Ready for battle

Drill your defenders to cover each other while one of them deals with an incoming long ball that threatens your goal. Soon they’ll be experts at last-ditch defending.

Why use it

The long ball is a weapon used a lot in youth soccer and defenders have to be ready for it. This exercise teaches defenders that if they let the ball bounce or fail to cover it, they leave themselves open to fleet-footed attackers who will run onto any missed or poor clearances.

Set up

Set up a pitch 40×30 yards with a goal at either end. The defending team lineup with a goalkeeper, back four and three midfielders against the attacking team’s keeper, midfield three and two forwards. The attacking team includes two servers who they can pass to. You need balls, bibs, cones and goals.

How to play

To start, one of the servers on the attacking team plays a long ball into the back four of the defending team. Play normal football and restart with a long ball if a goal is scored or if the ball goes out of play.


When defending long balls it’s important that one player attacks the ball while the other defenders drop behind in order to cover him. This improves your defenders’ understanding and gets them ready for when these situations occur in matches.

    1. A server starts the game with a long ball. Can the defenders win the ball and start to build an attack on the other end?
    2. One player should be ready to deal with the long ball and the others should be ready to cover in case of any problems

    3. The attacking team can use the servers to pass to if they are under pressure
    4. Whenever the ball goes out, play is restarted with a long ball from the servers

    5. Here the defending team makes an effective headed clearance that allows them to attack and score
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