As discussed in my previous article, Soccer Defense Tactics: Teaching 1v1 Defending, I pointed out key elements for the individual defender. If you are teaching young soccer players how to defend, a good defensive body posture is a key element to good individual defending. Often times the players defensive stance determines the success or failure of a defender.
For the purpose of focusing on good soccer defensive body posture, let’s start by defining the role of the closest defensive player to the ball (1st Defender). In general, the 1st Defender must put immediate pressure on the ball carrier to slow the attack and turn the ball carrier away from danger areas on the pitch. This sounds easy; however, only players with good defensive posture and mobility will be successful at defending.
I have put together a series of soccer defending exercises that will help you teach young soccer players good soccer defensive body posture.
Have players match up in groups of 2’s. The player’s objective is to slap their opponent’s knees. Each time the knee is slapped, the payer slapping gets a point. The first player to 10 wins and the coach should have the players switch partners after each game. The coach should make sure this exercise does not get out of control and should focus on the player’s body movements such as: their stance should be staggered with knees bent on the balls of their feet; chest leaning over toes, low center of gravity; ability to shuffle quickly; and reaction to the other players movements. The players can use their hands to deflect any knee slapping attempts.
With the players still split up into groups of 2, instruct each group to get a ball. With each player facing each other, instruct the player with the ball to be the attacker and the other player will be the defender. Instruct the defender to space themselves approximately 3 yards from the attacker. The attacker will slowly jog forward with the ball in a straight line. It is up to the defender to keep adequate space (approx. 3 yards) between themselves and the attacker. Have the players switch roles. Since they are moving backwards, they should position themselves low to the ground with their knees bent and slightly leaning forward over their toes. The defensive players should focus on their movement and should NOT attempt to win the ball from the attacker.
This exercise is simply a slight variation of Exercise 2. This exercise is structured exactly as the previous exercise; however, instruct the attacker to slowly dribble the ball in a zigzag pattern. As the ball is taken from one side to the other, have the defensive player stagger their stance as to force the attacker in the opposite direction. In this exercise we will focus on the defenders lateral movement while jogging backwards. It will be important for the defender to have a low center of gravity for quick change of direction along with quick feet movements. Again the player should keep approximately 3 yards between themselves and the attacker.
Play a game of 1v1. Set up a 15 X 15 yard grid and split the team into 4 groups with 1 group on each corner of the grid. Two groups next to each other (Group A and B) will have the supply of balls. The first player of group A will play a ball to the first player in group C who is on the diagonal corner. Player C becomes the attacker who attempts to attack the cone in which player A came from. Player A becomes the defender and attempts to deny player C from getting to his cone. Play is considered dead when the ball is out of the grid, or the defending player wins possession. Group B will then play to Group D and repeat. Watch for proper defending posture as they step up to pressure the attacker. Remind the defender to keep the attacker away from the goal and force them to take the long route by staying between the offensive player and the goal.
As I said earlier young players must be taught how to position their body low to the ground with knees bent while moving backwards. It’s difficult and awkward to some, but with time their ability to get low to the ground and move backwards with the advancing attacker will help them to stand up to any attacker and deny them space.