How to Decide Whether to Shoot or Pass in Front of Goal

To shoot or to pass, that is the question – (Photo:

We’ve all been in this situation before:  You’re bearing down on the goal, blazing in mighty run that would make even Diego Maradona proud, and you get in front of the goal with a chance for an awkward but manageable shot (or so you think).  Meanwhile you notice a teammate sprinting down through the penalty box with a simple tap-in opportunity if you just get him the ball!  Instead, off-balance and gasping for breath after your 40 yard run, you take a weak shot and the keeper saves.  Your teammate glares at you and throws his hands up in dismay.  Should you have passed him the ball?

In this particular case, the answer is obvious.  Of course you should have passed him the ball!  But in the heat of such a moment, and without the knowledge of what may happen next, you don’t always know what to do.  Perhaps if you had passed the soccer ball to your teammate, the pass could have missed the target, or your fellow player may have tripped and fallen, ruining the chance.  Sometimes teams get too pass-happy and no one takes a shot even when they do have a clear line to the goal.  You need to read situations very quickly and make the best play with the information you have at hand.  Most importantly, you need to make a choice.

The worst thing that can happen in such a vital goal-scoring chance is that you freeze up and do neither.  You continue your dribble until either the goalie or a defender comes and takes the ball from you.  Always commit to doing something with intention.  Sure you may hack at the shot and clear the crossbar, but at least you took a shot!  Nobody scores with every shot.

Another thing you have to think about is your hunger for scoring goals.  Yes, every soccer player in the planet loves the feeling of scoring, but you need to be realistic about your look at the target.  If you are coming in from a weird angle, or you’re on your off-foot, or there are several defenders closing in, your chances of scoring a goal are severely limited.  Be reasonable and find the best chance for your team to score.  If you have a player wide open, passing them the ball will often give your team the highest chance of scoring.

Also, when playing, try to balance the chances you take for yourself and the assists you give to others.  While every situation is unique and you shouldn’t be adding and comparing your shot-to-pass ratio, having a good balance is the way of being a good teammate.  Sometimes when you’re in front of goal, you should be taking a shot (regardless of how open your striker is), and sometimes it truly is best to pass.

While you need to try and make the best decision in each particular moment, the important part is to actually make a choice of one way or the other.  As long as your commit to whatever path you aim for, you will be very likely to either score a goal on your own or help set up your teammate.  Think quickly and act strongly in whatever choices you make!


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