Defending the target man drill

Sometimes your team will play a team with one player who is much more talented than the rest. This could be a striker that they rely on to score all their goals, or the player who starts all their moves. Use this soccer drill to coach your players to defend against this style of play.

Your players have two choices:

1. Play “in the face” of that player anytime he/she receives the ball. This doesn’t always work since the target player often possesses better ball skills and “escapability”.

2. Stop the player before he/she gets started by denying the player the ball.

By using the following soccer drill – called “Defending the target man” – you are coaching your players to deny the “special one” the ball. Designate one player as the TARGET PLAYER. This could be one of your players with good fitness and ball skills but a better choice might be an older player. For example, if your team is an U11 team it might be an older sibling of one of your players who could play centre midfield.

Defending the target man drill

Put the target player in a different colour training bib in this drill. Divide into two teams and play keep ball. Assign the target man to one team and one (or two if necessary) defenders on the other team to mark him.

A good soccer coaching tip is to use the same defenders you would have marking the target man in a game. Their job is to deny the target player the ball and to immediately collapse on the target player if he is able to get the ball. Tell the marking defender(s) that he/she must always be ballside of the target player AND at the same time be able to put his/her hand on the target player (that is, be within arm’s reach).

image shows target-man game where one player is denied the chance to get the ball


Soccer drill tips

Give a point to the attacking team every time they can get the ball to the attacking player. Play for two or three minutes and the goal is for the target man’s team to accumulate a certain number of points in that time period.

After you run this soccer drill once or twice, stop and explain to the defending team that they have two ways of winning the game. They can deny the ball to the target player OR they can keep the ball away from the target player’s team.