How To Play A Perfect Through Ball (5-Step Guide)

For a playmaker, there's nothing better than creating chances for your team.

A regular 5-yard pass between two defenders in the center of the pitch is unlikely to draw “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd...

But a well-executed, perfectly timed through ball?

Fans love to see those!

Apart from the “collector’s item” nature of a perfect through ball, it can also be a very effective way to create big chances for the team to score.

The ability to execute one of these is a very useful one for a soccer player to have, and that's why I felt the need to create this guide.

In this article, we discuss exactly what a through ball is and also present a 5-step guide to executing the perfect through ball.

Ready? Let’s dive right in!


What Is A Through Ball In Soccer?

A "through ball" is a pass sent into open space between two defenders, or into a gap in the opposition’s defense, behind the defenders and out of the reach of the goalkeeper.

Of course, the pass must be towards a teammate, and that teammate must be onside and get on the end of the pass for it to be completed.

For a through pass to be successful, it must meet certain conditions:

  • The player in possession must identify the space and opportunity for the pass
  • The player in possession must time the pass to the run of the teammate on the receiving end
  • The passer must get the right weight/pace on the ball to get the ball past the defenders but not too close to the goalkeeper
  • The receiving teammate must time their run to be onside before getting on the end of the pass

A through pass that ticks these four boxes is as close to perfect as you can hope for!

5 Steps to The Perfect Through Ball

The standard metrics for judging a through ball are where the pass begins from, where it goes through, and where it ends up.

More often than not, a through pass will be devastatingly effective when the opponent has pushed many players up the field to attack.

They lose possession and the space opens up for a through pass to send your team into a counter-attack.

The beauty of a through ball is in the vision required to master and execute it with accuracy.

Any professional soccer player can pass the ball one or two yards ahead of a running teammate, but stretch that distance out to 10, 15, even 20 yards, and it becomes much more difficult -- it’s somewhat like seeing into the future.

Enough of the hype though, let’s get right into mastering the skill.

Step 1: Playing With Your Head Up

Players are always encouraged to be aware of their surroundings on the field.

This awareness will be the first key requirement to identify when the opportunity for a through ball presents itself.

Step 2: Scanning for Runners

Even before you receive the ball, scan the field for teammates who are in the position to make a run into space.

Without a runner, an attempted through ball will end up as a misplaced pass that makes you look silly.

The runner must commit to the sprint even before the pass, as this gives the most advantage against a defender who has to react after the ball has been played.

Step 3: Finding the Right Space

Your pass should target the space on the other side of the defender, and not the side where your teammate is making the run from.

This will reduce the need for the receiver to face the defender again.

Step 4: Choosing the Correct Pass

When playing a through ball, a vertical pass is usually ideal for a player making a diagonal run, and vice versa.

Additionally, you may have to choose an improvised type of pass, depending on the alignment of your body.

For instance, if the way your body opens up requires you to use your weaker foot, it might be worth it to try using the outside of your stronger foot instead.

Step 5: Judging the Weight of the Pass

The final piece of the “masterpiece.”

If you get this wrong, there are three most likely scenarios:

  • The defender recovers and wins the ball
  • The receiver struggles to take the ball in their stride
  • The goalkeeper gets to the ball before the runner

Getting the weight of the pass right will require a lot of practice on the training ground.

Frequent practice and attempts will provide the experience you need to be better at it.

Take those passing drills seriously, and always pick up pointers from watching the best players!


Soccer is a very tactical game, and the best players in the game are those who are able to think quickly on their feet.

Executing the perfect through ball is one of many possible results of being able to “think quickly” this wayand that speed of thought is often the difference between a good player and a great player.

Which one of the two are you trying to be?

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