Why Won't My Teammates Pass Me The Ball?: How To Receive More Passes Soccer

Most of the time the focus of passing behavior is improve the player on the ball’s decision making. One common method is to look around and scan the field constantly before receiving a pass so you know where to go before you get the ball instead of after. There is plenty of research showing better players do this. See here: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02520/full

But what about getting the ball from your teammates? Few things are more frustrating than having several minutes go by and not touching the ball during a training match (including possession) or a game. We all want to feel like we are contributing to the outcome of our team’s performance.

To help solve this problem and get your teammates to pass you the soccer ball, I am going to refer to a recent study using position data to estimate effects of contextual features on passing decisions in football. In other words, they looked at what influences someone getting a pass, or not.

 What did they do?

Used positional data to examine the relationship between four types of contextual information (openness of passing lane, position to ball carrier, spatial proximity, and defensive coverage) and passing decisions from a total of 1379 passing situations in Switzerland’s semi-professional U-18 football teams.

Why is it important?

This study investigates important spatio-temporal conditions that influence real-world passing behavior in soccer. Understanding the characteristics of recurring patterns between specific game environments can help players and teams improve passing decisions and offer more pass options to the ball carrier by re-shaping the situational context.

Take home message?

To increase the chance of receiving a pass, you should consider your positioning relative to the ball carrier. Positioning yourself proximal to and in front of the player with the ball increases the chances of getting a pass. It makes sense to position yourself ahead of the ball carrier when possible because good players and anyone looking to threaten the defense will want to pass forward, as much as possible. In addition, position yourself away from the defense (distanced and in an unobstructed passing lane).  It seems obvious, but I was one of those many players who would ask for the ball even when marked closely (maybe I still am at times but its gotten better). Another good reason to look around and stand where they ain’t. Lastly, in the attacking third, the potential reward of a completed pass often outweighs the risk of passing to teammates with increased defensive pressure. Therefore, make sure to make runs into space behind the opponent- the pass will be high risk since there is greater defensive congestion in those areas, but the reward is huge and your teammates will want to look for those high impact passes.

I like this practical study that offers practical information that may help coaches and players improve their passing decisions and positively shape the game with their off-ball positioning. So to summarize- don’t stand to far away from the teammate, be in an advanced area of the field, get away from defenders with a clear passing lane, and every now and then when the time is right, make a hard run in behind the defense. That should make you get the ball more, help your teammates, and increase the possibly of making some big plays.


Steiner S, Rauh S, Rumo M, Sonderegger K, Seiler R. Using position data to estimate effects of perceptual features of play on passing decisions in soccer. Current Issues in Sport Science (CISS). 2018 Jul 5.