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Section 4: Basic Skills - Receiving, Passing and Shooting

This series, Coaching Fundamentals, is designed to introduce volunteer and youth coaches to the basics of coaching soccer. You can find a small number of soccer exercises that may be used to train players in both techniques and tactics on our Soccer Drills page.


The next session is an examination of other basic soccer skills. If players can't pass and catch the ball in basketball, they can't play the game. If they can't pass and receive the ball in soccer, they will not be successful. These two important skills, combined with shooting at goal, are featured in this section. It should be emphasized that these skills are critical to be successful. Repetition of these skills is the key to learning and mastering them.


In the basic skills of soccer, an important term is “technique,” which is the physical movement involved in those skills. Practicing the skills is called “technical training." Players practice technique throughout their lives, but correct technique practice is essential for players age 6-12 while they are in developmental stages.

The coach of developing players should heavily emphasize technical training while also having a basic understanding of correct technical execution. This can be accomplished using a repertoire of conditioned games to teach techniques in a manner that provides plenty of repetition.


Receiving a ball on the ground is different than receiving a ball in the air. When receiving a ball on the ground, the following points should be considered:

  • Keep your eye on the ball.
  • Choose which foot to receive the ball with (this may depend on the location of the defender).
  • Receive the ball with one foot with the toe pointed up (ankle locked).
  • Don’t stop the ball. Instead, prepare it for the next action: shot, dribble, pass or to play away from pressure.

Receiving the ball in the air is a skill that involves six major phases:

  • Keeping your eye on the ball.
  • Reading the flight, speed and direction of the ball.
  • Deciding which body part will control the ball (foot, thigh, chest or head).
  • Getting the body in line with the direction of the ball.
  • Preparing to receive the ball by presenting the body part to the ball.
  • Cushioning the ball with the body part to slow it down and preparing for the next touch.


Because passing involves giving the ball to a teammate, it is important that players are taught to know where their teammates are by constantly looking. A second important ingredient is verbal communication, or talking. Coaches should teach players to provide intelligent verbal cues to help with decision-making in passing.

The technical elements of passing vary based on the kind of pass being made. The key elements of any pass (both short and long) include:

  • See the target.
  • Approach the ball.
  • Plant and position of support, or non-kicking foot (the toe of the non-kicking foot should be pointed in the direction the player wants the ball to go).
  • Look at the ball, holding the head steady.
  • Contact the correct area of the ball with locked ankle.
  • For instep and outside of foot pass, the toes are pointed down and contact is on the top of the foot.
  • For inside of the foot pass, toes are pointed up.
  • Follow-through: kick “through the ball," following through toward the target.
  • Transfer the weight forward.


Shooting uses the same technical elements as passing, with the important difference being that the goal is to pass the ball beyond the goalkeeper.

  • If possible, the player should look up to see the position of the goalkeeper, choosing a side to shoot the ball.
  • Approach the ball.
  • Plant the support foot beside or slightly ahead of the ball, which helps to keep the shot low.
  • Keep the head steady and eyes on the ball.
  • Make proper contact with the ball.
    • Ankle of kicking foot is locked and the toe is pointed down if shooting with instep.
    • Hips and knee of kicking foot are pointed in the direction of the shot.
  • Follow through to keep the ball low (weight going forward, landing on the kicking foot).

The skill of shooting sometimes is called an art because the scoring of goals is such a prized commodity. The mechanics of how to shoot are important, but perhaps more important is knowing when to shoot, especially because so many players prefer to pass the ball rather than take on the responsibility of shooting. Since scoring more goals than the opposition is the object of the game, players who are goal scorers are highly valued. Shooting frequently is done under pressure from opponents, sometimes facing the wrong way and at awkward angles. Shooting should be practiced against a live goalkeeper.


The skills of soccer are difficult because humans are hand-eye dominated. The skills discussed here, however, are eye-foot and must be developed at a fairly young age. The difficulty for coaches of young players is to conduct training sessions that involve repetition but are not boring or tedious. Therefore, coaches of young players are in may ways very important as they develop tomorrow’s players today.

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You can find many more training sessions, exercises and information in the 2013 Preseason edition of the Soccer Journal. First launched in 2012, this supplement to the Soccer Journal was a welcomed and popular addition for a coach's repertoire. NSCAA members can view a digital version in myNSCAA.

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