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Defensive Stance & First Defender

Ages: 8+; Equipment: cones/balls/scrimmage vests; Players 12+


  1. Set up cones to mark the start and finish of the race which ends the warmup. The distance apart will vary with the age of the players. For example, 25 m (25-30 yds) is a good distance for most U10s.
  2. With your players facing you, demonstrate the defensive stance. Stress the "L" shape and proper balance. While you back up, have them advance, while you advance, have them back up.
  3. Increase speed to the forward and backward "gallop".
  4. Move them side to side with a shuffle step keeping the stance. Then progress to a crossover step.
  5. Finish with a race forward from the beginning line to the finish line you had set up. Then race back -- backwards.

Individual Work

Circle Game

Set up a large circle with all but two players around its circumference. The other two players are defenders within the circle. The players outside the circle pass to one another through the circle. The defenders must stay within the grid and use proper defensive stance to cut down the passer's options. When the defender intercepts he gives the ball to the intended receiver and continues. Same if the defender clears it. 3 points for an interception, 2 for a clear, 1 for a FORCED bad pass. Either rotate everyone quickly through the defender role or else just rotate some through. Some hints on this game are included at the end of this page.

Coaching points:

  1. Side-on, front foot points defender, back foot points to the side (make an "L").
  2. Shade to one side of the passer. Cut down his options.
  3. Patience! You cannot stop every pass, but you can deny the easy one.

MIG Alley

Set up cones for 4x10 m (5x10 yd) "alleys" for 1v1 play. In each alley, put a defender at one end and an attacker at the other. Game starts with the defender serving the attacker the ball and then moving to shut him down. The defender counts "1-alligator, 2-alligator" etc. to 7. If the defender keeps the attacker from crossing the end-line, he gets a point. If not, the attacker gets a point. Play till someone gets 5 points and then switch roles. Variation for an odd number: In one alley have 2 players at one end and 1 at the other. After each match-up, the players in the alley go to the end opposite the end at which they started. The player going to the end where the "odd" player is gets in line behind him. See below for some hints.

Coaching points:

  1. Close down the opponent as fast and as close as possible. Advance by big steps when farther away shortening the stride as you get closer.
  2. Use body position to force the attacker to the sideline.
  3. Keep the ball in sight and keep backing up so you can stay between the ball and the end-line.
  4. Watch for someone who is doing just what you are looking for, or even something close, AND PRAISE IT! Be positive and don't always look for the negative. We do not want the kids to stop trying because they don't want to risk failing.

Small Group

Numbers (a.k.a. Steal the Bacon)

Set up by moving the cones in the set of alleys to make a large grid with goals. Put half the players in scrimmage vests to create two teams. Assign numbers 1-6 to the team members. Place teams along opposite end-lines. Game starts with the coach serving a ball in, closer to one side than the other, and calling a number. Players with that number enter the grid. Then call a second number. Players with that number enter as second attacker and second defender. Continue play until a goal is scored, the ball goes out, or you as coach call "Back". Players then return to the line. Continue, varying attackers and defenders and combinations of players. Some hints are listed below.

Coaching points:

  1. Reinforce stance points (they tend to forget once they are in a more open field.).
  2. Call "Ball", or another word/phase that everyone agrees on, when you are taking responsibility for the player with the ball.

Larger Group


Expand the field to accommodate 6v6 and let them play. Watch the defenders, but save the comments for the end.


Circle Game

  1. Keep the passers moving. Tell them to receive and then pass right away. Don't let them "tee up" their passes or this will take forever. You can limit the touches to three, then two or one to help keep the flow going
  2. Recruit parents to shag errant passes and clears have spare balls ready to keep the exercise moving.
  3. Coach the technique, not the drill. If a pass doesn't go through the circle or the defender moves a lttle outside, make a quick correction and get on with it
  4. You will see lots of things you want to correct as the outside players pass & receive, but keep focussed on the defender and draw the attention of the others to what the defender is doing.

MiG Alley

  1. An alternative to calling out numbers is to change roles every minute or so, or to reverse roles each time.
  2. Be alert for mismatches. This game works best with players of equal ability facing each other. Be prepared to swap partners.
  3. If you see the same mistake being made by several players, call a halt and BRIEFLY correct it. Then resume.
  4. Common mistakes:


  1. Younger players will tend to zoom in on the ball, even the second attacker and second defender. Be prepared to offer advice to the second attacker to avoid "the clump."
  2. Be patient if they clump up anyway. Keep showing and explaining.
  3. Praise the defenders liberally if they delay the attack.
  4. If the attackers tend to run to the ball and try for long shot right away, change the rule so that they must dribble it over the end line to score.
  5. Discourage the second defender from appointing himself goalkeeper.



  1. Side-on, front foot points defender, back foot points to the side. This is sometimes called "making an "L". Do not take this too literally. The point is not to have the feet at right angles, but to achieve a balanced stance.
  2. Often compared to a fencing stance, a boxing stance, or a martial-arts "fighting stance".
  3. Weight is kept low.
  4. Be up "on your toes" (on the balls of your feet) and balanced (watch you don't get all your weight on your front foot).
  5. Set up at an angle to force the attacker to the nearest sideline or towards a supporting defender.


  1. Maintain the fencing stance.
  2. Going forward, push off rear foot and step forward with front foot. Rear foot moves up to regain stance.
  3. Going backward is the reverse.
  4. Defender's stride is shorter but steps are quicker than attacker's.


  1. Used to move laterally when very close to defender.
  2. Feet do NOT cross over.


  1. Used to move laterally when it is necessary to stay facing the ball, but not when close to the attacker.
  2. Foot away from direction to travel crosses over in front of other foot.
  3. Other foot then crosses over behind it.
Updated 26 March 1999
Overview | Principles | Resources | Guidelines | Practices | Game Day | Very Young | More Reading