Soccer defending concepts for young players

defendingCan you teach concepts to younger players?

When teaching defending to developing soccer players we should keep two things in mind.  There is the “concept of defending” and the “skills of defending”.  We will take a brief look at some of the concepts and thoughts.

While we don’t want to start teaching 9 year olds about the thirds of the field, it does help expose them to the theory that we act or behave differently in these areas. A simple explanation about the field being three parts is good enough for any age.

The defensive third has its own set of rules. We should follow the rules at all times.

Rule 1: We are not trying to win the ball; we are trying to protect the goal.

Defenders often get “beaten” because they STAB or reach in trying to win the ball from an attacker. Our goal should to be a nuisance that stays in the way of an attacker and never gives them a clear shot or passage to the goal. Keep space and leave room. This is known as jockeying. It is fine to be aggressive in their zone, but in ours we want to be safe.

Rule 2: Every pass we make is 100%.

We never make a pass that has ANY chance of being intercepted by the offense in the defense third.  Often you will see a defender pass back to a keeper. Most of the time this is due to the fact he does not have a 100% options.  Our passes need to be firm and TOTALLY away from any other player on the team.  If no safe pass is present, clear the ball out into the middle or attacking zone.

Rule 3: Don’t try and do it yourself. Have you ever seen a great defender chasing a ball near his sidelines and he simply kicks the ball out of play? There is a reason for this. If he is all alone and knows that pressure is coming from the other team, he has no other SAFE option but to kick the ball out, stop the play and give his teammates time to come down and help.

If he were to stop and turn the ball there is a good chance he will have a created a 1 v1 and a good chance he will lose.  If you feel all alone, clear the ball or stop the play. Help will arrive shortly.

Rule 4: Who is pressure and who is cover?

When a player attacks in our zone and we have 2 or more defenders, one player is the pressure player. That player puts close on pressure and becomes the nuisance.

The other player(s) stay back and wait for the pressure man to be beaten or the attacker to pass.  Too often both defenders become pressure, which is an easy way to get beaten and leaves a straight line to the goal.

Rule 5: The sidelines are your friends.

Pressure can come from anywhere on the field except for one place, off the field. Unless you have a parent that decides to “jump in and play” you have eliminated an avenue of pressure by using the sidelines.  You can always shield the ball and work it up the field. Getting caught in the middle of the field, battling it out is not what we want our defenders to do.

These are five simple rules that if shown through visual setups on a small field, will often stick with younger players for the rest of their lives.