Defenders are usually the backbone of every soccer team because they possess the grit required to do anything to stop the opponents from scoring.
They typically hang back and protect the goalie from any breakaways and also serve as options for the midfielders during the defensive half.
You may have the best strikers in your team, but if you cannot stop the other team from scoring, you are going to lose.
Defenders need determination and mental toughness to succeed. As a soccer coach, you should start using effective and challenging soccer defense drills in your training sessions if you want to develop an incredibly strong defensive team.
A strong defensive soccer team is significant if you are aiming for your players and team to have long-term or any short-term success. Here are some of the popular soccer defense drills to help your team succeed in soccer.
No Turn 1-on-1
In this drill, one defender tries to keep only one attacker from turning them and scoring a goal.
It develops the ability of a defender to keep an attacker from the other team from turning and scoring. Defenders enhance their footwork, strength, and positioning. An attacker becomes pretty comfortable with his back to goal and his ability to turn and also shoot.
- One goalkeeper is recommended to make this activity more like a real game. If there’s no goalkeeper, the activity can still get completed without one.
- You need a full-sized goal.
- Depending on the players present, utilize multiple goals for the activity to increase the repetitions the players get. It’s best if you don’t have more than ten players at each goal.
- Put up a 12×12 yard box at the front of the goal. This box should begin eight yards outside the goal.
- Have two players begin inside the box. Here, one player will be the attacker and one player will be the defender.
- The other players will form a line 6 to 8 yards behind the yard box with all your soccer balls.
- The player who is first in line begins with a ball right at their feet.
- Determine the total rounds for each player and the time for every round. You can have a minimum of 3 rounds of 5 to 7 minutes.
- To begin this activity, the first player passes the soccer ball to the attacker in the yard box.
- This attacker gets the ball using their back to goal as the defender puts pressure on their back.
- Next, the attacker tries to turn on the defender and score while staying within the yard box.
- The defender tries to intercept the soccer ball, block the shot of the attacker, or forces the attacker outside the box.
- This turn gets finished once the attacker loses the ball, scores, or is forced outside the box.
- When the turn ends, the passer will become the defender, the defender will become the new attacker, and the attacker will retrieve their ball and return to the back of the line. The other turn will begin once the new attacker and defender are ready.
- Continue with the process for the rest of the activity.
- Box size – You can decrease, or increase, the size of the box depending on your players and the progress of the activity.
- Box placement – You can change the placement of the box at the front of the goal. You can move the box right, or left to create a different defending and attacking angle.
- No box – The absence of a box makes it very difficult for defenders because there are no boundaries. Without boundaries means the turn will be over only when the attacker shoots or a defender wins the ball.
- Defender outside the box – You should have one more defender outside the box who is free to defend an attacker if they drool out of the box. That allows the attacker to continue with the game if they dribble out of the box. The extra defender should move out of the yard box until an attacker breaks the switch line. An attacker can attempt to be elusive and bring both defenders on a single side before blasting to the outside of the yard box on the other side and trying to score.
2. 2-on-2 Support
Some two defenders will pass the soccer ball out to some two attackers and try to stop them from scoring. In this case, one defender will run directly to one of the attackers getting the pass as the other defender supports and gets ready to pressure the other attacker if the soccer ball is passed.
The purpose of this drill is to develop some individual defending skills and defensive supporting positioning as well. Defenders improve their timing, defensive angles, and footwork. Attackers improve their 1-on-1 dribbling, finishing, and decision-making.
- You need one full-sized goal.
- One goalkeeper should get positioned in goal.
- Put two cones 10 to 15 yards outside the penalty area. These cones should align with both goalposts, and they will be your offensive cones.
- Put two cones 2 to 3 yards off every goalpost at the end line. The two cones will serve as the defensive cones.
- The players divide themselves evenly between your four cones and create lines behind every cone.
- Divide all the soccer balls between both defensive lines at the end line.
- Your first players in every defensive line will work together in this activity. One of the defenders will start with a soccer ball at his feet.
- Here, the first player in every offensive line will work together.
- Establish the number of rounds you want and time for every round. You can have a minimum of two rounds of approximately 6 to 8 minutes.
- To begin the activity, the first defender with the ball will pass it to one of the attackers.
- Next, the two defenders will sprint towards the two attackers, and the defender who is nearest to the attacker getting the pass will place more pressure on their back than the other one.
- The two attackers try to dribble and also pass around the two defenders to score.
