The Goal.

A Defensive Teaching Progression

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This table was offered as a guide to curriculum development, describing which defensive topics can be covered year by year during player development.


  • 1v1 marking
  • individual defending skills - no get, no turn, no move, no shoot
  • basic defending at restarts
  • introduction to team shape in defense
  • introduction to transition


  • second and third defender play
  • 1v1 marking near ball with zone coverage away from ball
  • shape - getting it, keeping it, changing it quickly
  • transition basic counterattack (choreographed)
  • defenders overlapping to give numbers up and width in attack
  • working with keeper
  • sweeper play - angles, communication, basic visual cues
  • playing ball out of the back
  • defending at restarts
  • recovery and defending against breakaways
  • reinforce U11 topics


  • low pressure defense with high pressure attack
  • high pressure defense with low pressure attack
  • reading opponent's shape to decide when and where to go forward
  • counterattack - reading visual cues (not choreographed)
  • marking out dangerous player
  • recognizing and adjusting defending tactics to match conditions
  • reinforce all U11, U12-U13 topics, especially shape and transition


  • restraining lines
  • doubling up on the ball
  • gamesmanship in defense
  • alternative systems of play
  • advanced change of tactics during match
  • playing short sided
  • reinforce U11-U14 topics