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Improve Your Passing In Football – Converting Technique Into Skill

improve your passing in football - converting technique into skill

Passing is one of the fundamental technical skills used in the game of football. There are many types of passes used to solve the complex game scenarios a player meets inside a 90-minute game. 

In this article, we will analyze every aspect of passing to help you #levelUP your performance on the pitch.

What Is The Difference Between Passing Technique & Skill In Football?

Technique in football, and sports in general, is an intentional and effective sequence of movements (i.e. on-ground passing technique).

Skill in football, and sports in general, is an intentional and effective sequence of movements used to solve (a) specific problem(s) in the constantly changing/chaotic environment football has to offer (i.e. playing a one-touch pass to break gegenpressing/high offensive pressure).

In other words, technique is the execution of a specific movement, whereas skill is the use of a technique in an unstable and unpredictable environment, just like the one you experience in a game.

While both you and Kroos might be able to pass the ball from point A to point B with efficient technique (technical aspect), Kroos possesses a greater level of technical skill. As a result, he can use that technical aspect of the game (passing) in much more complex game scenarios and solve them with more quality/consistent success rate.

Technique can be quantified in the world of kinematics and biomechanics (in terms of joint/approach angles) whereas technical skill is both a quantitative (technical aspect) and qualitative aspect of performance that goes much deeper into each action in comparison to plain technique.

What Are The Differentiating Factors Of Passing Skill VS Technique?

Skill is your ability to use a technical aspect of your game with efficiency and control to solve a sport-specific problem. This problem you meet in-game and its solution are dependent upon multiple factors that can either increase or decrease that scenarios’ difficulty and complexity.

The more complex a game scenario the harder it is to find a solution and use it with the right timing and technical efficiency. Certain factors are present in your ability to execute a technical aspect of the game with skill.

Here are 5 of those according to Hirtz:

  1. Kinaesthetic differentiation – your ability to perceive and control the strength/power, timing, and spatial parameters of the ROM of a certain movement
  2. Space-Time orientation – your ability to perceive and process information from your surroundings to coordinate your movements in space
  3. Balance – your ability to stay balanced or regain your balance in a constantly changing game environment or solving complex problems in unstable game scenarios
  4. Complex reactionary ability – your ability to execute a certain movement in a given moment and with a specific timeframe in reaction to the different stimuli you receive during a game
  5. Rhythm – your ability to time movements in an efficient manner

Having said all of that, we now understand that skill is much more than technique and more applicable to the constantly changing scenarios we meet inside a football match.


Passing – What Is It & When Is It Used?

Passing is a technical aspect of the game of football that is used to transfer the ball from Player A to Player B. Football players use passes to achieve various tasks in-game.

Here are some of them:

  • maintain possession of the ball
  • progress the play higher up the pitch to create goalscoring opportunities
  • assist a goal
  • shift/move the opposition/opponent
  • break gegenpressing/offensive pressure
  • create attacking combinations

There are various types of passes that players use. The selection of the appropriate one always happens based on the sport-specific scenario they have to solve. There are different passing categories based on various parameters.

Height of the pass

  • On-Ground Pass
  • Long Range Pass

Distance of the pass

  • Short-range pass
  • Mid-range pass
  • Long-range pass

Direction of the pass

  • Through Ball
  • Diagonal Pass
  • Side Pass
  • Back Pass

Part of the foot that contacts the ball

  • Instep Pass
  • Outstep Pass
  • Laced Pass
  • Heel Pass

Passing – A Technical Breakdown

Nailing down the technical aspect is a “must” for skill mastery. Technique is the foundational component of any game skill and is the primary determinant of the quality of your action.

