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Intermediate Passing – The Back Pass

INTERMEDIATE PASSING – THE BACK PASS

On numerous occasions during a match, a player dribbling the ball will find it advantageous to pass the ball to a teammate who his behind (trailing) him as he moves upfield toward the opponent’s goal.  This is known as a “Back Pass” and it is practical from two important perspectives. First, when there is a risk that the dribbler might lose the ball, it allows the team to retain possession.  Second, because the dribbler likely has his vision restricted to the ball, the trailing teammate has a tactical advantage by being able to see how the action is unfolding ahead of them.  In both cases, it benefits the team to execute the back pass properly.  Together with the “Give-and-Go,” the back pass is a basic passing option that should be taught as soon as possible to beginning players.  As with any pass, the back pass involves two people, the passer and the receiver, both of whom must perform their roles correctly in order for the pass to be successful.

In general, the receiver initiates the action by telling the dribbler (passer) that he is open behind him and available for a back pass.  If the dribbler wishes to take advantage of this option, he must then turn and screen the ball from his defender and proceed to effectively pass it to his teammate.  The recommended progression for teaching the back pass is:

 

Demonstration

Identifying the passer and receiver

Setting the distance between players

Establishing the receiver’s responsibilities

Establishing the passer’s responsibilities

Performing the pass with a cone as “defender”

Performing the pass with a passive defender

Performing the pass with an active defender

Identify special goalkeeper rules

Demonstration

Demonstrating the back pass can be done with one coach, but it is most effective with two coaches and a player assistant.  Whoever is used, it is strongly recommended that the three demonstrators get together and practice in advance of the presentation.  Position a player on the field.  Indicate that he is a defender and, for the purposes of the demonstration, he is originally not to move.  Starting 10 yards in front of the defender, the coach dribbles toward the defender with the assistant coach maintaining a distance of at least 15 yards behind the coach.  The assistant coach states loudly, “You have help straight back.”  Before reaching the defender, the coach turns and screens the ball from the defender, sees the assistant coach, and then makes a firm inside-of-the-foot pass back to the feet of the assistant coach.  The coach can then demonstrate that the passer next makes a run left or right, to either side of the defender.  The coach should then demonstrate the four most important things NOT to do when making a backpass:

1.  Do not just stop the ball and run away.  The defender will take the ball.

2.  Do not make a weak pass.  The defender will run forward and get the ball.

3.  Do not make a “blind” pass.  The passer must see his receiver and kick the ball right to him.  Otherwise, it will go past the receiver and will likely be intercepted toward goal.

4.  Do not let the receiver get too close to the back passer.  The defender will immediately tackle the receiver.

All four of these actions can be demonstrated with the defender going “live.”

Identifying the passer and receiver

Set up enough cones in advance of the practice, to be used as the initial “stationary defenders,” equal to the number of pairs of players available.  Establish pairs of players.  Identify within each pair who will be the first passer (dribbler) and who will be the first receiver.  Set the passers up 10 yards in front of the “defender” cones.

Setting the distance between players

Set the receivers 15 yards behind the dribblers.  Young players will not inherently know what 15 yards looks like.  Coaches may set up a second set of cones to identify the proper starting distance.

Establishing the receiver’s responsibilities

Inform the receivers that they are to stay directly behind the passers/dribblers and are to maintain the established distance between the two.  This means that when the dribbler moves forward, the receiver moves forward at the same pace.  Inform the receivers that, as soon as the dribblers start toward their cones, the receivers are to tell their partners, “You have help straight back.”  This must be loud enough for their partners to hear it, but no more.

Establishing the passer’s responsibilities

Inform the passers that they are to dribble toward their cone and that it represents a defender.  The dribblers should never make it to the cone.  As soon as they hear their teammates’ call, the dribblers are to turn around the ball by cutting it backward with their feet, screen the ball from the defenders (cones), make eye contact with their respective receivers, and then use an inside-of-the-foot pass to firmly pass the ball to the feet of their receivers.

Performing the pass with a cone as “defender”

Using the cone as the defender, have the pairs perform the pass.  Switch the passer and receiver roles of the players.  Perform the pass again.

Performing the pass with a passive defender

Set up groups of three so that one player replaces the cone as a passive defender.  Designate the passer and receiver roles and have them perform the pass.    Rotate the players so that each performs the three roles.

Performing the pass with an active defender

Using the same groups of three, indicate that the defender can now be active and have the passer and receiver perform the pass.  Rotate the players so that each performs the three roles.

Identify special goalkeeper rules

The back pass instruction should include discussion and practice demonstrating that the goalkeeper may not receive a pass directly into his hands inside his own penalty area when the ball has been deliberately kicked to him by a teammate (this is a violation of Law 12 and results in the award of an indirect free kick from the spot where the ball was touched).  As such, anyone back passing to the goalie must be absolutely certain that the goalie will have enough time to receive, and pass the ball away without it being intercepted by an opponent.  Otherwise, the pass should not be made to the goalie.

Soccer Coaching Tips

–       This activity is an opportunity to discuss On-Field Oral Communications.  There are any number of “calls” that can be used to tell a teammate that he has back-pass support.

–       Receivers may be angled slightly to their dribblers/passers and announce that “You have help back and left,” or “You have help back and right,” as appropriate.

–       If the dribbler/passer moves counter-clockwise, using his right foot to turn around and screen the ball, the back pass is performed with the right foot.  The opposite is also true. Players should practice turns in both directions and passing with both feet.

–       At the younger levels, players should be informed that a back pass to the goalkeeper should be made such that, if the goalkeeper was not there, the ball would go outside of the near goalpost.  (As recently as 2010, an “own goal” was scored in the English Premier League when this concept was not followed.)

 

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John Harves

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