When players are asked what aspect of the game they enjoy more, attacking or defending, the large majority will answer attacking. All players enjoy shooting on goal before a training session or dream of scoring the golden goal in the finals of a major tournament. At the youth level shutting down the opponent’s main threat or maintaining a clean sheet does not hold the same glamour as scoring goals, however without quality defending one never has an opportunity to shoot on goal much less score the winning goal. Defending is a component of the modern game overlooked by coaches and players at the youth level. The main reason any team defends is to regain possession and attack. Regardless of a team formation or strategy, players must be able to defend proficiently on an individual level. To often players rely or depend upon the cover provided by a teammate to hide the fact they are not able to defend on an individual basis. While individual defense is paramount, as coaches we must also teach players how lines of the team (defending, midfield and forward lines) within the overall formation function together to effectively and efficiently work to win possession.
As successful coaches have explained and will continue to explain “defense wins championships.” This point holds true if one examines the 2005-2006 UEFA Champions League as well as the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Arsenal, previous finalists in the UEFA Champions League, went ten consecutive matches without conceding a goal; a record in the competition. Moreover, Barcelona who is known for attractive attacking play with outstanding players scored 24 times with only five goals against. Taking a closer look at Italy the 2006 World Cup Champions, throughout the tournament Italy only conceded two goals and one was an own goal against the United States.
The ASET Coaching Education Department hopes you find the following activities beneficial in teaching your players defense.