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Coaching Defending at Youth Level

Updated: Dec 22, 2022

For this week's MSC Tactical Breakdown, we take a look at one of the most overlooked areas of youth development: defending. Aspects like decision making and technique are often associated with players who have possession of the ball, but the reality is that if a talented player cannot understand and master the basics of defending, they will not reach the highest level. With intricate and detailed defensive systems at the professional level today, it's maybe time that we place more of an emphasis on helping players improve their individual defending when talking development plans. And this week we have some ideas on exactly how to do just that.

A coach may have a preference for a certain type of exercise based on philosophy or ability level of the players, but is it finally time for us to retire the most common exercise forever? The 'traditional' 1v1 drill below is one that is often used to start to build individual and collective defensive principles, but it has a number of disadvantages. Firstly, as the playing area and the target goal are quite small, surely the advantage lies with the defender from the start. Secondly, there is no decision to be made from a tactical standpoint, with minimal context around the tactical side of the game. Finally, as discussed on the breakdown video, it lures the defender into thinking that time is not a factor when defending. However, it could be argued that time is one of the biggest variables in a real game. If a press is triggered and possession is not won by 10 seconds, the chances are that the opposition will have gained access to another area of the pitch and exposed the press.

There is no doubt that today's game is heavily influenced by decisions and transitions, so perhaps they should be at the core of our session design. In this week's breakdown, we look at five exercises that add a little more reality to the challenges that defending brings today, and allow coaches to adapt and evolve them to suit their players and their teams.

You can watch the full session with the breakdown of each exercise on the video below. If you enjoy it, please subscribe to our YouTube page so you do not miss the next one.

If you are a coach who is looking for tactical analysis software, I highly recommend KeyFrame. They are one of the most efficient, effective and affordable solutions for coaches looking to build graphics and animations alongside their analysis work and are perfect for player meetings and remote learning. You can find out more about them here.

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