One thing that coaches are often guilty of doing, is brushing over defending as a topic to cover during training sessions, particularly during high school seasons, when your time is limited due to the number of matches. In addition, some coaches, like me, play the game in a much more attacking way, which tends to focus on the time from gaining possession to scoring. Self-admittedly, this overlooks one key factor- to gain possession, you must first DEFEND.
Defending is also a much less glamorous position to hold and a much less exciting component or skill to practice. Every player wants to get out on the field, beat guys 1v1 and score goals . . . ALL DAY! But a team that struggles to defend- individually or as a unit- will struggle to win games. Therefore, we must focus on defensive responsibilities of individual players and as a team regularly.
Roles of the Individual Defender
Golden Rules of Individual Defending:
Key Principles of 1 v. 1 Defensive Pressure:
Quick Pressure- The player nearest the ball must “close the space” as quickly as possible as soon as the ball is played to his opponent. You should close ground on your opponent as the ball is traveling to the attacker, do not wait until he/she has received the ball. Defender has three priorities:
Touch Tight Pressure (within touching distance/arms length)- When closing down space, it is important that you don’t overrun the play. As a rule you should slow down about 5 yards from the attacker and gradually take away the remaining space in a controlled defensive position.
Patient Pressure- Good defenders will recognize that they do not need to win the ball immediately. If you approach the attacker quickly and under control, taking away his space, you will shift the initiative to the attacker. Most attacking chances are created through poor and impatient defending. General rules for “Patient pressure” are:
Problem Areas for Defenders
As you can see the role of the first defender is vital to the success of team defending. If we do a poor job in applying pressure to the ball and taking away the attackers options the whole defensive system will suffer. It is very important that we spend time teaching each player the principles of individual defending. The 1 vs. 1 is the foundation of the game. This doesn’t just apply to the attacking principle, but defensive as well.