Teach Soccer Players to Pass to Space and Aggressive Receiving
2 of the Most Important Things to Teach
Rec and Select Soccer Players U-8 and older
Why soccer coaches should teach these 2 things and NOT teach Passing to Feet

This article discusses how to teach soccer players to pass to space and aggressive receiving.

I strongly recommend you teach "Passing to Space" and "Aggressive Receiving". Passing to Space (which for beginners, means kicking the ball to open space near the receiver, but away from defenders) is MUCH easier for beginning players than Passing to Feet and will result in much better ball movement, better ball possession, a faster and more creative attack, movement off the ball, improved "field vision", and better recognition of Open Space and how to use Open Space. Aggressive Receiving is a better way to teach receiving and will result in a big improvement in your players and their ability to retain the ball.

"I tried hard to emphasize Passing to Space rather than to feet. The girls weren't good enough at passing and trapping to pass to feet. I felt this taught them to anticipate a pass to space and take a shot quick after getting a pass into space from a teammate. I wanted to reduce the amount of time before taking a shot because the defense tended to close in quick if shots weren't quick." -Corey, U12G, Premium Member whose Rec team won their tournament

"We used the Premium Pass to Space Run with the Ball and Shoot game which has worked magically. The girls are really starting to pass ahead of each other. In fact my two best players, made a comment that they really need to pass it way ahead of our starting forward because she is so fast, but if the other forward is in, they told me they should not do the same because of the speed difference." Coach Mark, U10, CA, Premium Member

Ask yourself this question: Am I teaching my players that "Passing" means Passing to Feet" ? I believe you will have a much more creative and fluid attack if you teach "Passing to Space" and "Movement off the Ball". Be careful that you don't teach your players that "good passing" means "Passing to Feet" and that "Passing to Feet" becomes how they define a "good pass".... if that happens, you have taken a great amount of fun and beauty out of their attack and you will have a dull, predictable, unsuccessful attack. If you teach your players to "Pass to Space" your offense becomes much more creative, effective and hard to defend. The SoccerHelp Premium "Pass To Space, Run With The Ball and Shoot Game" and the "3 Man Direct, Wing Attacking Game" help teach this concept but for it to work you must encourage it during your real matches. This is a different way of thinking than "Passing To Feet" (most U.S. players have been taught that a "pass" is to feet; for this reason, it may be better to use the term "send the ball" instead of "pass to space" with older players), so at first you may encounter resistance and have to force them to do it. The way to get them to do it is to tell everyone that they must do their job and if a player Passes to Space and his teammate just stands there, it is the receiver's fault, not the passer's fault. In your Attacking Third, it may be best to sometimes Pass to Feet, but your players will figure this out on their own. At first your team will turn over the ball some, but soon "Passing to Space" will become the way your team plays and like magic everything will start to click. It is important that you realize there will be mistakes and still compliment the passer if he sends a good ball even if the receiver didn't do his job by getting to the ball (i.e., be sure the passer knows it isn't his fault if the ball is lost even though he did his job and that he only must worry about doing his job and not worry about whether the receiver will get there). You should tell the parents what you are doing and that they must not give instruction from the sidelines or they will harm the team. For more about this read "Pass To Space", "Pass To Yourself", "Pass To Feet", "Creating Space" A.3 & B.5 and "Cross" in the Dictionary and "Scoring More Goals" and "Attacking Plan" in Premium.

How to teach Passing To Space is explained in Premium.

Play the Premium "Pass To Space, Run With Ball and Shoot Game" to teach Passing to Space and running onto a "through ball" and shooting while running.

It is very important to teach "Aggressive Receiving". What I mean is that you should teach receivers that they MUST stay alert, on their toes, and stop the pass, no matter how bad it is -- they MUST assume that every pass will be bad, get in front of it, and NOT let it get past them. It's easy to teach Aggressive Receiving by playing the Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race practice game.

Many players seem to believe that a pass is supposed to hit them in the feet, and they will just stand there flat-footed waiting for the ball, and if it doesn't come to them perfectly, they just let it go by and say "It's not my fault - it was a bad pass". That is the wrong attitude. One of the most important things you can do is teach your players that a pass is NOT supposed to be perfect and that they must stay alert, on their toes, and go to the pass, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, do NOT let the pass get past them - they MUST do their very best to stop the ball. Teach your players that most passes are to "Space" and that the pass is NOT supposed to be perfect.

The reason to teach this is that it is unrealistic to expect most Rec players to be able to make a perfect pass when under pressure, SO teach your receivers to expect a BAD pass and that they MUST be alert and do their very best to stop bad passes. Imagine the benefits of "Aggressive Receiving"!

I suggest you give a special patch to encourage and reward this (pick a color or use a Star or Lightning Bolt). If you can teach this it will make a huge impact on your team's play.

Ideally, your players should be able to both Pass to Feet and Pass to Space. But the reality is that young players will have a hard time making accurate passes when under pressure, and so will Rec players. That is a big advantage of teaching this approach and of teaching them to "Pass to Space" - it makes it clear that they shouldn't expect "passes to their feet". The Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race practice game is the best way to teach Aggressive Receiving. See the Premium articles Aggressive Receiving and Aggressive Receiving No. 2.