay, but all we ever work on in practice is our first touch." I was concerned that the coach might need some help, so I went to one of their games to evaluate. What I saw was a group of players who had a fairly good understanding of the tactical aspects of the game, but who struggled to receive passes well. In other words, their first touch was pretty bad. It was no wonder why the coach spent so much time in practice working on it.

The reason it is important to clean up the first touch, or the ability to receive ball well and to make accurate passes is because virtually every aspect of the game hinges on these two elements. When a coach prepares a training session, he or she is counting on the players to be able to execute the drills. When players are unable to deliver or receive balls well, the entire session can turn into a disaster.  

What can Players do to improve the ability to pass and receive the soccer ball?

 So what can be done? What can you do on your own to improve your ability to pass and receive the ball well? First, it is necessary to break down the pass into its most basic elements and repeat them many times so that any touch on the ball is so instinctive that during the game, you can be concentrating on what is happening on the field instead of focusing on corralling the ball.

Most young players look up to older, more experienced players as their role models for the game. Sometimes it is an older sibling, a high school, college, professional or international superstar. It's great to look up to these players and try to emulate their play, but it also important to realize that the best have perfected their skills to make everything they do look simple. In order to improve your passing and receiving ability, you should focus on the following things: knowing how the different faces of the foot and other body parts affect the pass, understanding how the position of the body can affect the pass, understanding how the speed at which the ball is approached will affect the pass. These three elements are critical to ascertain degree both in making passes and receiving the ball.

Several exercises that you can do on your own to help with the touch on the ball are to do toe taps, pendulums and triangles. These will help you stay light on your feet and generally help with the touch on the ball. These should be done as fast as possible while still being done correctly. You should keep your head and eyes up and avoid looking at the ball as much as possible. Keep track of how many are done in a minute’s time and try to do more every time. Another good drill to help with the touch on the ball is juggling. If you are a beginning player you can start with thigh juggles. Progress to foot juggles, and then add other elements such as popping the ball high into the air and turning around to catch it on a specific body part. This can be timed for a minute to see how many touches you can get, or you may keep going until the ball is dropped to see how many consecutive touches you get.

The next step which will help with positioning is to pass the ball to yourself. Find a wall or a fence with some flat ground in front of it. This can be done outdoors or indoors in a gym or basement. Pass the ball against the wall using the inside face of the foot, the outside face and the instep. Do each face repetitively either for as many as you can for a minute or 50 times. Increase your touches by trying to get more in a minute or just doing more passes. Change the distance you are from the wall and you will find yourself adjusting the strength of the pass. You will have to pass harder if you are further away and the ball will come back faster which will teach you to deal with receiving those types of balls as well. Because body positioning is an important part of passing, as you are doing the above passes off the wall, carefully analyze how you are facing in relation to where you are placing the ball. With an inside face or instep pass, the plant foot should be facing the direction you want the pass to go. The passing foot needs to strike the ball solidly. The ankle should be locked and the knee pulled up after the strike. The leg should follow thorough facing the direction you want the pass to go. When using the outside face, the body is turned slightly away from the pass, the ankle is flexible and "snaps" as the pass is made.  

What is important to receiving the soccer ball well?

In order to receive a ball well, you should be light on your toes and gently bouncing on your feet. This enables you to shift directions quickly and move your body to receive the ball easily. When doing the above drills practice this technique. Another good activity to help train you to be light on your feet is jump roping. Do as many quick, light single jumps as possible. Time yourself for a minute and see how many you can get. Try to do more every time. When you get really good you can increase the time.

The element of body position can affect your ability to receive balls. You need to practice getting your whole body behind the ball and direct your first touch out of pressure. Even if you have a poor first touch, at least the ball will go into an area where you can play it.   The final element to work on is your speed of play. When doing the above drills, practice making passes of different speeds. This will help you learn to put the proper pace on balls you serve. Because they will come back to you, you will learn to deal with balls delivered at different speeds. When receiving passes, remember to always move toward the ball. If you don't, you run the risk of an opponent running past you and intercepting the ball. Move to the ball to get there as quickly as possible, but just before you make contact, you must decide how hard to touch the ball. If it richochettes off of you, you run the risk of losing possession. If you need to keep the ball right at your feet, you must cushion the ball as though you were catching an egg. If you have some space in front of you, direct the ball with just the right amount of force to get it into the space you want it to go where you can get to it before your opponent as well.  

Two important elements for making and receiving passes.

 Remember these two important things when practicing making and receiving passes. When making passes, position yourself properly and follow through so the pass goes where you want it to. When receiving a pass, stay light on your feet, get your body fully behind the ball and position yourself so you can direct the ball where you want it to go.

If you do the above drills and exercises regularly and often and challenge yourself to improve every time, you will be able to make and receive passes without having to think too hard about them and be able to concentrate on other aspects of the game.