Spatial Awareness Passing Game - Training Center Exclusive

With cones / mannequins for development in training for movement off the ball

Getting into passing lanes to help each other


We can use many upright cones to represent opponents rather than mannequins.

We set the cones up in triangles and diamonds.

We ask players to position between the cones in the best space available.

Try to balance their position to find the best space in the middle of the triangle or diamond of cones (opponents)

Players beyond the ball try to position in triangles and diamonds of support also.

OBJECTIVE: To improve movement off the ball by providing mannequins to act as opponents to fill important space

  1. A non-directional training practice

  2. Mannequins represent opponents on the field. They fill important spaces so the players need to pass and move around and between them. This ensures players move off the ball to help the player on the ball have as many options as possible for a pass. The goal of the players is to find as much space as they can between the mannequins to give themselves as much space as possible to play in.

  3. Every now and again stop the practice and see where the players are positioned. Are they in free space? Are they too close to a mannequin and hence in a game situation not available for a pass? If they are then ASK THE PLAYERS to SHOW you a better position to be in.

  4. Possible problems here are the positioning of players behind opponents so the player on the ball cannot see them to pass to.

  5. Develop: Restrict the number of touches on the ball to 3 touches, two touches then one touch; if it is on to do so. To enable one touch to be possible movement off the ball has to be intelligent, fast and into space to help the passer play one touch. Thinking AHEAD of the ball arriving is paramount here otherwise one touch play cannot be performed successfully. Try to think two moves ahead.


Increasing the number of balls being used to two, then three.

More footballs means more decisions to make as to which ball to support, this should improve peripheral vision.


(1) passes to (4) who has moved between the mannequins to the biggest and most open space possible to receive. (6) Moves between the mannequins also to receive the next pass. Show the difference between the timing of (6)’s move and how it will effect (4) in terms of potential possession and number of touches on the ball.

Show when (4) receives the pass and looks for the next pass (6) then moves and then show the difference when (6) moves as the ball is being passed to *(4) or even when (1) shapes up to pass depending on the distance (6) has to move to get free to receive.

Therefore; (6) should be moving as the ball is being passed to (4); or even before, so the ball can be moved more quickly. The other players also are looking to find the best space to be in to offer options for the next pass.


Here we show the end initial movement of the other players to support (6) and offer him as many options as possible. Each player has attempted to find the biggest and best space possible to receive the pass.


Bring in more footballs to increase the intensity of the practice and offer more decisions to make on passing and support and movement off the ball to receive.

With more balls the players now have to avoid and keep free from the mannequins but also the other players.

Passing in threes

  1. Now we have three groups of three passing and moving. 1, 2 and 3, 4, 5 and 6, and 7, 8 and 9. Emphasize the movement off the ball especially by the third player who should be moving to receive based on the ball being in possession with the first player and ready to pass to the second player.

  2. Equate this to ‘THIRD MAN RUNS” off the ball.

  3. Watch Barcelona and how they play, the players are always moving off the ball to find space and to get between opponents to receive, plus they do it “at least” two moves ahead.

Now competitive

Need peripheral vision to know, where opponents are; where cones are (representing opponents too); and where own players are and being in the best space they can be to receive the ball..

We also set up triangles of pinnies to represent areas of freedom to receive a pass (opponents cannot tackle you in them) we can move into that also represented goals being scored.

Different colors in each three


Color identification now becomes a factor. Not only are they looking for their teammate but they are looking for a different color to pass to. These changes are all designed to challenge the players quick thinking, passing and movement off the ball.


Here showing possible passing routes with each group of three players also showing how they get free and into as much space as possible, based on the positions of the mannequins who act as opponents filling spaces.

Game Situation


Have players passing in two teams to begin as a warm up, with a ball each team, then two and three balls each team. Then they pass to opposite colors only.

Now play a 6 v 6 (or any number you like) and make it a possession game. Mannequins make it more difficult by filling spaces so players have to play around them as well as their opponents. This should improve them playing in tight situations.

Use a 2 player overload if required initially until they get really good; then make it equal numbers each team, you dictate this based on the ability of your players. Of course change the numbers of touches on the ball decreasing the number as they become proficient to increase the difficulty.


Here you see so much one touch play that needs to be practiced with lots of one touch training (but in overloads to gain success initially).

We focused on two touches and beyond but the ultimate way to practice this is one touch; but we are not ready to do that yet.

Related to this below: (think early/move early/play early) that should be a major focus of our training

It makes wonderful viewing and is a fantastic visual support tool for raising awareness of:

  • Patterns/shapes - particularly the importance of triangles / diamonds and thinking in shapes

  • Early good decision-making and the TMP principle (think early/move early/play early)

  • Anticipation and awareness

  • Playing early and easy - play the way you're facing

  • Support play

  • Creating good options

  • Switching play quickly and safely

Movement OFF the ball by others is paramount here also otherwise the person receiving the pass will not be able to play one touch successfully.

Play the Numbers Game: 1 passing to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4 and so on. Increase the number of balls being used.

Two teams playing in the same area with a ball each. Now players need to avoid the other team AND the mannequins to find space to receive the pass.

Coaching Points:

  1. Thinking and looking before receiving of the receiving player so they have assessed their options before receiving and in advance of the ball

  2. Ability to play ONE touch if possible for speed of play

  3. Movement OFF the ball of teammates to help the player on the ball

  4. Movement INTO spaces between and around the mannequins to enable this to happen using the mannequins as guides.

  5. Thinking TWO moves ahead to support.

  6. Playing in triangles of support offering several options for the player on the ball in many directions.

1. An exaggerated situation but this shows what happens when players do not move to space to help the player on the ball; and do not open up the angle for a pass, instead standing behind an opponent and not being free to receive. How many times do you see this? 2. To defeat this problem; the player on the ball can pass to a space hoping that this will force the receiver to move to that space to receive the ball. Then the weight; timing and accuracy of the pass has to be particularly good; but this is not ideal. 3. Whilst players can still be successful with later movement off the ball of supporting players; if the player on the ball has time on it to take more touches; it is always better to provide options of a pass as early as possible to increase speed of play and give opponents less time to work out their movements.

Develop: Add goals within the area that are both FREE zones and goals. Players can move into them and not be tackled.

Players must arrive in the goal as the ball arrives for timing, not stand in there and wait and be marked in a game situation.