Here are some basic coaching points and technical cues that you should be aware of in order to master the technique first, the skill second:


  1. Select the point of contact with the ball (instep/outstep/laces/heel)
  2. Keep the supporting leg bent at a close distance from the ball (neither too close nor too far) with your toes pointing towards the target of the pass
  3. Adjust your upper body based on the pass you want (lean forward for low passes/lean backward for long passes)
  4. Use your arms in coordination with your legs to find balance and generate the appropriate force
  5. The passing leg moves like a pendulum, is slightly bent, and strikes the ball with the appropriate force
  6. Select the contact area of the ball (strike at the center or above for low passes/strike at the center or below for high passes)
  7. Passing leg follows through and doesn’t stop its motion


  1. Not using the appropriate part of the foot
  2. Positioning the supporting leg too far away or too close to the ball
  3. Toes of the supporting leg looking away from the target of the pass
  4. Improper motion of the arms
  5. Passing leg doesn’t achieve the desired ROM (Range of Motion) and/or is being kept fully extended throughout the whole passing action
  6. Not selecting the proper contact area to give the ball the desired motion
  7. Passing leg doesn’t follow through and abrupts the passing motion leading to reduced passing speed and accuracy

Developing The Skill Aspect Of Passing

Once you master the technical side of the various passing types there are (which usually happens at an early age) you should progressively transition into more complex training stimuli.

This is done in an attempt to develop the skill aspect of passing. However, this doesn’t mean that all of your drills should be complex.

In fact, you should never leave the fundamentals (technique) neglected. Once you grasp the technique, your technical sessions can start with basic drills (technical emphasis) and gradually transition to more complex drills (skill emphasis).

Training Tips To Improve Passing Skill In Football


1. Slow down your technical drills and strive to achieve kinaesthetic differentiation and technical mastery.

The slow pace of a passing drill will allow you to focus on the quality of each repetition and really take control of all the kinaesthetic elements of the action (approach angle, arm movement, contact area, planting the opposite foot, following through, etc.).

2. Use visual and verbal stimuli to add reactive components to your passing drills.

We mentioned that a football game is chaotic and unpredictable in nature. By including certain reactive stimuli at training, we can get the player closer to game-realistic situations. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the perception-action coupling principle. Perceive information around you, process it, and act upon it with proper timing and quality.

3. Use SSGs (Small-Sided Games) to really dive into game-realistic scenarios and practice the skill of passing in high-pressure and tight-space scenarios.

This increase in pressure and reduction of available space will force you to think and execute at a faster pace. Although this isn’t specific to passing skill training, it really offers a complex training stimulus you can’t find in individual-based drills that isolate passing.

4. Adjust passing game patterns, distances, and angles based on your positional needs

Passing games can be easily incorporated after a warm-up, even in a small group or individual setting (walls or rebounders required). The focus should be shifted to achieving the best possible quality in each repetition. Analyze your performance, gain clarity on your positional roles, and try to simulate the most common passes you commit inside a game during training.

5. Use touch limitations to force faster perception-action coupling.

Touch limitations are a really popular coaching tool that can be used in a team as well as in an individual setting to force better passing quality through increased awareness and faster decision-making. Moreover, it can help build a players’ ability to distribute the ball faster – a passing skill distinct in the elite level (one- & two-touch passing mastery).


  • Cognitive (visual/verbal cues)
  • Technical (coupling one game skill with another, i.e. dribble to pass)
  • Tactical (i.e. using SSGs to focus on the build-up play of the back-line as a sub-team)
  • Space (increase or decrease the space of the drill)
  • Time (increase or decrease duration of the drill to emphasize skill quality vs skill consistency)
  • Touches (place touch limitations to force faster perception-action)
  • Passing angles/distance (change/adjust passing angles to get more position-specific)

Final Thoughts

Passing is a fundamental skill of football you simply can’t neglect. The mastery of passing from a technical and skill point of view are two different areas of development that are deeply correlated to each other.

Without technical mastery, you can’t acquire a skill, and without skill acquisition, you cannot develop yourself from an amateur to a world-class level footballer.

Slow down the process and don’t rush things. Master the technical elements and slowly add various training stimuli that increase complexity and challenge you further.

Working hard is great. Working SMART is genius.

Fast forward your progress and achieve a higher quality of results by training SMART.


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Bańkosz, Ziemowit. (2012). The Kinesthetic Differentiation Ability of Table Tennis Players. Human Movement. 13. 10.2478/v10038-011-0049-z. 

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