The big six: intercepting

Guide All Ages

Ever wondered what makes a player good at intercepting? In this article, we explore how The FA’s six core capabilities can help your team master this skill.

This capability focuses on how players use information to make decisions.

As a coach, you can help your team learn what to look for and when. To do this, ask them to keep an eye on the positions and intentions of both opponents and teammates. For example, analysing the space that players leave – or occupy – can help you decide if an interception will work.

To develop your team in this area, start by getting them to focus on the position of relatively static objects. For example, player positions during restarts or corners. Then, progress to situations that include lots of movements, such as open play.

This capability focuses on choosing when to act.

Successful interceptions depend on good timing. Picking the right time to ‘pounce’ is a real skill – and it’s something that young players often struggle with. The reason for this is clear: timing relies on a lot of other capabilities, such as scanning and movement. As young players are still developing their perceptual skills and learning how to control their body, they need extra support in choosing when to act.

To work on timing, ask your team to predict what other players are going to do next. You could also practise games that involve timing, but don’t require your team to focus on the controlling the ball – such as tag.

This capability focuses on how players use their body.

To intercept, your team require a variety of movement skills. For example, they may use their body as a barrier to block a run or dismantle a dribble.

Good movement – and good intercepting – demands agility, balance, coordination, speed and strength. Flexibility is also important: you may need to stretch to block a cross or ‘toe poke’ the ball.

A great way to help players work on their movement is to focus on one aspect at a time. For example, you could concentrate on changing speed or changing direction. This helps prevent players from getting overwhelmed.

This capability focuses on where players move from – and to.

Adopting a good position is an essential component of any interception. However, getting this right also depends on the player’s ability to scan the pitch and time their movement. For example, if a player doesn’t notice the intentions of their opponent, they probably won’t move into a position to intercept. Similarly, if an individual struggles with their timing, they may adopt the correct position but get there at the wrong time.

To help players work on their positioning, play lots of small number games – such as 2v2 or 3v4. This provides repeated opportunity to practise stealing the ball.

This capability focuses on how your players hide and disguise their intentions.

Intercepting is often obvious, but it can also be a sneaky skill. In fact, suddenly appearing from ‘nowhere’ to steal the ball can be very fun – and incredibly useful.

To help your players develop in this area, praise deceptive (but fair) play. You can do this whether your players or attacking or defending. And be sure to explain why it’s effective.

This capability focuses on how players execute core skills. To intercept the ball – and steal possession – players need to master basic techniques, like a good first touch.

To achieve this, your team need to develop a ‘feel’ for the ball. They also need to learn how to react after they’ve managed to intercept. In fact, it’s this decision that often reveals a player’s technique – good or bad.

Working on core skills, such as passing and shooting, can help hone your team’s intercepting technique. To maximise returns, ensure your players always practise against an opposition.

As we’ve discussed, none of these capabilities functions in isolation. In fact, to be skilful, your players need to develop across each area.

In the video below, you’ll hear Paul Holder, FA coach developer, discuss how the six capabilities appear – and combine – in a real game.

The big six: intercepting

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