The role of the first and second defender

Equipment: four players and one ball.

Setup: Lay out a grid about twenty (20) yards wide by fifty (50) yards long.

Have two players with one ball be the attackers and two players be the defenders. The two attackers are about ten yards apart and are facing the two defenders. The defenders are defending man-to-man.

When one attacker has the ball the defender that is defending him (the “first defender”) must move up and mark him tightly shouting, “I Got Ball!”.

The other defender (the “second defender”) backs off of his man and provides defensive depth and a back-up to the first defender in case the first defender gets beat. If the attacker with the ball passes the ball to the other attacker the roles reverse. The “first defender” quickly backs off his man and becomes the “second defender”. The “second defender” comes up and marks his man (who now has the ball) tightly and becomes the “first defender”.

Note that neither defender actually tries to tackle the ball. This is passive defense only.  The attackers dribble forward and pass the ball back and forth with “square” rather than penetrating passes. Each time the ball is passed the defenders shift.

When they reach the end of the 50 yard grid the attackers become defenders and vice versa and they come back down the grid. This can be a very aerobic drill. Care should be taken to instruct the defenders that they must change positions quickly and should never turn their backs to the attackers. Attackers should press the attack.

Once they have done this drill several times the instructor should request that the second defender be verbal and always let the first defender know which way to take his man.

In game situations this allows the defenders to move the attacker away from shots at goal and into position to be double-teamed and tackled.

This drill should be done at full or 3/4 speed. If the players are too tired after a few minutes swap out for four new players.

Variation: After the initial demonstration set up several grids so that all players on the team can run the drill simultaneously – eliminating lines.

Variation:  Have attackers run overlaps so that defenders know which player is their responsibility when the attackers overlap.

Variation:  After you have successfully run the drill several times you can now allow the attackers to use overlaps and penetrating passes.  But still do not allow the defenders to tackle the ball.  This drill is about positioning, communication and responsibility. It’s more important that the players understand when they can tackle than to actually tackle the ball.  Once you’ve run this drill for several session, widen the grid to 20 yards x 50 yards and take all restrictions off attackers and defenders.  Be sure to “freeze” the drill at any moment that you see a defender (not attacker) make a positioning or timing mistake.