There are many ways forwards can practice, but what about defenders? I have some great practice drills defenders need in soccer at the bottom of this article. When I meet a young player who is new to our program I often ask them what position they play. When they reply forward, I ask them “what if coach says you’re now playing defender?” Most of the time the player says in response “I’ll do it!,” which brings a big smile to my face. Every young player needs to learn how to play different positions. As the player gets older and reaches new levels, the chances of them getting asked to play defense is high. I want you to know the best drills for a center back to practice. Note: This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
Defenders first responsibility is to defend
Defending 1 on 1 is what all coaches want their players to be good at. Whether the player is up top playing forward or in the back. There are 1 on 1 situations all over the pitch and if a player can win those 1 on 1 battles it helps the team tremendously. At a young age, not all of the players on even the best teams are going to be technical with the ball. This means that for most teams, at least half of the defenders will not have skills but they can probably defend decent enough.
Make sure you are staying goal side before your opponent gets the ball and then when they get the ball, keep your feet moving and stay low.
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First touch on the ground
Ideally this is what you would hope for when the ball is coming to you. One great thing you can do is work on passing the ball against a wall or with a partner. Do this drill from different distances, as close as 3 yards, 5 yards and 15 yards. The shorter the distance the more reps, so I like to start with being 5 yards give or take a few yards. There is a great quote I like to use from Arsene Wenger, “Your first touch is your freedom,” which means if you have a good first touch you will not have as much pressure right away. When you have more freedom you have more time to look up and have more options.
Bouncing balls are hard to control
One of the hardest things for youth soccer players and adults is the bouncing ball because its hard to judge how it’s bouncing. When the ball can bounce in at your knees or shins it’s very difficult to get your foot to stop it from going past you. The last thing you want to do is just let it hit you in the shins, which is what a lot of youth players under 10 years old do. Then there is the ball that can bounce over your head, which you see happen to even college players sometimes. At the bottom of this post I have included 5 practice drills defenders need in soccer. If you want more information on the bouncing ball then I have written a full article how to deal with a bouncing ball.
Controlling the long ball
The thing about improving in this area is you first want to work on getting reps from easy short balls. You can do this on your own by simply tossing the ball up one foot high and then controlling it. You can use the foot, thigh and even the chest. I tell players eventually you want to get the ball to your foot most times, so using your foot on the first touch is smart if you have time to do that.
Controlling the long ball is difficult because most players can’t practice this at home. You can improve like I said by doing reps from short easy balls, but it’s just not the same as the real deal. Having a ball come at you from 30-50 yards is intimidating for one. If you can get to practice early or stay late and hit some long balls with a teammate or parent you will improve. Once you lose that anxiety and turn it into confidence you start to see yourself improve faster.
Passing out of the back
Besides your first touch you really want to spend time passing the ball. Out of all the practice drills defenders need in soccer, this is one that takes you to the next level. Growing up I was lucky to learn different ways to pass the ball long and short. Then I went and worked on it at my home in the back yard or in the house. One thing you really want to stay sharp on is the push pass using the inside of the foot. This is the #1 pass you will use in a game. Watch the pro’s on TV and watch how often they pass with the inside of the foot. One reason they can do this is because they have support from their teammates who have positioned themselves to be close enough for this kind of pass.
You also want to be able to hit one with your laces [top of your foot] because this is how you will be able to hit a long ball. Defenders get in situations where they are in front of their own goal and have to clear it out. The key is that you want to learn all the best ways to strike a proper ball, so that you can be able to use them in different unique situations.
5 Practice drills defenders need in soccer
Wall passes are great for both your first touch [trap] and your passing. Here are 5 practice drills defenders need in soccer. All you need is a wall or a partner to workout with you.
1 touch passing on a wall from a 3-5 yard distance only using 1 foot. Switch after 50 reps and get your other foot.
2 touch passing against a wall or partner where you trap with one foot, take 3 steps, more if you have to and then pass with the other foot. This is a great drill that I use almost every single session. The main focus is that you don’t just trap and pass without taking the 3 steps between the trap and the pass.
Receiving bouncing balls you can just throw the ball at the wall and then receive it as it comes back at you. Use different distances and also different tosses so that the ball comes at you different ways.
Turning while receiving is something you can use with a wall. Simply pass the ball any way you want and as it comes back at you receive in with the inside of the back foot. Once you turn you can either have a small target to pass to or just turn dribble 5 yards and turn again to pass at the wall again.
Trapping the ball down as it comes at you in the air or bouncing. Use the inside and the outside of foot to trap the ball, keeping it down and settled.
Former college soccer player asking for expert advice
A friend of mine who I grew up playing high school with called me the other day. He said he was overwhelmed by trying to find out what to teach his 11 year old daughter and her team. He said that after coaching different teams, he admits that coaching/training soccer players is not easy. I mean this is a guy who grew up playing soccer and ended up playing in college.
This is someone who watches soccer all of the time. How does a former college player not know what to teach? Because it’s not easy to know what and when to work on all the many choices. Plus there are thousands of coaching plans and skills to work on. It’s different when it’s your kid compared to when you are just coaching a team.
It becomes personal and you want to get it done the best you can to help your kid. This is why so many people ask me for expert advice on a certain ages/levels. People know that you can make them do all the moves that everyone knows, but doing step-overs and scissor moves are not going to make you better with ball control.
The way players improve fast is by using methods that get you the right amount of touches, using different parts of the foot and knowing how to position your body to best control the ball.
Footskills help defenders gain ball control
Most defenders are playing that position [Center back or outside back] because they are either naturally better at defender, or they are not as good at controlling the ball. The best way to improve is by using a proven method that I developed after 10 years of teaching private lessons to soccer players all ages and levels. Now days you can go to YouTube and get overwhelmed with thousands of skill drills. Instead save yourself tons of time and worry by getting safe online courses.
If you are serious about working on your own and want to have that peace of mind in knowing you have proven methods to help you then start with my secret recipe ball control methods here. Some of my students spend several hours per week, but all I ask is that you commit to 30 minutes per week on your ball control. Trust me it’s enough! I know you are busy, but 5 minutes a day in a self-paced program is perfect for you. See you inside!