Soccer Passing and Receiving

Two-time FIFA World Cup Champion, Kelley O’Hara, breaks down the mechanics of passing and receiving. 

Passing and receiving are fundamental in the game of soccer. In order to play the game, you must be able to pass and receive the ball. A team that is able to pass and receive is able to maintain possession, reduce pressure, and create time and space ultimately will score goals. 

That’s why it’s so important for players to learn how to pass and receive at a young age. They should understand how connecting passes, rather than dribbling individually, is always the fastest way to advance the ball into the offensive end.

At Versus, we believe that coaches should incorporate passing and receiving drills into every practice. And if a player seeks to improve individually, they should work on these skills in their own time. 

Versus tapped 2x FIFA World Cup Champion, current USNWT and NWSL player, Kelley O’Hara, to create a course on passing and receiving. This article explains what she covered below.  

And remember, if you want to get the most out of this exclusive video training session and see more from O’Hara and other soccer experts, visit Versus.co or app to sign up. 

Time, Wall, Ball

The best way to work on your technique of passing and receiving is to find some time, a wall, and a ball. The most basic way to start working on your passing and receiving is using the inside of your foot to pass against the wall, and receive it with the inside of the same foot. Like this:

This basic pass is also known as a push pass. For a simple push pass, put your toe up, heel down, and lock your ankle. Making sure that you have a strong, locked ankle allows you to hit the ball with enough force to receive it back from the wall. As you pass, you’re going through the ball, and as you receive, you’re cushioning the ball. 

“The wall never lies. If you have a bad pass to the wall, it’s going to come back poorly,” says O’Hara. The best part about finding a wall and practicing by yourself, is that you can work on things you’re not good at. All it takes is a wall, a ball, and a little bit of time every day to perfect your passing game. 

Use Both Feet

Every soccer player should understand the importance of using both feet. All great players are capable of using both feet. If you are only able to use one foot, you will be average at best. The earlier kids grow comfortable using both feet, the better off they will be in their future as soccer players. 

“I’m right footed, and I chose not to use my left foot for a large part of my youth career. One summer, I went out and just hit the ball into the back of the net, from five yards out, working on striking with my laces on my left foot, because I couldn’t do it. After that summer, I was able to hit a long ball with my left foot,” O’Hara says. 

Using your non-dominant foot will probably feel uncomfortable at first, but all it takes is repetition to get the hang of it. 

If you start practicing on your own, with both feet, you will thank yourself later. 

Types of Passing

There are multiple ways that you can pass and manipulate the ball using the different surfaces of your foot – you can use the inside, laces, outside, and heel. 

“What I think is important to realize is that the more ways you are able to pass the ball, the more dangerous of a player you’re going to be,” she says. 

Whatever pass you choose, it’s vital to both form and practice the proper technique. Depending on how your foot is shaped, the ball will leave your foot differently and create a unique type of spin.

When curling the ball, you come around the outside of the ball, which puts spin it this way. It’s difficult to defend this type of ball because it looks like it’s coming in one way, then curves. The more spin that you see, the better you’re hitting the ball. 


“It’s all about practice and repetition – and I can’t stress that enough. I was so bad at certain types of passes when I was a kid. I chose not to do them because I didn’t feel comfortable or confident enough to do them during practice, in front of teammates. But once I spent time working on it away from anybody, on my own, that’s when I got better at it, because I wasn’t afraid to mess up,” Kelley recalls. 

Once you master different types of passes with the wall, you will feel comfortable using them during practice and matches. 

Types of Receiving

Like passing, there are multiple ways to receive the ball, and they all serve a purpose. When receiving, it’s all about bringing the ball under your control. But in most cases, you want to receive the ball by putting it in a position that will allow you to play, or carry, the ball into position. 

You can receive the ball with the inside of your foot, outside of your foot, or sole of your foot. It’s all about using a good first touch to move the ball. 


To work on your receiving, all you need is a ball, a wall, cones, shoes, or any other items you can find. This is a progression of passing, receiving, and stopping the ball dead. Place your two cones, or items, about three feet apart from each other and about five feet from the wall. 

Starting in the middle of the cones, pass the ball to the wall, receive it, use the inside or outside of your foot to move the ball outside of a cone, pass it back to the wall from there, receive it in the middle again, and repeat with the other cone. 

This is passing, receiving, and moving with the ball. This will be a very useful skill on the field when you receive the ball, a defender is pressuring you, and you need to move the ball away from the pressure. 

Challenge yourself and get creative. You can come up with lots of different ways to receive and move the ball. 

“I challenge myself. I want to have ten perfect touches in a row, and I can’t stop until I get ten consistent, close to perfect touches, in a row,” O’Hara says. 

Mastering the Fundamentals 

It doesn’t matter what position you play on the field, you have to be able to execute the fundamentals of soccer, which are passing and receiving. 

“If you can’t get the ball from point A to point B, no matter what position you are on the field, you’re not going to be a good player,” Kelley repeats. “If you can’t receive the ball and bring it under control, to then be able to pass it on, you’re not going to be a good player.”

The best players are able to pass and receive the ball in many different ways. All you need is time, a wall, and a ball. And remember, repetition is key. 

When you work on things outside of practice, and then you execute it in a game, it will feel amazing and will validate the amount of effort you’ve put in. 

If you want to go deeper on soccer technique and skills and what it takes to have a winning mindset, head over to Versus and check out our Game Plans. Any of our packages will get you access to Kelley’s lessons, plus tons of other training sessions, interactive content, and more.

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