There are four key elements that I have found to teaching young soccer players to defend effectively, and these will be especially effective in forming your U10 & U12 Soccer defending drills and strategies.
4 Vital elements to having a strong and healthy defense include:
- Footwork – this is a critical factor in getting young soccer players to defend effectively.
- Knowing when to commit to a tackle and when to hold the position.
- Knowing where the danger zones are on the field.
- Communicating with each other in order to create an impenetrable defense.
I do not promote playing boring soccer with lots of players behind the ball; however, if you can defend effectively, then your team will be able to play the ball further up the field, thus creating more attacking opportunities.
Soccer is a game about field position and possession so, being able to defend effectively is a key element for each of these factors.
Footwork is a key element in teaching young soccer players to defend effectively.
You should focus on two things with your young soccer players concerning their footwork. The first of these is to never get caught with their feet square. Second, they must also never be caught flat-footed.
What do I mean by never being caught with their feet square?
I mean, they should always defend with one foot in front of the other and with one shoulder in front of the other.
What do I mean by never being caught flat-footed?
This means that they should always be on their toes in a defensive situation, which allows them to react much more quickly to what the attacking player does in front of them.
It is also vital that they do not get caught with both feet off the ground at the same time, as this makes it almost impossible for them to change direction or react quickly.
Players must learn when to commit to a tackle and when to hold their position and wait for an opportunity.
Players must only commit to a tackle when the odds are in their favor of winning the ball. This usually means that they are closer to the ball than the attacker is.
Until this happens, they should jockey for position and maintain a distance of about 1 meter between themselves and the attacker. This will give them enough reaction time to stay with the attacking player.
Players must watch the ball at all times. This will lessen an attacker’s ability to fake them into committing to a tackle at the wrong time. The ball is the critical element, not the feet, hips, or shoulders of the attacking players. Teach your defenders to watch the ball at all times.
It would help if you also encouraged players to stay on their feet when defending as much as possible. There is a time and place for a slide tackle, but a player that is off their feet cannot react as quickly as a player who is on their feet.
Teach your players where the danger zones are on the field.
Defenders must position themselves on the field to push the attack towards the sidelines and away from the goalmouth.
Teach them how to position in front of an attacker to encourage the attacker to move into a less attacking area of the field.
The key to any successful defense is communication.
You will always find your defense much stronger where you have a strong communicator playing in the sweeper or center back role. Communication starts during practice. Whenever you conduct drills during practice, ensure that you are not the one doing all the talking. Make sure that there is plenty of talk amongst your players. What they do on the training paddock they will take onto the field.
So, to reiterate, the four keys to creating a strong defense are:
- Teaching your players correct footwork
- Making sure they understand when to commit to a challenge
- Helping them understand the danger zones on the field and how to keep attackers away from them.
- Making sure they communicate with each other.
Your U10 & U12 soccer defending drills should encourage developing these four key areas to really become effective in your team’s defense.
If you are a soccer coach and want to improve your coaching sessions, the best way to do this is to get feedback from your team in a simple and non-intrusive way. You can download our free training session feedback form here.