D-Fence! – Group Defending Practices


Offense wins games but defense wins seasons, or so the saying goes. The practices below work on your team defensive shape in a variety of situations and formations. A few practices can provide your players with a great deal of tactical understanding of where to stand when, which can cover up for technical weaknesses until you have time to address those too.

Title Age Level Players Description
Defending in Fours U11-12 Intermediate 12 Learning to defend as a unit with four players
Four Player Defending U13-14 Elite 16 Reinforcing the defensive shape with a back four, working on pressure, cover, balance and transition.
Pressing and Regaining Possession U13-14 Elite 16 Teaching players how to effectively press individually and in numbers when out of possession.
Defensive Principles U13-14 Advanced 16 Teaching the simple concepts of pressuring and covering to players as a refresher
Numbers Down Defending U13-14 Advanced 16 Teaching players how to defend when faced with fewer numbers than the team in possession.
Tackling and Recovering U13-14 Advanced 16 Practice that works on improving first person tackling and recovery runs
Defending Out Of Balance U15-18 Intermediate 16 Teaching defenders to take control of situations where they are outnumbered out of possession
In-Balance Defending U15-18 Advanced 16 The shape of the defensive unit, starting with 1 defender and building from there, but starting from a strong position, between opponent and goal.
Midfield Defensive Shape U15-18 Intermediate 16 Providing a framework for players to understand midfield defensive shape when out of possession. Building to a full field scrimmage.
Defending Crosses U15-18 Advanced 16 Helping defenders to deal with balls in the air from wide positions.
Midfield Defensive Shape (4-3-3) U15-18 Advanced 16 Using the triangle shape of a midfield to help players to regain possession. Working on funneling into the triangle and transitioning to attack.
Organized Defending U15-18 Intermediate 16 Improving the ability of two or more defenders to work together against equal or higher numbers of attackers.
First and Second Defender Principles U15-18 Advanced 16 Practice working on defending principles - particularly the first and second defender roles.
Tackle and Cover U11-12 Advanced 16 Starting with basic defensive principles, building to first and second defender and shape.
Defending in the Back Third U15-18 Elite 18 Organizing team shape to improve the effectiveness of the back four and supporting players against increasing opponents.
Defending in the Front Third U15-18 Elite 18 Helping forwards to learn to channel possession to make predictable and easier to win back.
Defending in the Middle Third U15-18 Elite 18 Working with the midfield and connected players to improve their ability to win the ball back in the middle third of the field.
Teach Two Center Backs to Pressure and Cover U15-18 Elite 16 Stressing the concepts of a pressuring and covering defender working together at the center of the defense.
Midfield Defending U15-18 Elite 18 Teaching the midfielders to defend as a unit, working together to close down space and win the ball back.
Two Strikers in Defense U15-18 Elite 18 Winning the ball back in the final third by teaching forwards to work together to channel and win the ball back.
Zonal Back Defending U15-18 Elite 18 How to defend with a back four marking space/zonally rather than man to man.
Pressuring and Recovering U11-12 Advanced 12 How to win the ball back in a 1v1 defending situation and how to recover to get into that position.
Cover and Pressure U11-12 Advanced 12 Two defenders working together to win the ball back against one or more opponents.
Pressure and Immediate Chase U11-12 Advanced 14 The roles of the first defender in pressuring opponents and recovering position.
Individual Defending U11-12 Advanced 14 More of a technical camp than a regular practice - activities to work on first person defending.
Defending Crosses 2 U11-12 Advanced 14 Helping players to learn how to receive the ball out of the air and play away from danger towards a counter attacking opportunity.
Defensive Support Play U11-12 Advanced 16 The role of the second defender and supporting players to close down and win the ball back.
Cover Defending U11-12 Advanced 14 Two or more defenders working together to control the situation and ultimately win the ball back.
Italian Defending U15-18 Advanced 16 Individual and group defending, technical and tactical implications based on the Italian method.
GK 3 Goal Situation U15-18 Elite 13 Showing goalkeepers how to prioritize which areas to protect by dividing into three "goals" as areas to protect first.
GK Advanced Handling U15-18 Elite 9 Building on simple techniques to show goalkeepers how to take possession from various shots and situations.
GK Back to the Bar U15-18 Elite 12 Teaching goalkeepers how to retreat when a ball is played over their head towards the crossbar
GK Basic Handling U15-18 Advanced 14 Using correct form when saving the ball with hands. This practice teaches the correct technique for a variety of basic shot-stopping moments.
GK Breakaways U15-18 Elite 11 Working with goalkeepers to deal with a 1v1 breakaway situation.
Defending in Balance U13-14 Advanced 16 Working with the first and second defender to take back control, delay, make predictable and win the ball back.
Defensive Shape U13-14 Elite 16 Defensive principles, working to bigger games working on defending with numbers down.
Defensive Transition U13-14 Elite 16 Working on transition from and two defending; focus is on defensive shape and understanding on transition.
Individual Defending U11-12 Intermediate 14 Improving the ability of the first defender to stop the opponent and take possession of the ball in a variety of situations.
Heading for Defense U11-12 Intermediate 14 Teaching the technique of how to head the ball away with varying degrees of pressure and distance.
Improve Your Team’s Ability to Recover the Ball in the Defensive Half of the Field U11-12 Intermediate 15 More tactical topic from the D license that still includes basic defending principles.