How to play soccer

How to play and teach soccer
to youth soccer players

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Soccer Defending

Learning to defend is typically much easier than learning to attack. This is because the defenders primary job is to simply dispossess the attacker. Even if the defender doesn’t gain possession of the ball, by dispossessing the attacker will allow the defenders support to close down the loose ball or cause the ball to go out of play. A key element in good defending is remembering the defenders primary role is to break down the attack. Attackers, on the flip side, typically have to be more creative to beat defenders. Simply pressuring the attacker properly will often cause the attacker to turn over possession.

An aspect of defending which is often over looked is being able to go on the attack once the defender has won possession. Players should be reminded the importance of attacking once possession is won.


When defending 1v1’s in soccer it is very important to focus on the following key elements:

  1. Staggered stance with toes at a 45 degree angle.

  2. Bent knees with weight on the balls of the feet.

  3. Chest leaning over the toes.

  4. Low center of gravity for greater explosion/quick change of direction (upright takes longer to start).

  5. Ability to shuffle quickly.

  6. Pay attention to the distance of pressure (depends on speed of attacker vs. the speed of the defender) usually 1-3 yards

Remember that the player closest to the attacker should be the player pressuring the ball. Players should sprint to close down space as quickly as they can, then when they get 5 yards from the attacker they should slow down and take steps backwards to match the pace of the attacker. During this time, the defender should slowly close down the space between the attacker and defender. Often proper pressure will cause the attacker to lose the ball.

One way to have players recall the proper way to defend is by the term “Quick, Slow, Sideways, Low”.

Quick refers to the defender speed while closing down the attacker with the ball. This should be done at full speed sprint and note that it is often best to close down the ball when the ball is in flight.

Slow refers to the defenders ability to change of speed and direction required to start moving in the same direction of the attacker.

Sideways refers to the body positioning often used when defending. The defender should turn their body in a 45 degree angle to create the largest amount of defensive area. If the defender was to face forward, the attacker could then go around or between the defender’s legs. If the defender turns perpendicular to the attacker, the attacker could easily attack the backside of the defender and have the advantage. However, if the defender positions their body in a 45 degree angle, they will have covered the largest area of space while giving the defender an advantage to channel the attacker.

Low refers to the defenders body position which should be bent knees with weight on the balls of the feet, chest leaning over the toes and low center of gravity for greater explosion/quick change of direction.

Defenders should often be reminded that they should “do their work” during the flight of the ball. So this means defenders should close down the player as the ball is in flight. Tight pressure causes the attacker to look down, where lose pressure allows the attacker to lift their head and have a better vision of defenders, space and possibilities.

Another important aspect of defending is knowing when to tackle. The defender should be patient and look for the following queues to predict the right time to tackle.

  1. Tackle when the attacker has bad touch

  2. Tackle when the attacking team has made a mistake

  3. Tackle when the ball is the farthest from the attacker’s foot

In addition, defenders should learn how to channel an attacker. This simply means to encourage the attacker to go a certain direction dictated by the defender. Typically channeling is done by bending the run on approaching the attacker to encourage attacker to move the ball away from the defender. Too much bend will allow the attacker to blow past defender, so the run must be bent just enough to make up the attackers mind for them. Typically we want to channel attackers for the following reasons:

  1. Move the attacker away from the goal

  2. Move the attacker towards the sideline

  3. Move the attacker to play to weak foot

  4. Move the attacker into a teammate (supporting defender)

  5. Move the attacker away from their support

To close this tip on defending, I want to make a third mention of a very important rule of defending, and that is proper defensive pressure will often cause the attacker to lose the ball. Therefore, teach your players the above defending techniques, and you should see a difference in your player’s abilities to defend

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