Pressure, cover, balance

When out of possession, your players need to understand how to pressure the opposition and regain the ball. This session will help explain the different roles involved in pressing – one player pressures the opponent who has the ball, one supports, and the third balances between the two others so he can react and become either a pressure or cover player.

Set up

Create an area 40×20 yards split into four 10-yard zones. The activity can be made easier or more challenging by changing the size of the area. We have used 12 players in the session. You need balls, bibs and cones.

How to play it

Players must stay in their zones. Whenever ball leaves the playing area, the coach plays in a new ball. The team in possession is looking to move the ball through the zones to score a point and if the opposition intercept the ball they are looking to score the same way. The first to 10 wins – then each group of three switches with their team-mates.


The unit is looking to move as one to block all gaps between them but not be too tight so that when the ball is switched they are beaten down the outside.

Defender cover

    1. The team in possession play the ball around their zone and attempt to find an opening to pass the ball through the zones to their team-mates
    2. The defending trio should be looking cover all along the zone to prevent penetration down the side. Here a gap was left on the outside and gives an easy point to the attacking team

Look to balance the play

    3. To block all gaps in the defensive line communication between all players is crucial at all times. Here communication between the reds is poor and the opposition score a point
    4. It’s important that as the ball moves, the transition of the players is instant. If one of the players doesn’t transition quickly into their role this will leave a gap for the attack to penetrate

    5. If the balancing player can read the cues of the passing player, they may be able to get pressure on the ball early if the pressure is switched
    6. It’s important that if the ball is central that the cover player on the weak side shifts with the unit quickly to avoid leaving a penetrating gap for the attackers.
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