Defending for all age groups

When I have been working with different age groups over the coronavirus-extended summer break I often use the same coaching activity. Sometimes it takes a simple tweak – size of pitch, number of touches, overloads – to make the session suitable for that age group.

This is true for lots of things like passing and shooting but also true for defending technique sessions. Good defending is the key to making sure your team doesn’t suffer – like Barcelona and Manchester City did in the Champions League over the weekend.

One simple area for defending is organisation – this means players need to know their key roles and how and where they should be pressing to win the ball back.

And remember to get your players bouncing on the spot before you run the defending sessions with them, to make sure they are ready for the session ahead – you don’t want to see a flat-footed defender who can be caught off balance. 

I will often add in the five second rule to games – win the ball back in five seconds to get yourselves an extra goal. Tell your players they can score without the ball and give them the tools to get the ball back using the sessions below:

Start with a game that gives an overload to the attackers so your defenders have to work hard and support each other against the overload. Defending in small groups is the perfect session to get your team started on defending principles.

Then you can target specific ways to play in overload situations – 3v2, 2v1 – that occur in every match your team plays. Attacking overloads is a great way to get players working in these small group games; it’s one I use throughout the season with my team.

And don’t forget to make it fun… Multi ball game is an exciting activity where players work in small groups that build up into a small-sided game from 1v1, 2v1, 2v2 and so on. It keeps your players thinking about how and where to defend, depending on how many support players they have.

Finally, give your players a good workout in pressing and winning the ball back, which is key to creating counter-attack situations. Hunters is a great fun game that gets players working hard in small groups to win the ball and turn the tables on their opponents.

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