Defensive Teaching Progression

By Bruce Brownlee

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

Bruce Brownlee coached boys soccer from 1978 to 1988 in Marietta, Georgia. Coached girls teams from 1988 to 2003 for Tophat Soccer Club in Atlanta and AFC Lightning Soccer Club in Fayetteville, Georgia. Served as a staff ODP recruiter and coach in 2002-2003. Returned in 2010-2011 to help coach his granddaughter’s U11 team. Won 4 state cup championships at Tophat. Proud of his four children who played top-level club soccer and amateur and college soccer later. His site Soccer Coaching is a terrific resource for club and amateur soccer coaches.

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