Passing in soccer is the most basic (and common) skill. The average number of passes per game between the top three teams in the 2019/2020 English Premier League season was 638.59, according to FootballCritic.
Most of these are short, quick passes. What is a short pass in soccer, and how can you improve this skill?
A short pass in soccer is a pass traveling 2-15 yards, or roughly 1.8-13.7 meters, on average, between two teammates. Short passes facilitate buildup play, help teams keep possession, and create scoring chances. They’re generally struck with the inside of the foot and kept on the ground.
This article covers everything you need to know about short passes, including how to do it and how to improve your short passing skills.
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What is a short pass in soccer, and why is it useful?
The short pass is one of soccer’s most fundamental skills. Every player must learn how to pass the ball a short distance. What is a short pass in soccer, and why is this pass so important?
A short pass is a type of pass between teammates, traveling between 2-15 yards, or roughly 1.8-13.7 meters, on average. These passes keep defenders on their toes and open up space in all areas of the field for subsequent passes. Short passes can happen anywhere and are critical for buildup play and creating scoring chances.
Short passing is a vital aspect of the game, and players need to be comfortable passing the ball short distances. Doing so opens up space for additional movement, passes, and dribbles.
Although the ball travels a short distance, short passes create opportunities for players to receive the ball in advanced positions on the field. When offensive players higher up the field notice their teammates connecting passes during a buildup, they will move into the space generated due to the short passes.
Just as short passes are critical for creating space for attacking players, it’s vital to maintain shape in the defensive third and to keep possession during a defending team’s press.
If the defending team presses high up the field, near your goal, or in your defensive third, short passes can be used between one or two players to break the press and move the ball up the field.
Short passes help teams maintain possession, withstand pressure, and, in the attacking third, can be combined quickly in give-and-go-like situations for a goal-scoring opportunity, especially for finishing inside the penalty area.
How far is a short pass in soccer compared to a long pass?
The short pass travels a short distance, but it is highly effective in all areas of the field. How far it travels differentiates it from long passes.
For a pass to be considered “short,” it must travel no more than 15 yards or roughly 13.7 meters. Compared to longer passes, these short passes are better for maintaining possession, breaking a press, and creating quick give-and-go situations in all field areas.
Short passes don’t go far but are instrumental for many reasons.
Think of short passes as the spark of an attack. Stringing together multiple short passes on the soccer field draws out defenders and causes the defending team to shift position quickly.
Short passes can cause the other team to move to a different position to defend a subsequent, perhaps longer, pass. At this moment, attacking players move into the space created by the moving defenders.
Passes that go a short distance create gaps in the defending team’s press and open up the field for more positive buildup play.
Why is short passing important in soccer?
Soccer is a game where players need to think ahead regarding their positioning and how they can get the ball at their feet. Short passes open space around the field, helping players get into better positions to receive and pass the ball.
Short passing is important in soccer because it helps keep possession and opens up opportunities for longer passes and switches. Short passes lure defenders out of position and can be used to break the defending team’s press. These passes are generally less risky than long passes and are easier to perform and control.
The short pass is integral for buildup play and long bouts of possession. Each player on a team must be comfortable quickly connecting short passes.
The term “pass and move” is generally applied to short passes. The idea of passing the ball and moving into a different area of the field is crucial for a dynamic buildup play and attack.
Keeping defenders on their toes is important, and connecting short passes in each third of the field accomplishes this.
Short passes versus long passes in soccer
Short passes travel a short distance and happen everywhere on the field. They differ from long passes regarding length traveled and their use during games.
Short passes travel 2-15 yards or 1.8-13.7 meters on average and are generally struck with the inside of the foot. Long passes are longer than short passes and travel over 15 yards before reaching their target. They’re mostly struck with the instep and are sometimes played in the air, whereas short passes typically stay grounded.
The primary difference between a short pass and a long pass is the distance the ball travels before reaching its target. As you would imagine, long passes travel further than short passes.
Another major difference between these two types of passes is how they’re used during games.
