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Getting defensive

Getting defensive


Q: I've got a player who is very talented, fast and aggressive. He's great at scoring goals but hates to play defense. I try to play all of the players at all of the positions, but he is the first player I've had who is very resistant to playing anything but a goal scoring position. What should I do?

A: A one-on-one session is in order. (Make sure another adult, such as an assistant coach or parent of the child, is present for the session, too.) Sit with this young man and find out from him, that is LISTEN to him, as to what he thinks his responsibilities on the field are? It may be possible that he does not understand his responsibility as a field player! By listening to him you will find out if he realizes that players must both attack and defend. When you listen you will find out what motivates him.

After listening, if he does not mention 'defending' let him know that ALL field players are both attackers and defenders. Talk about and, if possible, show him a video of some renowned attackers as they are fulfilling their field player role. Point out the times Messi goes after an opponent. Point out that forwards may not necessarily make the tackle -but how they disrupt the opponent’s attack by immediately chasing after the ball. Point out the poor passing from a back who is pressured by a forward and how his team intercepted the ball. Allow this young man to see what happens on both sides of the ball from a forward’s perspective.

Keep in the back of your mind that this is not a power play between you and this young player. This should not become a 'I will not let him' situation. You are the coach and your job is to find each player’s strengths and build on them. You are the coach and your job is to find each player’s weaknesses and strengthen them. Your job is to allow the natural abilities of a player to shine and adding 'unnatural' abilities to make him an even better player.

Who knows, you may have the next Messi/Ronaldo in your hands. Therefore, be patient in developing this young player’s talents for scoring and add another phase of 'defending' to his repertoire.

After listening to him watch his progress on the field and attempt to 'Catch Him at Being Good.' That is, give him compliments but only at the times that he is making attempts to apply some of the suggestions you made during your discussion.

Or, you can start him at a back position and teach him how to overlap putting your team at a numerical advantage while attacking. However, you must practice this tactic, letting his teammates know that he will be overlapping and they in turn must fill-in his area of responsibility.

Finally, work with his teammates who can be extremely helpful in this process by applying positive peer group pressure. Teach his teammates to let him know when he must go on defense and to compliment him when he responds properly. To avoid having him think that he is being picked on, create buzzwords (team vocabulary) to be used during the game by all players to verbally support each other. 

Karl Dewazien is the Emeritus State Director of Coaching for the California Youth Soccer Association. He is the author of the internationally published FUNdamental SOCCER Book Series and co-producer of the highly acclaimed 9 Step Practice Routine DVD. He is currently a renowned Internet Educator of all things Youth Soccer. Learn more about Koach Karl and the 9 Step Practice at

Soccer Coaching Teaching Offense Defense

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