Passing under pressure is a practice designed to create a degree of chaos in tight spaces to encourage sharp movement, transition moments and quick passing.

Dave demonstrates the structure of the practice and how coaches can remove restrictions to allow more pressure. The practice can be used to focus on position-specific roles, receiving on the appropriate foot and allows players a chance to receive and retain under pressure.

This session is a great lead in or engagement activity for young players and the space can be adapted to make the practice easier or harder by manipulating space and player numbers.

About the Video

In the video below, UEFA A licensed coach, Dave Wright demonstrates the practice with a group of U15 Football Victoria players. Look out for the focus on central players and the final progression of the practice which increases chaos and pressure on the players in possession.

Additional Information

The structure of this practice lends itself to a number of outcomes, including:

  • Dealing with overloads (as the central player)
  • Receiving and releasing skills
  • Retention skills
  • Quick combination play
  • Position specific work

Key elements to observe and encourage are:

  • Movement to receive the ball
  • Confidence to face forward and play forward
  • Decision-making around possession versus progression (playing forward)
  • Pressing & counter pressing
  • Bravery to demand and get on the ball under pressure

Practice Overview

Topic: Passing & Receiving

No. of Players: 5-16+

Goalkeepers: Optional

Practice Type: Technical Practice

Offsides: N/A

Pitch Size: 20 x 20

Timing: 20 mins

Age Group: 10+

Interpreting the Diagrams

The key below outlines what the images mean on the diagrams.

If you have questions about the practices, contact the PDP Team or share your views on the Player Development Project Slack Community.

Key For Diagrams
soccer training diagram


advanced passing drills soccer
Example of the passing under pressure practice set up with 7 players. A central player is the focal point. Players are encouraged to get this player on the ball as much as possible, take risks with their passes &  trust their teammate under pressure.
pressure training soccer
An example of success for the central player. 1 point is awarded every time they can receive in the central box from one side and play forward out the other side. Players on the outside can shift the ball between them and blue can press the players on the outside. If blue players win the ball, they try to keep it in the small box 2v1.
playing under pressure soccer drills
An example of the central player receiving and playing sideways to a supporting player. No point awarded, but still successful in keeping the ball for their team by playing around the pressure.
setting up a passing drill under pressure
Example of the same practice set up with more players. This example (as demonstrated in the video) is a great way to integrate the same principles but in a positional game, providing an opportunity for the midfield two to work on their relationship.
4v3 Passing under pressure
An example of 3 players working centrally. This set up is useful if your team plays a midfield three and the focus can very much be around how the 6/8/10 work together to create space and play forward. If the four blues win the ball, they keep it 4 v 3 around the small box.


This practice is designed to help central players receive the ball under pressure individually or with support. Players are tasked with deciding when to play through or around. Points are awarded to the individual(s) playing centrally every time they can receive from one side and play out to the opposite side. The aim is for the central player to score as many points as possible in their 2-3 minute turn.


Set up a square with a smaller square inside it. Adjust the size based on age and number of players. Smaller spaces makes passing under pressure more difficult. The central player(s) are tasked with trying to receive inside the small square and play out the opposite side. They can pass backwards or sideways but only get points for passing forward. If blue defenders win the ball, they try to keep the ball 2v1 (pictured) or 2 v 4 (if you have more players) and the red(s) try to counter press and secure the ball again. Rotate defenders and central player(s) regularly.

Observations & Interventions

What you might see

  • Players always passing backwards
  • Defenders only occupying the central square
  • Players struggling to keep the ball
  • Players receiving “square” instead of side on or facing forward

Actions you might take

  • Reward forward passing with a point
  • Reward outside players with a point if they play around (to encourage defenders to press)
  • Make the space bigger
  • Encourage players to receive between players or between lines

Adaptations: Is the session too easy?

  • Make the space smaller
  • Add another defender
  • Limit touches of players on the outside

Is the session too hard?

  • Make the space bigger
  • Reduce the number of defenders
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