Expert section: Mate Kontra – I’ve played soccer at a very high level all my life. Throughout my time playing, I’ve been coached by ex-pro, D1, and Academy level coaches, currently playing at the MLS-Next level as a wingback in California. Here is everything beginners need to know about passing a soccer ball.
Learning new soccer skills is challenging for any player, but it’s nothing compared to beginner players’ grind to master the fundamentals.
More specifically, passing.
When I started, the ball always bounced off my foot in all directions except where I aimed.
It also didn’t make it easier that nobody advised me how to improve.
Improving was a frustrating challenge, so I can relate to many players who have recently joined the sport.
To help you out, I will share everything you need to know to improve your passing skills in soccer.
Related article: Best Places to Shop for Affordable Soccer Cleats
Learning How to Pass a Soccer Ball, for Beginners
Passing is undoubtedly the most used skill in the sport, performed hundreds of times by teams throughout a game.
So consistently performing it without making mistakes is crucial for success.
To make mastering it as fast as possible, we will discuss fundamental passing techniques, where beginners should start, and even a detailed guide on the technique used for short passing.
But to ensure we set you up for success, we even included your next steps to continue improving.
So without further due, let’s get right into it!
Common Passing Techniques
When talking about passing, players use more than one technique to move the ball around the pitch.
Professionals use numerous techniques to circulate the ball efficiently, and players even make them up on the spot.
But which ones are the most important?
The three most important passing techniques for beginners are the short pass, the cross, and the ping.
The short pass is a technique used to firmly skim the ball across the playing surface straight to a teammate, using the inside of the foot.
It’s the most fundamental type of passing technique and is used the most often out of any soccer skill.
Every single professional player has mastered this skill and can perform it with one touch in any situation.
After all, soccer is a team sport, so short passes are crucial for the success of any player or team.
The cross is an aerial pass using the inside of the foot to create a curving trajectory, most commonly used to deliver the ball into the box for a teammate to score.
It is less fundamental for the sport as a whole, though it is a crucial skill for creating goal-scoring opportunities.
The curving trajectory of the ball makes it challenging and dangerous for defenders to interfere with the pass, so attackers have an easier time fighting for the ball.
The ping technique has characteristics from both the short pass and the cross.
It is an aerial pass with a straight trajectory, generally used for long-range passes to teammates.
The main difference between the ping and the previous two techniques is that the ping uses the laces to strike the ball.
Instead of using the inside of the foot, players must point their toes down to strike the ball with the laces.
Specifically, midfielders and defenders often use this technique.
What should you start with?
The first passing skill that players should learn is the short pass.
Short passes are the simplest of the three techniques listed above, so learning it should take around a week or so.
Consistency is key to learning new skills, so practice as much as possible.
Fundamentals of the Short Pass (Correct Technique)
Players generally perform the short pass from several feet to roughly 25 yards.
The pass trajectory is straight to a teammate’s foot and used to circulate the ball around the field as quickly as possible.
Here are the four steps to performing the short pass with the correct technique:
Step 1: Choose a kicking and planting foot.
Before kicking the ball, players must decide which foot to strike it with.
The kicking foot will strike the ball, while the planting foot stays on the ground to support the body.
Step 2: Place the plant foot next to the ball.
Any time before kicking the ball, including short passes, the plant foot is placed next to the ball for proper support.
The inside of the foot must be facing the ball with roughly 3 inches of space between them, and the toes pointing toward the passing target, such as a teammate.
Step 3: Swing the foot to kick the ball
After correctly placing the plant foot, the kicking foot should begin its swing roughly 1-2ft behind the ball.
This distance will allow players to generate enough power to perform a firm pass and prevent them from kicking it too hard.
The contact point on the foot is at the arch, between the bone of the big toe and the heel bone, essentially the middle of the foot.
It should strike the center of the ball with a tightly locked ankle to generate power while keeping it on the ground.
Step 4: Follow through with the foot
As the ball leaves to travel to a teammate, the follow-through with the food should be very short.
The swing should stop close to the ground, 1ft in front of the body, to prevent the ball from lifting off the ground.
Swinging the foot forward may scoop the ball into the air and have an inaccurate trajectory.
To have the best follow-through possible, I like to think of the technique as a punching motion.
The contact with the ball is quick and firm to ensure that the ball bounces off the foot instead of being pushed forward by the foot.
With every new skill players learn, there will be mistakes along the way.
Without help, players may not even realize their mistakes and will have a tough time correcting them.
To prevent that, here are the four most common mistakes players make when learning the short pass.
Mistake #1: Hitting the Ball Above the Center Point
Hitting the ball above the center usually causes it to be pushed into the ground and bounce up after the pass.
This will create inaccurate passes that are difficult to control for teammates.
Hit the ball at a lower point.
By hitting the ball at a lower point, players eliminate the downward force on the ball.
Instead of chopping into the ground, the ball will travel forward, flush with the ground.
Mistake #2: Hitting the Ball Below the Center Point
Hitting the ball below the center will cause it to lift off the ground after the pass, making it difficult for teammates to control it.
It often also puts too much power behind the pass, which makes it even more difficult to control.
Hit the ball at a higher point, closer to the center.
By hitting the ball closer to the center, it will eliminate the upward force created on the ball.
Instead, the ball will travel forward, flush with the ground.
Mistake #3: Swinging the foot up during the follow-through
Swinging the foot up during the follow-through creates two problems with a short pass.
