Defending soccer drill using overload tactics

If your young defenders tend to go to the ball rather than stick with the attacker they're marking, leaving big gaps in the defence, try the following soccer drill. You are aiming to overload your defence to help defenders understand they need to watch the movement of the attackers and the ball when balls are played into the danger areas they're defending.

Overload soccer drill

Start with five defenders, then gradually reduce the numbers.This helps you see if your players have grasped the idea that they must get tight on the player they are marking and create an understanding between themselves and their team mates so they are not all ball-watching and running to defend the ball as it is played in.

soccer drill where defenders are overloaded to improve marking skills

Set up the soccer drill

Mark a zone, 30 x 30 yards, in one half of the pitch. You need one goal and a goalkeeper for this soccer drill. You, or a helper with a few balls, stand at the top edge of the pitch over on the left or right and serve balls at different heights into the players.

To benefit your players' skills, the defenders must win the ball and advance out of the area or clear the danger out of play. The attackers must win the ball and create a goal-scoring opportunity.

In the diagram I am playing three attackers versus five defenders in the marked zone. Change the combinations so the overload gradually reduces. So play around five balls into the area, then drop a defender, so it is 4v3, then 3v3 and finally try 2v3. Obviously the age, skills and experience of your players will determine how many defenders you change. If either attackers or defenders are struggling, you need to change the balance.

When serving the ball, try one over the top, one along the ground and one played wide down the wing and see how the players react. Don't forget to speak to your defenders about ball watching and marking a player.

You can advance this soccer drill by giving the defenders some time to sort out how they will defend and who will go where - let them decide rather than you.

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