Passing Game for Spatial Awareness Development

The following is an excerpt from Soccer Awareness eBook 16: Soccer Awareness “One Touch” Training: Developing its Relationship with Movement Off the Ball.

This 103 page eBook explores one touch training and movement off the ball and includes 90 pages of drills that you can do with your team.

Passing Game with Cones for Spatial Awareness Development using Mannequins or Cones in Training for Movement Off the Ball

Players have the ball at their feet for approximately 5 minutes out of 90. What do they do the rest of the 85 minutes? They must learn to move off the ball and to move into open passing lanes to be open at all times to help the player on the ball or the next player on the ball. Here is a great session to teach this.

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Getting into passing lanes to help each other

We can use many upright cones to represent opponents rather than mannequins. We set the cones up in triangles and diamonds. We ask players to position between the cones in the best space available.

Try to balance their position to find the best space in the middle of the triangle or diamond of cones (opponents). Playersbeyond the ball try to position in triangles and diamonds of support also.

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OBJECTIVE: To improve movement off the ball by providing mannequins to act as opponents to fill important space

  1. A non-directional training practice 
  2. Mannequins represent opponents on the field. They fill important spaces so the players need to pass and move around and between them. This ensures players move off the ball to help the player on the ball have as many options as possible for a pass. The goal of the players is to find as much space as they can between the mannequins to give themselves as much space as possible to play in. 
  3. Every now and again stop the practice and see where the players are positioned. Are they in free space? Are they too close to a mannequin and hence in a game situation not available for a pass? If they are then ASK THE PLAYERS to SHOW you a better position to be in. 
  4. Possible problems here are the positioning of players behind opponents so the player on the ball cannot see them to pass to. 


  1.  Restrict the number of touches on the ball to 3 touches, two touches then one touch; if it is on to do so. To enable one touch to be possible movement off the ball has to be intelligent, fast and into space to help the passer play one touch. Thinking AHEAD of the ball arriving is paramount here otherwise one touch play cannot be performed successfully. Try to think two moves ahead. Movement OFF the ball by others is paramount here also otherwise the person receiving the pass will not be able to play one touch successfully. 
  2. Play the Numbers Game: 1 passing to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4 and so on. Increase the number of balls being used. 
  3. Two teams playing in the same area with a ball each. Now players need to avoid the other team AND the mannequins to find space to receive the pass. 

Coaching Points: 

  1. Thinking and looking before receiving of the receiving player so they have assessed their options before receiving and in advance of the ball 
  2. Ability to play ONE touch if possible for speed of play 
  3. Movement OFF the ball of teammates to help the player on the ball 
  4. Movement INTO spaces between and around the mannequins to enable this to happen using the mannequins as guides. 
  5. Thinking TWO moves ahead to support. 
  6. Playing in triangles of support offering several options for the player on the ball in many directions.

An exaggerated situation but this shows what happens when players do not move to space to help the player on the ball; and do not open up the angle for a pass, instead standing behind an opponent and not being free to receive. How many times do you see this?

To defeat this problem; the player on the ball can pass to a space hoping that this will force the receiver to move to that space to receive the ball. Then the weight; timing and accuracy of the pass has to be particularly good; but this is not ideal.

Whilst players can still be successful with later movement off the ball of supporting players; if the player on the ball hastime on it to take more touches; it is always better to provide options of a pass as early as possible to increase speed of play and give opponents less time to work out their movements.

Working in threes

  1. Here showing possible passing routes with each group of three players also showing how they get free and into as much space as possible, based on the positions of the mannequins who act as opponents filling spaces.
  2. Different colors to pass to in order to develop color coordination.
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Game situation

  1. Have players passing in two teams to begin as a warm up, with a ball each team, then two and three balls each team. Then they pass to opposite colors only. 
  2. Now play a 6 v 6 (or any number you like) and make it a possession game. Mannequins make it more difficult by filling spaces so players have to play around them as well as their opponents. This should improve them playing in tight situations. 
  3. Use a 2 player overload if required initially until they get really good; then make it equal numbers each team, you dictate this based on the ability of your players. Of course change the numbers of touches on the ball decreasing the number as they become proficient to increase the difficulty.
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  1. The focus is again passing and movement off the ball to receive with as many players as possible offering an option of a pass for the player on the ball. 
  2. Here we show potential positioning of players in the biggest spaces they can find between the mannequins. 
  3. More space means more time to play on the ball so the player has the choice to play quickly or not; also depending on the individual situation presented; and often dictated to by the support positions of his teammates. 
  4. Develop: Have two teams playing through each other avoiding each other and also avoiding the mannequins. This is now a big challenge to each player on the field where there will be less space to play in and their peripheral vision will really be tested to its fullest.
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Game Situation

Try an overload first of all maybe a 9 v 4 building it up to a full game. This is a big challenge meaning fewer spaces to play in and forcing more movement off the ball to support each other.

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Get more like this in Soccer Awareness eBook 16: Soccer Awareness “One Touch” Training: Developing its Relationship with Movement Off the Ball.

This 103 page eBook explores one touch training and movement off the ball and includes 90 pages of drills that you can do with your team.