So what messages can you send out and what do your youngest players need to be introduced to in order to begin the long journey towards becoming an effective defender? Here are some very simple things you can introduce straight away:
- Let the players know that kicking the ball out of play or aimlessly up field should be a last resort. Avoid applauding this kind of behaviour where possible.
- Encourage players to try something when they gain possession.
- Send out a strong message that you want to get the ball in order for your team to play and attack.
- Encourage defenders to join in attacks when they can and to be composed, patient and intelligent in their play from a very early age.
- Avoid labelling children as defenders – no one knows with any confidence who will play in that position later on.
You may have your own way of ‘selling’ this part of the game to your young players, for example by saying “let’s be good at setting traps” or “let’s try to pinch the ball and counter attack”.
However you introduce defending, you must ask your players to consider the following points right from the start:
- Be patient when defending 1v1. Try to gain control of the situation even though you’re the player without the ball.
- Develop good movements and use of the whole body so that you’re difficult to beat.
- Get good at knowing when to cleanly win the ball.
- Be composed once you have the ball.
- Develop a determination that no one will ever beat you.
The attitude of your youngest players towards defending can be influenced and shaped by the clear and consistent messages they receive at the start of their football journey.
As the coach you must be patient and supportive. For many of your young players it’s difficult for them to effectively take the ball off others. They need lots of practice with clear and simple advice.
To learn more about Foundation Phase DNA, click here.