Advanced Passing – The Dummy



The “dummy” pass in soccer starts with a pass that looks like it is going to a certain player, but that player fakes receiving or kicking the ball and then, without touching it, lets the ball continue directly past him to a teammate.  As such, the dummy pass is an actual “play” (a tactical move) that involves three people, the passer, the dummy receiver (sometimes known as the “decoy”), and the actual receiver of the pass.  To pull this off takes a full understanding of how and when the pass will work and significant timing between the players involved.  The dummy pass (also simply referred to as “the dummy”) is almost always an attacking play performed in the final third of the field and usually results in an immediate shot by the actual receiver.  The dummy is a surprise inflicted on an unsuspecting defense.

Three things must take place for a successful dummy:

  1. The actual receiver must recognize the opportunity to pull off the dummy, and make a run that frees himself, and put himself in a position to receive the ball at a spot that lines up with the passer and the dummy receiver. The actual receiver almost always initiates the run that puts the play in motion.  He must lose his original defender, if any, and make the run into open space.
  2. The dummy receiver must recognize the opportunity to pull off the dummy, and quickly position himself in a way that causes his defender to not be directly behind him and then properly “sell the dummy” as the ball comes to him. Selling the dummy is an art form, an act, designed to create a distraction that makes it really look like the dummy receiver is going to play the ball, usually by moving toward the ball, and then letting the ball go between his legs or just to one side, allowing the ball to continue on its path to the actual receiver.
  3. The passer must recognize the opportunity to pull off the dummy, and pass the ball toward the dummy receiver’s feet (if the defender is to one side) or to the side of the dummy receiver that is undefended, and pass the ball on the correct line with sufficient pace to ensure that it will make it to the actual receiver at the moment the actual receiver becomes free.

The dummy pass can be an intentional play set up by design or one that takes advantage of a fortuitous circumstance.  In either case, the player who is to fake receiving the ball must do an excellent job of making the defenders believe that he is actually going to get it.  The dummy pass must be practiced repeatedly among multiple players to be effective.  When practiced as an intentional play, it is rare for any oral communication to be used.  When fortuitous circumstance shines, the oral communication of “Dummy!” tells the initial expected receiver (now instantaneously becoming the dummy receiver) to not touch the ball, to create the distraction, and to let the ball stay on its path to a teammate that he likely does not see running behind him.

There are essentially two main types of dummy pass, one that is on a slight diagonal, or even “square“ (horizontal or lateral), and one that is like a through ball (vertical or straight ahead).   Both are almost always made with a strong inside-of-the-foot pass, but may be made with a driven ball using the instep.

A suggested methodology for teaching both types of the dummy pass include:


Set three disks on a straight line, approximately 12-yards apart, with the final disk placed around 23-yards from the attacking goal.  Identify the farthest disk from the goal as the (ultimate) position of the passer, the second disk as the (ultimate) position of the dummy receiver and the disk closest to goal as the (ultimate) position of the actual receiver.  Identify the line made up by connecting the disks as the line of the pass. Have the passer send a ball along the imaginary line, have the dummy receiver fake collecting the ball and let it go through his legs, and have the ball continue to the actual receiver (who may be allowed to shoot).



Place players for each of the three positions approximately seven yards away from each of the disks and then move simultaneously, on command, to the disks themselves.  The passer should dribble a ball toward his disk, from the direction of midfield, on the same line as the disks.  The dummy receiver should move toward his disk, from the direction of the attacking goal (starting with his “back to goal”), on the same line as the disks.  The ultimate receiver should move toward his disk, from the direction of the touchline (this can be changed). Just before reaching his disk, the passer then sends the ball along the imaginary line, as above.  Practice the movement slowly at first and then pick up the speed of the action.  When doing so, players may have to start toward their disks from farther away and/or the disks moved farther apart.

Simulated Game Conditions

Add defenders to each of the three attacking positions.  Defenders have to “go along” with the drill because they know the surprise.  All three defenders should be coming from behind the attackers.  During a game, the passer and the ultimate receiver must free themselves to be able to perform their duties.  Similarly, the dummy receiver must make the move(s) that “sells the dummy” by causing his defender to go to one side.  Switch players and repeat.

A somewhat similar pass to the dummy may be performed in the defensive third of the field or midfield, but it is relatively rare because of the danger of the ball being intercepted.  As an example, a right back may pass the ball to a center back who unexpectedly finds himself being challenged.  The center back fakes going to receive the ball but, instead, he lets it continue on to the left back, who the center back has already looked at to ensure that the left back is completely unmarked.  The left back in this instance must clearly recognize the situation and be prepared to receive the ball.  In addition, the pass must clearly have sufficient pace to ensure that it will arrive safely.

Soccer Coaching Tips:

  • The player performing the dummy can turn and follow the ball (support the receiver) or otherwise continue into the attack once the ball goes past.
  • It is extremely important to note that there are multiple definitions of the word “dummy” as used in soccer.  The following terms must be used in context and should not be allowed to be confused with the advanced passing option described above:
  • Dummy – Mannequin – A full-sized representation of a person used in practice, usually positioned with other mannequins to simulate a defensive wall.
  • Dummy – Dribbling Moves – (1) A fake or feint where a player runs toward a pass, as if to receive it, lets the ball go through his legs or just past him, turns 180-degrees, and proceeds with the ball in the opposite direction.  (2) A fake or feint where a player pretends to pass or shoot the ball, trying to make the defender shift his body weight in the direction of the fake, and then takes the ball off in the other direction.
  • Dummy – “No-Look” Pass – A type of pass where an offensive player with the ball deliberately looks at, and continues to look at, one teammate (in order to convince a defender that he is the intended receiver), and then passes to a different teammate.
  • Dummy Run – Intentionally sprinting to an area to draw a defender’s attention from the ball carrier’s pass which is going to a different teammate.

© Copyright, John C. Harves