5 Passing and Receiving Soccer Drills to Practice

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​Passing and receiving are essential components to developing a firm and sturdy foundation for your soccer career. Being able to receive and pass the ball effectively play an important role on the field and within your team.

Although you can work on these skills individually with just a ball and a wall, it is much more effective to do so within your team or with a teammate.

Here are a few passing and receiving soccer drills that you can work on during your next practice:

​Passing and Receiving Skills to Master

​While you’re practicing how to pass, you’ll need to make sure you are always emphasizing the execution of a few key movements and points.

Be sure to take note of the following, as both indoor and outdoor soccer will benefit out of these drills. With that said, have your players ready with their chosen soccer socks as well as their top choice soccer cleats for outdoor soccer, or their best youth soccer shoes for indoor soccer.

Close up of a mitre soccer ball in the middle of the grassy field
  1. First, you’ll need to focus on the quality of your passing and receiving. When done correctly during practice, you’ll develop the muscle memory to execute it flawlessly during the game when you don’t have much time to think about it.
  2. Secondly, you’ll need to understand awareness of your surroundings and develop a quick process for decision making. Keeping your head up before you receive the ball is extremely important. You’ll be able to see the situation around you and make your decision for your next move
  3. Lastly, you should never be caught standing still. Whether you are moving to receive the pass or moving right after you’ve sent it to another teammate, you shouldn’t ever be stationary. Soccer is a game of flow and constant movement—beginning at passing and receiving. You should be moving into the open spaces to put yourself in the best area to receive the ball and get open again after playing it.

Through these various drills, a player will learn the technical and tactical intelligence of passing, will practice the physical aspects of actually making the movement, and the developing the psychological aspect of the awareness of surroundings, decision-making in the game, and confidence in each pass.

Here are the drills:

​Passing and Receiving Warm Up Drills

​To get you or your team warmed up and ready for practice or to shave the skills back to the basics, here are some great warm up, passing and receiving drills to implement during training.

​Through the Cones

​Another great warm-up drill that can be used to work on passing and receiving is extremely easy to set up. With just two cones placed between a pair of players in a “gate” (about 1 yard in width), players will be instructed to pass the ball back and forth through the cones.

You can work on receiving the ball quickly with various parts of your foot and playing with both feet. You can also work on the accuracy of your pass because you have to play the ball through the grid.

This is a very easy and simple drill that is also highly effective. You can increase the distance, change up the required foot being used, or switch up the part of the feet being used​.

​The Y-Passing Drill

A simple passing drill, this is a great warm-up exercise that also works on passing and receiving. Using four cones, set up a giant letter “Y”, with each cone about 15 yards away from one another.

There are various ways to work on this drill through progression. Your final “Y-Passing Drill” will be explained a little something like this:

Soccer player in red tries to pass ball through defenders

One player should be at each cone with the line of the remaining players and the ball at the beginning at the bottom of the “Y”. The bottom of the Y player (player A) will pass to the next player who is located at the intersecting point of the “V” of the “Y” (player B).

That player will then play it back to player A who will choose a side (left or right) and play a long ball to player C, located at the tip of the “Y”. Player C will play a give-and-go with player B and then move to the bottom of the Y at the back of the line.

​Circle Passing Drill

Another great warm-up game is really simple to set up. You can easily just use the center circle as your grid. Have half of the players stand on the edges of the circle with the rest of the players inside the circle. Each player located on the edge have a ball.

The players with the ball will pass the ball into players in the middle, who are constantly moving to get free for a pass. You can easily adjust the drill to various number of touches, making moves, give and gos, and other variations.

Learning how to make one touch passes is critical for in game, and make sure to focus on this aspect at some point in the drill.

The fact that the players on the inside of the circle have to move into an open space to receive the ball while still paying attention to their surroundings will make it very game-like.

​Team Passing and Receiving Soccer Drills

​For these next few exercises, you’ll need a team—or at least more than just a couple of players to execute each drill properly. These drills take the skills you just focused on at an individual level and put them into a realistic, game-like situation.

​Passing Gates Drill

​Working on 1-2 touch passing with both feet, this drill is a team drill. Have the entire team split into two teams. In a large square grid that fits the entire team comfortably, place cone grids sporadically throughout the area, standing them 2 yds apart.

The teams have to compete against one another. A team can score points by passing the ball through the gate cones to their teammate.

