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Soccer Drill Unpacked – Pass & Shoot

Today we unpack the player and team development principles embedded in a youth (U9-U12) pass & shoot soccer drill. All drills in our  Youth Foundation book are assembled into practice plans to ensure that each practice offers the proper balance between the four pillars of soccer:

Technical Skills – Tactics – Physical Fitness – Mental Fitness

It is this balance, practiced over a season, that has led the tens of thousands of coaches who own our books to improve the performance and social environment of their teams.

Youth Soccer Drill

Download the drill here: Youth Pass & Shoot Soccer Drill

From our book: Youth Foundation (U9 – U12)

Soccer Drill Profile:



The profile indicates that this is a fairly balanced soccer drill involving strong elements of technical skill, tactics, and mental training.

Set Up:

Eight player plus goalkeeper play in an area extending the penalty box by 25m. In a 16m x 25m grid outside the box teams play a 3 v. 3 with a neutral player on each wing. The purpose is to pass or cross into the penalty box to set up a quick shot on goal. Defenders cannot enter the penalty box to defend the shot.

Technical Skills:

Passing, crossing, shooting and goalkeeping are the key skills developed in this drill. Defenders will train closing down passing options and intercepting passes. This is not a 1 v. 1 drill employing moves to beat defenders.

The team in possession in the grid is encouraged to play fairly short one/two touch passes. Passes have to be accurate and are either played to feet or into space.

Within the grid ball receiving and control are essential to allow quick movement of the ball. The neutral players have no pressure and therefore have time to set up an accurate cross to the target area.

The goalkeeper will have excellent opportunities to come off the line to intercept crosses, to come off the line and cut the angle of the shot, or to stay in net and make reaction saves.

The shooter running into the box trains one time shots/headers, timing of run, or one touch control of the ball followed by a second touch shot.



The key tactical element is to play a quality pass/cross into the penalty box and for a team-mate to time their run into the box. Ideally the passed/crossed ball and the shooter arrive in the target space at the same time so that a one touch shot/header is possible. If the ball is played through the middle then the ball should lead the shooter. If the neutral player is used then the shooter sprinting into the area to receive the cross must delay their run. They do not want to wait in the box for the cross, but must run onto the cross to shoot/head with maximum power. This also makes it difficult for defenders.

A key tactical decision is whether to pass through the middle or play the ball wide for a subsequent cross. That decision is made based on the gaps between defenders. If they are wide enough for a pass through the middle, then the direct approach to net is available. If the defenders are shifting and closing gaps then the wide option is preferred. One way to open gaps between defenders is switching play within the grid quickly. This is an excellent drill to teach young players the concept of space and constant movement to open up and use it.

The other tactic being trained is transition play. As soon as the defending team gains possession inside the grid, they become the attackers. They have to switch mental gears immediately to set up a scoring play in the box. Likewise the attackers who lost possession must now transition to blocking/intercepting passes.


Fitness Training:

Ideally this is a 15 – 30 minute drill in which all players sprint short distances constantly. As coach you need to encourage this movement as young players might have a tendency to stand and wait for a pass.

Mental Fitness:

There must be communication (verbal or non verbal) to ensure that only one player breaks into the penalty box for a shot/header. This soccer drill involves all Seven Speeds Of Soccer


The attacking players must perceive a gap in the defense to pass safely into the box. If the gap is not there then they need to perceive the neutral players. Defenders need to perceive the same gaps so that they can close them. All players need to perceive a change of possession so that they can switch roles from attacking to defending and vice versa. The neutral players must follow the play so that they are ready to receive a pass in the space in front of them.


The two attackers without the ball must anticipate a pass into the box for one of them to follow the pass for a shot on net. If the neutral player has the ball for a cross then the three attackers need to anticipate the flight of the ball such that the best positioned attacker breaks into the box for a shot/header. For example if the three attackers are spread out across the top of the box and the cross seems to be coming to the near post side of the target area, then the attacker on that side breaks into the box.

The goalkeeper needs to anticipate the pass into the box or the cross and make some key decisions (see below).

The defenders need to anticipate every pass so they can react and intercept.

Decision Making

The attacker with the ball needs to decide if they should pass within the grid, pass into the penalty box, or play to the wide neutral player. The attackers without the ball need to decide which one breaks into the box for a shot. The neutral player decides whether the cross is high/low, near post/far post or around penalty spot. The goalkeeper decides whether or not to come off the line to intercept the cross. If the ball is passed into the box the keeper needs to decide whether they can get to the ball before the player running in, or whether they should come out, cut the angle, and set to save the shot.


The key players who need to react are the one going into the box for the shot and the goalkeeper. They have been anticipating the play and made a decision to act, and in the case of the attacker communicated that decision to team mates. They need to react to the actual pass/cross and time their runs accordingly.

Movement With Ball

Given this is a one/two touch drill there isn’t much dribbling, 1 v. 1 or other movement of players with the ball. The movement that is critical is setting up a good second touch (shot, header, pass) with an excellent first touch.

Movement Without Ball

This is a critical element of this drill. Attackers in the grid must move into space to receive a pass and also to have an option to pass into the penalty box with their next touch. Thus the recognition of space and anticipation of defenders’ positions are important. The neutral players must move up and down the side to be available for an easy pass into the space in front of them. Finally, the attacker wanting to break into the box must sprint to the anticipated point of contact with the ball.

Game Action

This soccer drill is all about game action speed in the center of the attacking third to set up and finish scoring chances.

Coaching Tips:

This soccer drill, as is the case with all of our over 500 soccer drills, has coaching points and progression suggestions.

In addition to those you can vary the numbers of attackers in the grid. If 3 v. 3 doesn’t generate many scoring changes, go to 4 v 2 or 4 v 1 even. In that case you cannot transition between offense and defense after change of possession, but that wouldn’t likely be successful anyways. Just change the players’ roles after a few minutes.

If the attackers are executing well, you can challenge them by allowing defenders to follow them into the penalty box.

You can also allow more than one attacker to enter the box for a shot.

As always, set up a grid at each end of the field to have all players busy.

At this age the perception of the opportunity to pass into the box may be weak. Stop the drill a few times initially and point out where the space and opportunity was if the team missed it.

This drill is also an excellent opportunity to evaluate players. You may be surprised and find a strong “finisher” amongst your regular defenders. Players are still young and need not be assigned positions for the rest of their playing careers.

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