- The defender who’s not applying pressure directly to the attacker on the soccer ball is regarded as a supporting defender and will move into a position away from the shoulder of the main defender. The supporting defender must be in between assisting the main defender in case they get beat and if a pass is made to the second attacker. The supporting defender will become the main defender and apply pressure in case the second attacker gets the soccer ball. When this happens, the main defender will immediately switch and become the supporting defender.
- The turn is finished once the attackers get a score or the defenders block the shot, or win the ball.
- The following four players will start their turn as soon as the players before they have completed and cleared the field. The players will return to the back of their initial lines after their turns.
- Continue with this process for the remaining round. Once the round ends, gather the switch lines, and any lost soccer balls. Attackers become defenders and defenders become attackers.
- 2-on-1 – You can also have two attackers against a single defender. That will increase the challenge for the defender and also place them in another situation.
- 2-on-3 – You can also add an extra attacker to escalate the challenge for the defenders.
Channel the Attacker
In this drill, one player will defend one attacker who tries to dribble via one of the three gates placed behind the defender and beat the defender. Every gate is worth specified points, and the gate nearest the attacker is worth the least points. Defenders will try to stop the attacker from drooling through the gates carrying the most points or win the ball.
Channel, the attacker, is a competitive 1-on-1 routine that focuses primarily on individual defending, defensive footwork, and closing down speed. The attackers increase their ability to outdo a defending player on the dribble.
- You need four cones to create three gates. Every gate must be in the same line; utilize a line on the training field if you need one for reference.
- The first gate must have a width of 5 yards with the second one having a width of 4 yards, and the last gate should be 3 yards wide.
- Put one cone 15 to 20 yards away from your biggest gate. This cone must be perpendicular to the original cone used for the biggest gate.
- Divide your players into two groups and assign each group a jersey color.
- Appoint one group to start as the attacking team and make them form a line behind one of the cones placed 15 to 20 yards from the biggest gate.
- Allow the other group to begin as the defending team and make them form a line right behind your smallest gate.
- Every defender must have a soccer ball ready at their feet. Always keep some extra balls around the line of the defending team.
- If you have over 12 players in the game, set up another similar activity so that there are around 6 to 10 players in each game.
- Decide on the number of rounds and a time limit for this activity. 4 to 6 rounds of 3 to 4 minutes can be a good reference.
- The first defender will start the game by passing the ball pass to the attacker who is first in the line. Once the defender makes a pass, they will sprint towards the first attacker.
- This attacker gets the soccer ball and drools towards the set gates.
- The first attacker tries to score the highest points available, or possible. The gate which is furthest away will be worth 10 points in total, the center gate will be worth 5 points, and the closest one will be worth one point.
- The defender tries to direct, or channel the defender towards the one-point gate and away from the ten-point gate. The defender tries to win the ball and stop the attacker from earning any points.
- When the defender wins the soccer ball, or the attacker dribbles via a gate, the next two players will immediately start their turn.
- The team’s coach will keep track of the scored points for the attacking group for every round.
- The teams collect all lost soccer balls at the end of every round, and then switch their lines so that the attacking team becomes the defending team.
- After both teams have attacked once, the team’s coach should declare the attacking group with the highest points the winner of the game.
- The two rounds that follow begin at zero points for the two groups and the teams repeat this process for another two to four rounds.
The defending group can score – If a defending player wins the soccer ball from the attacker, they are free to try scoring on any of the set gates to get points. This variation develops the ability of a player to quickly react once they lose the soccer ball and stop the other group from progressing.
Defensive Recovery Runs
In Defensive recovery runs, one defending player competes against an attacker to make a recovery run towards their set goal with an attacking player trying to beat them to the soccer ball and score. The defenders must prevent the attacking player from scoring a goal, or clear the ball.
Defenders engage in a game-like situation every time the opposing group kicks a long soccer ball, to their striker, over their heads for an opportunity on goal. The purpose of this drill is to help the defenders boost their footwork, recovery run speed, and readiness while preventing the attacking player from a clear opportunity on goal. Attackers work on their finishing, speed and their ability to evade a defending player.
- You require one full-size goal on the end line.
- This activity needs one goalkeeper to make the session more game-like.
- Put two cones 5 to 8 yards within the half-line of the goal. The cones must be outside the center-circle with approximately 5 to 10 yards between both of them and parallel to the end lines.
- Divide your players into two equal teams.