Short passes help maintain possession and create pockets of space for teammates to fill and receive the ball. Long passes usually occur after a few short passes and are used to switch the field of play and change the point of attack.
Long balls into the striker are an example of long passes.
Teams implementing target-style strikers who do well at receiving hard passes and taking the ball out of the air make use of long passes early in the buildup play to start their attack in the final third, as opposed to using multiple short passes in the field’s defensive and middle thirds.
All teams, however, use short passes during buildup play, even if it’s just one or two quick passes before launching a long ball into the striker or over the back line.
Therefore, it’s important you know how to do a short pass in soccer correctly.
How to do a short pass in soccer (the right way)
The best way to learn how to do a short pass in soccer is through practice. Repetition is critical to improving the basics and preparing for more complex skills.
To do a short pass, plant your foot next to the ball with your toes pointed toward your target and with a slight bend at the knee. Simultaneously swing your kicking leg backward, bent at the knee, and lock your ankle by pointing your toes outward and up. With your kicking foot perpendicular to your plant foot, strike through the center of the ball.
There are several ways to perform a short pass, including with the outside of your foot or by striking lower on the ball to lift it into the air.
The way you strike the ball depends on the purpose of the past. Kicking it with the outside of your foot makes the ball curve, which could be useful for passing around defenders.
Lifting the ball a foot or two into the air for a short pass is useful when a defender steps to win the ball, as elevating it off the ground can catch them off guard and beat the press.
In general, striking the middle of the ball with the inside of your foot is the proper way to perform a short pass.
How to improve your short passing with 5 simple tips
Some of the best players in the world use their soccer vision and intelligence to pick out passing lanes and identify where to play the ball, even through traffic. Becoming a star playmaker or a more solid overall player requires excellent short-passing skills.
Here are five ways to improve your short-passing skills:
- Pass with a teammate 2-15 yards apart
- Play wall ball by yourself
- Focus on your short passing technique
- Use both feet during drills
- Set up a goal, net, or target, and pass to it
Pass with a teammate 2-15 yards apart
Passing back and forth with a teammate will improve your short passing and just about every other aspect of your soccer skillset. This is a good way to get a lot of reps in a short amount of time.
Grab a teammate or friend and stand 2-15 yards apart. Practice one and two-touch short passing for about ten minutes at various lengths between that distance. I recommend doing this exercise before each training session, at least three times a week or more if possible.
Play wall ball by yourself
Don’t have a teammate around today? No problem. Stand 2-15 yards from a wall and practice by passing the soccer ball off the wall. Wall ball emulates passing and receiving the ball, and it only requires one person.
I recommend using an old or spare soccer ball for this, as passing against a wall or on asphalt can harshly damage the ball.
A large, flat wall is best for practicing both passing and receiving a pass. It will also improve your first touch. Be sure to incorporate different ways of receiving the wall into these drills, including receiving the ball with the outside of your foot.
Focus on your short passing technique
Doing these drills to improve your short passing is only beneficial if you focus on your short passing technique. Remember to lock your ankle when passing and receiving a pass by pointing your toes up and away from you.
Also, keep your knee over the ball when passing to prevent it from going in the air. Practicing good form and technique is vital to improving your short passing.
Use both feet during drills
Use each foot–right and left–during short passing drills. Using both feet improves your short passing with each, hugely benefiting you during games. Passing with both feet is an essential and sometimes overlooked part of training.
Most of us have a preferred foot which we use for almost everything on the field. However, I can’t emphasize this enough, using both feet during drills and games is critical. Strengthening your weak foot improves your short passing and makes you a better player, guaranteed.
Set up a goal, net, or target, and pass to it
Using a target is another way to improve rather than passing with a teammate or with a wall. Set up a target–like a goal, net, or a pair of shoes–and pass into it. This drill is useful for improving short-pass accuracy.
Short passes to a target make you a precise passer in the long run, but remember to use proper technique. You can do this drill by yourself and incorporate other types of training, like conditioning or physical soccer training.