How to Make Defending Interesting For Your Players

By Danny Carvalho

Question - “My players don't like it when we work on defending. I coach U11's. Any ideas on how I can make my defending sessions more interesting and fun for my players?”

My plan A for a motivating session is always to reward them for performing the expected actions or behaving in a certain expected way on the drills and games. No, I’m not telling you to give them money or any palpable reward! So, what am I talking about? I’m talking about scores and winners/champions on every single activity!

Here goes a defending 1v1 that I love and it’s full of content and valuable defensive information.

Set up a grid approximately 20 yards long x 15 yards wide. The defender will start on one end and the attacker on another. On the defender’s end you will set up three gates. Follow below the diagram for better understanding.

Attacking player starts with the ball and their goal is to break through de defender’s end. The defender on the other hand has to stop the attacker from scoring. If the defender wins the ball they can 1- pass to the coach/player on the other end or 2- dribble past the opponent’s end line.

Pointing rules are (always for the defending player):
• Attacker dribbles past side gates (between orange cone-yellow disc cone) = -1 point
• Attacker dribbles past center gate = - 3 points
• Attacker doesn’t score = 1 point
• Defender wins possession = 2 points
• Defender passes to coach/player or dribbles past end line = 3 points

If possible, set up 3 or 4 grids and call them Division 1, 2, 3 and 4. Play each round (call it SEASONS to create the competitive atmosphere) for about 3-4 minutes. Have them keep their scores and at the end of the season the top ranked player moves up a division and the bottom ranked player moves down a division.

The grids can vary on size according to the division to make it easier or harder to defend as shown on the diagram below.

- Force the attacker to the sidelines and backwards whenever possible
- Protect the center as much as possible
- As soon as you win the ball make a decision whether to pass or to dribble

- Both ends with the gates set
- 2v1s

By Danny Carvalho, DOC at Corinthians Campinas Youth Club,  Brasil

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