A run of poor results at the start of the season can really knock a team’s confidence. Sport psychologist Dan Abrahams offers grassroots coaches four tips to help their teams get over a rocky opening to the campaign MORE
Top tips for individual defending
If you want to win matches, you need smart defenders. A great deal of the time they will have to play their part in defending as a team, but there will also be other times when they will have to defend as individuals.
Most coaches think of defending in terms of getting the players organised and in the right places and they fail to recognise the importance of the individual in their system. But the technical and tactical defensive capabilities of each individual are vital to stopping attackers. Players need to be able to delay opponents, turning them away from danger and preventing them getting behind the defence into the penalty area.
Decision-making can be one of the most important skills a defender has when faced with a 1v1 situation – should the defender jump in too soon it gives the attacker space behind to knock the ball past and run onto it. When the opportunity comes to intercept or block, will your defender be ready to take the chance to tackle? Will he know the right move for the right time, so he doesn’t, for instance, try a slide tackle when it isn’t really on, leaving him on the ground and the attacker free to exploit his unfortunate position?
Two of the most important skills in coaching are studied in the sessions on the next couple of pages and these will help you to coach your players in the art of individual defending.
If a defender can keep an attacker’s back to goal by preventing him from turning his view, the attacker’s options will be limited because he will struggle to see his team-mates and spot where the space opens up in the defensive formation. In this way it will force the attacker to use a skill to try to lose the defender, but often this will induce a mistake and the defender will be able to come away with the ball.
Sergio Ramos makes the right decisions
One of the best at preventing attackers from turning is Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos. He will get so tight on attackers that there is no chance of them turning and exploiting the space behind the defence. His ability to make the right decisions at the right time gives him a distinct advantage over his opponents. His strength in stopping attackers turning not only buys time for his team but it often results in him winning the ball and breaking out of defence to launch counterattack.
As often shown by Ramos, the defender’s end product is to contain or delay the attacking player – forcing the attacker into an area where the team has defensive cover and creating a 2v1 defending overload. This often forces attackers to play the ball backwards away from goal and allows the defending team to follow and push out.
Look at the sessions on the next couple of pages and see if you can create individual defenders who will make the right decisions and cut down the figure in the goals against column.
TOP TIPS FOR INDIVIDUAL DEFENDING
If you want your team to concede fewer goals, you need players to learn how to make the right decisions when 1v1…
- > Defenders have to be quick, agile, strong and clever.
- > When approaching an attacker, they must get low to the ground.
- > They should take a side-on stance so both the ball, the attacker and the target are visible.
- > They should steer dribbling attackers either towards a team-mate or the byline, so the danger is moved away from goal.
- > Shuffling quick feet will contain the movement of the attacker.
- > When the attacker slows down in response to pressure, the defender should be ready to steal the ball with a tackle, interception or block.