Setting up a good team takes a lot of practice and experience to pick players that can utilize their best abilities on the field. What most coaches fail to do—and it should be considered a rookie mistake—is run through proper defense drills to keep the other team from scoring.
It won't matter how good your offense is; if you’re unable to protect your goals, then the other team will practically be handed a win. It’s important to avoid that at all costs and start working for your team on decent defensive drills. Luckily, this article will go over some of the best exercises for a defense that will keep your team’s goal safe and allow your players to make for the goal.
Box defense is a drill that’s great for developing a defender players ability to clear the ball from the box and win headers. Box defending helps promote a players willingness to win the ball and helps them enhance their timing, positioning, and awareness to keep their box safe. You’ll also be pushing attackers to practice their crosses and learning how to finish in the penalty box.
To successfully set this drill area up, you’ll need a full sized goal to start. A goalkeeper is optional at this point, you’re trying to teach roaming defenders how to take care of their goal box, and they can’t rely on the goalie all the time to prevent a score so implementing a goalie in this drill is not needed, and likely better not to have one at this time.
You’ll want to set up a penalty area, either with cones or other forms of indication as to where the penalty area lies. You’ll need three cones that outline this, giving about six yards between each cone. After that, you’ll want to set up who your defenders are going to be, present them with a flag or a separate color jersey to make them identifiable.
As for the attackers, they make up three lines of attackers with at least three per line. If you have extra players, they can be crossovers on either side of the box. You’ll have one player from each line go at a time while your defenders must protect their goal. If you did choose to implement a goalie, you could provide added struggle for your defenders.
Overall you’ll want to instruct your defenders to keep their bodies positioned and opened to the field, so they have a better chance of seeing oncoming attacks. This practice gives them a better reaction time and a chance to win the ball and adequately defend their post.
Their goal is to position themselves in a way that they should take at least one step before taking control of the ball.
Defend the Gate
For this drill, you’ll have one defender take on an attacker one on one while the attacker tries to dribble his ball into the gate at the middle of a grid. This exercise is best for developing more defensive footwork, and it helps your players focus on timing and their positions. The attacker's control of the ball will eventually improve which will be beneficial in actual gameplay.
You’ll want to set up cones to place the playing grid into place. Allow at least 25 yards in length with ten to 12 yards in width for maneuverability purposes. The field size can be altered depending on how many players you’re working with at the time and their age differences. You’ll want to place two more cones in the middle of the grid as the goal.
Next, you’ll want to split your groups up, one as a defensive team and the other as the attackers before giving them about two rounds to practice before they switch sides. As a coach, you’ll want to pay attention and educate players on their positioning and footwork as they go so they can learn to correct the bad habit early on.
Your defenders should be doing everything in their power to keep the ball from going past the gate that they’re defending, whether that be winning the ball or forcing their shot out of bounds. Defenders need to keep their bodies at a 45-degree angle to properly maintain the ball out of their gate.
It’s also a good idea to encourage the offensive teams to get creative with their attacking methods. You’ll have confident players who’ll be able to strategize and think on their feet with enough practice.
Horizontal challenges provide an excellent exercise for defensive ability by testing a defenders ability to intercept from harder angles and block shot attempts made by the attacker. The attacker has free range of motion as long as it’s within the penalty box, so a defender in this position needs to be able to handle whatever an attacker throws at them.
This drill is another good one to develop footwork and maneuverability skills which is extremely critical in this area of defending. Timing is vital just as much as agility is, this drill will teach your defenders to be more alert to an attackers body language and give them a chance to react before an attacker has even made their move.
Attackers will benefit from this as well. Attackers have a limited area in where they can come in from and throw a goal. While they’ll have the chance to come in and do anything that they need, they must remain in the penalty box which can severely limit their abilities. Attackers must take this opportunity to improve their footwork and ball control to hold control over the shot.
At this point, you’ll divide your players into two groups. One group will serve as the defensive team, and you’ll have them form a line behind a cone set up closest to the goal. The attackers will be at the cone that sits the furthest from the goal, but still to the side of the penalty box.
All of the soccer balls need to be set up by the offensive line, attackers at the start of the line will start with those balls at their feet where they’ll dribble along the top of the penalty box. The defender must take this time to attempt to intercept or prevent an attackers attempt to score on the goal.
If the attacker wants to make a goal, they need to be faster on their feet than their defenders. This drill would be a good exercise for both parties to improve on vital skill sets to be better at scoring and defending. You can choose to alternate sides once everyone has run through the scenario on one side so that they can all have a chance to develop on these skills.
World Cup Soccer Drill
This drill is probably the most complicated defensive drill you can run with your team, but the experience that they’ll get out of this run will prepare them for the more intense game runs. You’ll want to set up four groups of three players each, giving them different colored jerseys so each team can distinguish themselves from the other.
The goalie will be the only one set up in full goalie gear, defending the goal net from all three teams. There will be three rounds that go on, all of the teams will be working against each other to try to score higher than the other. This drill creates a substantial learning curve for the defending goalie, teaching them how to handle high assaults on the defense by themselves.
After each round, the successful teams will combat each other until the third round announces the team that scored the highest. This fact teaches team members how to work together to avoid losing the ball to other teams, quick footwork, taking chances in the heat of the moment and above all, having fun.
Seven Versus Seven Scrimmage
This scrimmage drill is great to run at the end of a long practice session to put some of the newly developed skills to the test. You’ll want to split up your teams evenly into teams of seven with one goalie and six field players. If you’re working with younger players, you’ll likely want to minimize the playing fields size to accommodate them.
Let them play a few rounds of the game, all rules applicable so they can put their skills to the test for the situations that rise from the games. It helps with team building and gives you a better viewpoint of how your team has shaped up. You’ll be able to correct any issues that you see, but for the most part, the game will be the ultimate teacher in this drill.
There are many different drills you can implement into your coaching regime that will improve defense and offensive tactics to shape your team into a well-oiled machine. These are some of the drills that we found to be adequate for both a defensive standpoint and an offensive, teaching your team how to react and learn in each given situation.