An introduction to defending

The extract below is from a manual that will help you understand team and individual principles of defence. It also provides a selection of simple drills and games to help you communicate the key concepts to your players.

download the complete manual


What you will usually see with younger soccer players is everyone going for the ball at once.

As the players get a little older the more aggressive steal the ball consistently from the less aggressive, and the less skilled, simply by running straight at them.

This works at the younger levels but as the players develop and the skill differential decreases this type of play actually becomes a detriment.  Overly aggressive players who try to simply run down their opponents and strip the ball at the travel level often times find themselves missing completely and watching the backs of their opponents as they head down field.

This is not to say that aggressiveness is not important, merely to say that controlled play, especially on defense, is what we want to teach them at a young age so that they carry it forward with them as they progress.

What we need to get across to our youngsters is that defense, like the entire game, is dependent upon their teammates, as well as themselves, to do their job.

Concepts of Defending

You will hear the terms First Defender, Second Defender and Third Defender used in this manual and in any any coaching course that you take.  The First Defender is the person nearest the attacking ball carrier.  The initial job of the first defender is not to steal the ball, but to delay the opponent until his teammates arrive to help.

The Second Defender is the second person to arrive at the scene.  The job of the second defender is to provide cover for the first defender.  That is to cover up any mistake that the first defender might make.

When the second defender arrives on the scene, the job of the first defender changes from delay to pressure.

The job of the Third Defender is to provide balance.