- Have every group make a separate line right behind the cones. The team nearest the inside of the training field will begin as the defending players while the other team begins as the attacking players.
- The extra player or the coach is positioned within the center-circle to the inside of the two lines.
- Place all the soccer balls within the center-circle along with the coach.
- Determine the number of rounds and the time limit. Two rounds of around seven to ten minutes can be a good reference.
- The coach begins the activity by throwing or kicking a ball in the direction of the penalty box placed in front of the soccer players.
- The players who are first in every line start sprinting to the soccer ball trying to get there first.
- Since the defensive line is pretty closer to the soccer ball compared the offensive line, the defending players should get to the soccer ball before the attackers and try turning them and play the soccer ball back to their coach. If it is difficult to complete a turn successfully, the defender should pass the soccer ball back to the team’s goalkeeper to kick or throw the ball up the training field or clear the soccer ball out-of-bounds.
- The attacker should try beating the defending player to the ball utilizing their elusiveness and speed for an opportunity to score. If the attacking player gets to the soccer ball first, the defending player should attempt to block the shot of the attacker.
- If the attacker doesn’t beat the defending player to the soccer ball, they should try blocking, or intercepting, the soccer ball from the defending player as they try to play it out of danger.
- Once the players complete their turn, they will return to the back of their lines and the two players that follow will immediately start their turn.
- This activity will continue for the remaining round. Once the round comes to an end, collect the lost balls and allow the players to take a short break as they switch lines. Attackers become defenders while defenders become attackers.
- Complete a minimum of two rounds of around seven to10 minutes. If you complete over two rounds, switch sides after two rounds to allow the attackers and defenders to go to the other wing.
Change sides – When you are halfway through the defensive recovery runs drill, switch sides so that players can work on the other side of the training field.
One attacking player attempts to drool across the penalty box top with one defending player between them and also the goal. The defender attempts to block the shot attempt of the attacker, or intercept the ball. The attacking player is free to adjust the direction and pace along the line of the penalty box.
This drill develops defensive agility, timing, and footwork when an attacking player is cutting in to create a better chance of scoring. Defenders enhance their ability to remain between the goal and the attacker to prevent any goal scoring attempts. Attacking players improve their ability to beat defenders on their inside shoulder to score.
- You require one full-sized goal on the end line.
- You need one goalkeeper for this activity but if there’s no present the activity can still be completed.
- Place two cones right outside the top of your penalty box. The cones should have 3 to 4 yards of space between them and must be parallel to all the sidelines.
- Divide your players into two teams.
- Allow one group to be the defensive team and have all of them form a single line behind one of the cone nearest to the goal.
- The other group will work as the offensive team, and they should also form one line behind the cone located the furthest from the goal.
- The offensive group should have all the soccer balls with them.
- The first player in the offensive group begins with a soccer ball right at their feet.
- Determine the time for every round and the number of rounds. You can have a minimum of two rounds of 6 to 8 minutes.
- Your first player in the attacking line starts the game by drooling along the penalty box line top.
- Simultaneously, the attacker begins dribbling, and the first defender moves along the attacker trying to intercept or stop them from scoring. The defending player attempts to remain between the goal and the attacker throughout.
- The attacker attempts to go past the defending player by changing direction, positioning, and speeds to score on the goal. The attacking player is free to utilize any moves they prefer but must remain close to the line of the penalty box and move parallel to this line.
- The defending player is free to channel, block, or tackle the attacking player at any point.
- When the defender blocks the shot, wins the ball, or the attacking player scores, the turn comes to an end. The two players that follow will immediately start their turn when the players before them finish.
- The players will go back to their lines, and this process will continue for the rest of the round. Once the time limit lapses, collect all lost soccer balls and have your players switch lines.
Change field sides – You can switch sides so that the players can work on scoring and defending from both sides.
Good defending is the backbone of every soccer team that wins most of its games. The defense will certainly take pressure off the opposition having to score and also tends to make it easy to win if a soccer team isn’t primarily scoring goals to get closer to the opponent. It‘s also the role of the coach to build a level of pride in his team to enjoy locking out the other team.
The soccer defensive drills listed above will help all players on your team to learn how to appropriately defend including the forwards and midfielders and not only defenders exclusively.
Players that defend well can contribute a great deal to a soccer team, and you might even realize that your team is playing soccer more effectively compared to the past because all of you dedicated effort and time to master these soccer defensive drills.