Training for Pressure, Cover, Balance

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A Coach Asks

Where Can I Find Pressure, Cover, Balance Training?

HELP!!!!!!! I coach a U-13G travel team that desperately needs to work on pressure/cover/balance. Could you please pass on any/all training sessions you prefer. This is my second season with this team and I've been concentrating on their technical skills and playing a possession style of soccer that they weren't taught to play by previous coach. Any assistance would be tremendously appreciated. Thank You. Don

The Secret of Soccer at the Team Level

First, accept this key idea.  The game of soccer, at the team level, is all about one team trying to change the point of attack faster than the opposing team can change its defending shape.  If the attacking team can do this, opportunities to score are created.


Have a look at Team Defense so that you are clear on what you need to accomplish and on terminology.

Try the Sigi Schmid Pressure, Cover, Balance exercises.

Watch The Umbro Pro Training Skill Factor introduced by Alan Shearer.  This tape has nothing to do with skill or Umbro.  It's about teaching individual, small group, and team tactics for defending, winning the ball, and transitioning to attack.  The exercises provided work up from individual defending tactics (1v1).

You will also find a few good exercises in the video tape Coaching the Italian 4-4-2, which has nothing to do with 4-4-2 or Italy.  There are many exercises, a few of which are about changing defending shape.

Coaching Soccer the Progressive Way by Ditchfield and Bahr, a book, provides a series of exercises for the first, second, and third defender.  The terminology in the book is pretty weird, but once you get past that they have some decent exercises.

What to Do

Make sure that you begin work with individual defending first, so that your players are confident and reliable in their 1v1 defending skills.

Move on to 2v1 and 2v2 defending, and make very certain that the defenders work hard to avoid getting caught flat, and they drop off and tuck in once the are not the first defender (when the ball moves away from where they are pressurizing).

Go directly to 4v4 play and coach from play.  First, let the players practice changing shape as the ball moves left and right across the field, with the nearest player pressurizing and the remaining players either tucking in behind to provide support, or covering space away from the ball.  Second, let one group of four just move the ball across the field at best pace, and let the defenders reorganize.  Finally, play live, but stop play often, at least at first, to allow the players a chance to look around and see what kind of shape the defense is in.

With 5 or more defenders, you can place four or five balls on the ground in different locations approaching a defended goal, assign them numbers, and ask the defenders to react instantly as if an attacking team were present and had just changed the point of attack.  Somewhat of a Chinese fire drill, but it allows the kids to rehearse rebuilding their defending shape and you can encourage communication.

Finally, play 5 attackers against a full defense with keeper, and make corrections as needed.