When done correctly, a proper through ball into the opponent’s final third can be a deadly, highly effective, and dangerous play. Being able to execute a through ball play not only on an individual level but with the entire team can be a great way to make a goal happen.
A through ball is when you play the ball in between the defensive line of the other team or over their heads into the space in front of the goal. Another player should be running through from an onside position and meet the ball. Normally, through balls aren’t to your teammate’s feet and are into the space in front of them for them to run onto.
Before you begin training, you should always put your team through a warm-up. Physically, mentally, and through soccer. A physical warm-up has your players going through dynamic stretches, light jogs which will turn into sprinting, change of directions, and interactive movements. A soccer warm-up has your players moving around with the ball, getting touches in, and getting comfortable with the ball at their feet.
Once you’re finished with that warm-up, you can take your team through a passing pattern exercise before you move on to through balls. The simple passing pattern should be fairly simple to begin with while still incorporating essential skills and then develop into more complicated patterns that require more skill or attention. These coupled with some solo drills for ball control will help your team develop teamwork while still being able to focus on their own skill sets for the game.
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Now that you’ve taken your team through a warm up and some soccer passing drills, you can get into the main focus of your practice—through ball drills.
Here are a few drills you can incorporate into your practice that works on through balls:
Set up a grid that is large in the middle and has two end zones on both ends with two small goals or a large goal at each end. The end zones should be bordered out with cones that are about 5 yards from one another.
The team should be separated into two different teams and all of them sent to play against one another in the middle, larger grid. Each team should be defending a specific side. The only way a team can get into the end zone to score is to play a through ball between the cones to an oncoming player, who must remain onside until the ball is played.
To start off, a player who runs into the end zone can have a certain number of touches to finish. You can later progress to allowing a defender in the end zone or more players for a combination play.
Create a grid large enough for the entire team to fit into. Separate the grid into three different sections. The middle grid should be about half the size of the two outside grids. Separate the team into three different teams and assign each team to a grid (one on each outside grid and one in the middle).
Once the players are all in their assigned grids, give the ball to one of the outside grid groups. Their task is to pass it amongst their group and then play a through ball to the opposite outside group across the middle grid without the ball being intercepted. The middle group, however, will create some pressure on the ball—sending one or two players into the outside grid to steal the ball.
The group in the middle is also allowed to intercept the pass as it goes through to the other side. If the ball is intercepted by the middle group, then the group that played the ball is now assigned to the middle and has to defend.
Set up a large grid standing about 20-25 yards in front of the goal with a line of cones with about 5 yards in between each. Split your team into two, playing possession against each other within the grid. Have the keeper ready in goal, as well.
Once a team has completed 5 passes (you can always change up the number of passes), they can play the ball through to line of cones into the box for a goal-scoring opportunity. One of the team players can enter into the box and go 1v1 against the goalkeeper to try and score.
As your team gets better at this drill, you can modify it by restricting the number of touches, raising the number of passes, adding a defender to go along with the attacking player heading to goal, and even increase the number of attackers, like as if they were forwards or midfielders.
These three drills are great opportunities to help teach your team the basics of through ball drills. Adding a defender and modifying it so that the defending team is allowed to defend after the ball is sent through creates a more realistic, game-like situation. It also helps teach your team how to deal with a through ball on the defensive side of things, as well.
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Depending on the style of play your soccer team prefers, utilizing through balls might be an essential aspect to scoring the goal, and ultimately winning the game.
A quality team that relies on the counter attack to score goals needs to practice and rehearse the through ball. A counter attack relies on a well-placed through ball to be played to a streaking player. When done correctly, it can allow your team to sit back and absorb the opposing team’s pressure, and then fire back on the counter.
Generally speaking, a team that prefers to play more of a possession style of play would utilize through balls a little less. This style of play relies on moving the ball around the pitch, working it in and out of different pockets of space in attempt to break the other team down and get them out of position.
However, even a possession style of soccer play utilizes through balls now and again. The general process of playing the ball into open space is at the core of what a through ball drill seeks to accomplish.
To summarize, training for through ball play will always be advantageous. Some styles of play rely on the through ball and others don’t. But, all styles utilize through balls to find space and score.
We hope that these drills can help not only teach your team about the basics of a proper through ball but help them practice it in game-realistic settings so that they have the best opportunity to pull it off during the game itself. Through balls are an extremely useful and important aspect of a soccer game and when used correctly, can be a deadly and dangerous scoring opportunity.