Coach players to defend long ball over the top of their heads

I find it hard to accept when we let in a goal in the last 10 minutes – especially if it’s a goal that turns a win into a draw or a draw into a loss.Tired players are often caught upfield by swift counter-attacks that destroy all the tactical planning and good skills in the rest of the game. Coach your players in a recovery plan move to handle this situation.

In a recent match, my defenders had pushed up to the half-way line, confident that the 1-0 scoreline would not change because we had so much of the ball. But a long kick over their heads, that they didn’t react to, led to an equaliser.

My defenders were looking from one to the other shifting the blame, but they all knew they hadn’t reacted.

This is why all your defenders should have tasks they must do in these situations, whether it is at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a match.

Coaching recovery skills

I call this move the recovery position. When long balls are hit over the top I expect my defenders to move at top speed to the positions I have given them to make it harder for attackers to capitalise on balls over the top.

It is something you have to practise in soccer training drills, so it becomes like second nature to the players. At the end of the game, when tired minds are not thinking, you want your players to automatically move into the areas that are under threat.

The best way to drill this is to have long balls kicked over the heads of your defenders and have them turn and run to defend the penalty area.

soccer drill to practise getting players to run to recovery positions

Where should they run?

  • Tell your defenders to take a direct line towards their own goal.
  • Recovery lines are like a funnel – that means players by the touchline should run towards their nearest post while players in the middle take a line towards the penalty spot.
  • Get your players goalside of the opposition player with the ball – in this way their direct route to goal is blocked.



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