First, the pass will be inaccurate, and second, the ball will lift in the air.
Slightly lean above the ball with the torso while performing the short pass.
Leaning the torso forward will eliminate the upward swing of the foot during the follow-through, ensuring the ball stays on the ground and accurately travels to the target.
Mistake #4: Not Locking the Ankle
A common beginner mistake when passing the ball is not locking the ankle.
Think of it as this: a ball will bounce back perfectly from a solid wall but not from a wire fence.
The solid wall is hard and doesn’t absorb energy, so the ball bounces back, but the wire fence will deform on impact and absorb the ball’s momentum, so it doesn’t bounce back.
The same science applies to the ankle.
A locked ankle that doesn’t deform on impact will provide a better bouncing platform for the ball than an unlocked ankle that deforms on impact.
When striking the ball during passes, flex the muscles around the ankle to prevent it from twisting or deforming on impact.
Locking the ankle also reduces injury rates because it reduces the stresses on the tendons and ligaments in the ankle during a kick.
How to practice the short pass?
There are many ways to practice short passes depending on traveling ability, equipment availability, and partner availability.
Preference can also play a role once players have got the hang of the technique.
I recommend two methods for beginner players to practice short passes.
For players who do not yet have a practice partner, I recommend using a wall to train passes.
Walls provide a firm bounce straight to the foot, which will feel the same as if another player passed it.
Any wall is usable if it has a flat surface low to the ground to ensure the ball bounces straight to the foot.
The most common places to have these walls are near sports parks, football fields, or playgrounds.
If you’re going to practice anywhere else, make sure the wall you’re using is public property so you’re not damaging someone’s wall or paint.
Additionally, most walls away from sports parks will be on a concrete surface, so futsal shoes may be necessary.
If you are planning to purchase a pair of futsal shoes, check out our article discussing why futsal shoes are important for soccer development, including a comprehensive shopping guide about futsal shoes.
A partner can be crucial for beginner players to improve, depending on their skill level.
Partners with the same skill level may share the motivation to improve.
However, they may not be able to teach you anything new.
The best option is to find a soccer coach with experience who sees your enthusiasm and wants to make you a better player.
These coaches often go above and beyond to provide professional advice that can rapidly take your skills to the next level.
Feel free to ask for “transformation videos” demonstrating the improvement in other clients’ skills to see if they’re the right person for the job.
#3: Rebounder (Bonus)
When there is no wall or partner to practice with, the next alternative is a rebounder.
I don’t recommend rebounders to beginners because it eliminates the combined practice of ball control.
With a wall or a partner, players receive a firm pass back to their feet to challenge their control skills.
But rebounders usually provide a weak bounce, making it difficult to improve the skill.
That said, improving passing skills is more important than avoiding rebounders for their only flaw.
Also, rebounders can be portable tools to practice or create minigames with friends during a trip.
What are the Next Steps?
So what are the next steps after you have got the hang of short passes?
I generally recommend practicing other fundamental skills, such as ball reception or additional passing techniques.
But for beginners, I recommend joining an organized soccer team.
Whether it is recreational or competitive, being in a team environment is unparalleled to practicing individual skills.
At the bottom line, having skills is only the start; with game sense and tactical knowledge, players will know how to use them.
The only way to improve both of these skills is by regularly training with several other players at once or playing in an organized team environment.
Coaches are generally present in these environments and can teach you about individual skills and tactical knowledge.
Be sure to have all the required equipment before trying out for an organized team to immediately start playing when the coaches select you!
Also, if you need help finding the required equipment for organized soccer, feel free to check out our list of the best places to shop for soccer equipment for beginners.
In soccer, players use numerous techniques to pass the ball.
Players commonly use the short pass, cross, and ping technique to move the ball around the pitch as they’re the most effective methods.
This raises the question, what should beginners practice first?
Beginners should first practice short passes because it is the simplest method of passing the ball between teammates.
It is also the most used skill in every soccer match, requiring players to perform it consistently without any mistakes.
So how do you practice it?
The best way for beginners to practice short passes is by using a wall or a partner.
Both of these will receive and return the ball while also combining it with the practice of ball receptions.
Alternatively, a rebounder also works, but they tend to provide weak bounces, eliminating the ability to practice ball receptions.
The next step for beginners is to join an organized soccer team.
Soccer teams will help players practice their game sense and tactical knowledge, which will help them take advantage of the skills they learned during individual training.
Additionally, organized teams have coaches who can advise players with their technique or tactical knowledge.
Image Attribution & Licensing
Featured Image: ‘Soccer Goalkeeper Performing a Goal Kick’ by Edoardo Busti (Licensed via Unsplash)
#1: ‘Cheap Soccer Shoes Hanging by the Laces’ by halfpoint (Licensed via EnvatoElements)
#2: ‘Soccer Player Wearing PSG Jersey Passing the Ball’ by Duong Huy (Licensed via Unsplash)
#3: ‘Soccer Player Crossing the Ball Into the Box’ by Thiago Kai (Licensed via Pexels)
#4: ‘Soccer Player With Thick Shin Guards Passing the Ball’ by Marcel Strauss (Licensed via Unsplash)
#5: ‘Georgetown Soccer Player Shooting the Ball’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)
#6: ‘Using a Wall As Rebounder’ by annvlasova (Licensed via EnvatoElements)
#7: ‘Soccer Team Celebrates a Goal’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)