How to Defend like a Champ!
Defense is key in soccer. Whether you’re playing against an extremely good team and you are defending to preserve a draw, or whether you are desperately trying to hold onto a one-goal lead in the dying moments of a game, defensive capabilities are key for your youth soccer team to be successful. Here are some tips that will be sure to improve the back end of your squad.
1. Always watch the ball – when you are defending, this is a key ingredient to success. Never focus on the attacker’s wiggling legs, or where they are shifting their body to change directions. The ball needs to be your primary focus. Much of soccer attacking is based around deception and fake-out moves to confuse a defender. Therefore, if you insist on only watching the ball you will be immune to such moves, and when the moment is ripe you can strike in and take the ball away.
2. Be aggressive – Your duty as a defender is to win the ball back for your team and to prevent opponents from scoring chances. A great defender always has that cutting edge and intense fight to win the ball no matter what. Try to instill some of this into your players so that they will make brave tackles. Congratulate them on displays of aggression and help keep up that fire. There is always a chance that you may get penalized for a foul, but sometimes that is the right move, gives your team more time to bring extra defenders back, and will also demoralize weak-minded attackers.
3. Keep your team organized – Whether your team defends with three or four players makes no difference; your players need to be well-organized in order to prevent open players gaining easy access to the goal. Try to help your players cover all areas of the pitch. Also, instill a defensive mindset in your midfielders to come back and cover open spaces. Have plans in design in case one of your defenders falls or is beaten by an attacker. A well-oiled defense can shift over another defender to fight the attack while a midfielder drops back into his or her defensive role temporarily. Team organization isn’t crucial for very young players, but its importance increases as the players get older.
The true mark of a good defense is when they don’t allow any open shots or legitimate scoring chances throughout an entire game. Naturally this is a very tough proposition for even the best of teams, but if you spend some practice time on improving your defender’s skills, there is a definite likelihood that your players will get better and give up fewer goals.