Man in a white jersey has his leg swung back to kick the ball

​4 vs 4 Possession

​For this drill, create a grid around 30 x15 yds (the size can change depending on the number of players you have). In this simple possession game, players have to work on their passing, receiving, and movement off the ball. You can also add neutral players on the edges of the grid to add a bit of diversity.​

​Benefits of Better Passing in Soccer

Longer possessionGame domination
Faster connections between playersIncreased goal opportunities
Longer retention of the ballBetter defense

​Passing is one of the most fundamental and key elements of a successful player, and most importantly, a successful team. Passing achieves several key benefits:

  • Holds possession for your team. Possession has a number of benefits, including allowing you to better control the game, dictate the pace to be played, and exert less energy. Whether or not higher possession directly equates to a higher chance of winning is a subject of much debate.
  • Allows you to move the ball forward faster. There are a number of ways to move the ball forward, including dribbling the ball forward and long clearances. But, quick accurate kicks and passes is the fastest, most accurate way to move the ball towards the opponents goal.
  • ​Create opportunity. Passing the ball around the pitch, back and forth, while working the ball into space, opens up channels and angles for shots on goal. The faster the passing occurs, the more opportunity for the defense to be exposed and these openings to occur.

Because of all the benefits that occur from passing, it is an essential skill to learn if you want to get better. Many coaches and teams focus their efforts on training in other areas, like shooting drills and ball possession skills.

​Types of Soccer Passes to Practice

​While there are many different ways to pass a soccer ball, there are also different types of soccer passes. Learning the various types of passes will help you put context into your passing and receiving soccer drills, and better put what you’ve practiced into play in a game.

​Forward Pass Behind the Defense

​This is the most dangerous type of pass you can make, and has the highest probability of leading to a goal scoring opportunity. It also typically requires the greatest degree of accuracy and precision on your part.

Working the best soccer ball on the market from behind the defense gives your team a direct shot at goal. However, depending on the type of defense that the other team is playing, this can be very difficult.

Man passes to the side away from opponent in soccer

Sometimes you’ll want to use a long looping pass over the head of the defenders. This is great if you have a fast striker that can make runs at goal.

Other times you’ll want to play a through ball on the ground to your striker. This can work well after a series of passes back and forth, opening space up for a area to pass.

No matter what, playing a pass behind the defense involves a lot of timing and coordination between teammates. Much of this can be developed through the passing drills that are done during the week in practice. Not only do you get better at your passing technique, but you develop a routine and rhythm for the timing.

​A Pass Forward

​While not as attacking in nature, a pass forward still moves the ball up the field and further into your opponents area.

Most often this type of pass will be direct, hard, and at your teammates feet. These passes also need to be really accurate, because your teammate will likely have an opponent somewhere nearby.

Sometimes this type of pass will be made directly to where your teammate is, and other times it will be made to space that your teammate is running to.

Passing drills will give you the confidence to play these types of balls accurately.

​A Pass Sideways or Backwards

​While these are technically two different types of passes, I can bunch them together for this sake of this article. Both a sideways pass and a backwards pass is not attacking in nature.

Instead, this style of pass is meant to be more of a possession rest or a change of the angle of attack.

Passing sideways opens up new angles for your team to attack. Usually your teammate will be fairly open to receive the pass, and you don’t have to be as precise as you do in other types of passes.

You do want to ensure you put plenty of power on a sideways pass. If the pass ends up falling short and being intercepted by the opposing team, it gives them a great chance to break at your goal and score.

A backward pass is best used to reset play and try a different angle of attack.

Related Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about passing and receiving in soccer.

Why Is Receiving Important in Soccer?

In soccer, receiving the ball and controlling it is essential to keep good possession and enhance the flow of the game. If a player receives the ball incorrectly, the team will probably lose possession.

How Can You Pass in One Touch?

Players must pay close attention to both the ball and the position of their teammate when making a one-touch pass. They must then look in their direction and pass the ball in one touch.

This calls for quick thinking and swift movement. After all, the primary goal of this pass is to surprise the opposing defense.

How Can You Receive a Fast Cross?

To receive a cross that is coming towards you faster than normal, you need to make one touch with your dominant feet. This touch needs to send the ball towards a place that can put you in an advantage against the opposition defenders.

However, you need to remember that some balls are better received with the chest, rather than your legs.


​These drills are simple to execute but highly effective when it comes to working on passing and receiving the ball. When working on your own, it might also be a good idea to consider grabbing a good quality soccer rebounder for practice. Since they are two of the most basic but fundamental skills in soccer, it is extremely important to work on them as much as possible.

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.

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