All Ages

Recover and stop

    Mark Swales, women’s national coach developer, provides a carousel practice idea to help your players work on their 1v1 defending and challenging skills.

    Key objectives

    Players will develop their understanding of:

    • how to approach attackers to delay, deny and dictate their direction of travel
    • when and how to decelerate
    • when to challenge for the ball.

    Recover and stop

    Session plan

    Want to try this with your team? Download the session plan to your device and give it a go.


    To set up this carousel practice, you’ll need an area just under half the size of your usual pitch. Split that into four channels (stations) and place a goal at the end of each one. Then, position cones and flat markers like the graphics show above.

    For this practice, we have 16 players, but you can adapt to suit your numbers. For instance, if you only have eight players, give them a longer recovery time before going again. If you have an odd number, rotate them.

    No matter what your numbers are, let them get into pairs – or help organise them – and ensure at least one pair starts at each station. Put a whiteboard next to each station for players to record how many times they stopped their partner from scoring.

    How to play

    Each of your stations should host a different activity. This provides your team with a variety of 1v1 defending scenarios to face.

    In their pairs, players have three minutes to take turns at each station. Then, after a minute break, they move on to the next station.

    Give your players ownership over keeping score and ensure everyone has the chance to attack and defend.

    Now, here's how each station works.

    Stations one and four

    The idea for these two is the same. The attacker begins with a ball and has to run through a gate before travelling towards the goal. At the same time, the defender begins on a flat marker of their choice. The further back they start, the more difficult their task is (as they have a greater distance to cover). They simply have to catch up with them, slow them down and stop them from scoring.

    There are just a couple of differences to encourage challenging from different sides. At station one, the defender starts on the right of the attacker. Both then make angled runs towards the left – where the gate is. The goal is placed in the top right of the area. At station four, the defender starts on the left of the attacker, and both make angled runs to the right. The goal in this area is placed in the top left.

    Station two

    This one is all about pressing high. Both players start back-to-back at a flat marker. The attacker has the ball and runs to the halfway line before turning and progressing to the box (which is marked out by cones). Meanwhile, the defender runs in the opposite direction, to the end of the box, before turning around and running to press the attacker. The defender needs to win the ball inside the box.

    Station three

    Both players start at a cone with their back to goal. The attacker has to run forward with the ball, through a gate and then turn to head towards goal. Meanwhile, the defender has to run to a flat marker of their choice before turning and racing to challenge the attacker. Again, the further away the marker is, the more difficult the task will be.


    It’s important to think carefully about progressions. Learning doesn’t happen straight away, as players will be figuring everything out at first. Constantly changing the game can mean players miss the opportunity to learn. So, give them a chance to have a go at solving the problems they’re facing in this activity.

    After a while, if you feel your players are having consistent success – or need additional support – you could progress the game to alter the difficulty of the challenge.

    Whenever you decide to progress the activity, think about using the STEP framework (Youth Sports Trust, 2002). However you adapt the session, make sure you keep it fun, highly engaging and appropriate for your players.

    If you’re looking for ideas, you could:

    • provide opportunities for players to listen to the experiences of the pairs in front of them to improve their ability
    • differentiate the pairs based on ability or success rate
    • encourage them to increase the distances between the attackers and defenders at the start point.


    After you have looked at the session above, ask yourself the following questions:

    • How would you adapt or tweak the practice to make it appropriate to your own players?
    • What additional challenges could you set to make the practice easier or harder for individuals or your group?

    If you use this with your team, let us know how you get on by posting in the England Football community forums.

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