Defending Session – On Guard (Pressure, Cover, 1v1, 2v2, 4v4

This session from the Irish FA Level One Course is excellent for U11+ ages and is a good introduction to the basic principles of defending.

Defending - On Guard - 1v1, 2v2, 4v4
Defending – On Guard – 1v1, 2v2, 4v4

Session Coaching Points:

The session begins with a 1v1 situation where the defending players aim to delay the attacker as long as possible.

We then progress to a 2v2 scenario where the players must develop an understanding of who should press and then the role of the second defender.

The session can then be finished with a 4v4 activity where we then look at the roles of the 3rd and 4th defender who provide balance and support.

The 2 fundamental coaching points of the session are:

How to press

  • Closest player to the ball applies pressure
  • Body shape – dictate the play
  • Don’t dive in

How to cover

  • Distance from pressing player
  • Angles – no through balls
  • Communication

Who would this benefit?

I like to use this session as an introduction to defending principles, depending on the group it can be used as early as U10/U11.This is also an excellent activity to do with older Youth Teams in order to revisit the basic principles of defending.

Download Session

Click on the image at the top of the post for a JPG or if you prefer you can Download the On Guard Defending Session Plan as a PDF.

Under 12 Playing out from the back

Description: Session to develop understanding of playing out from the back. Session should focus on passing and receiving technique and positioning in and out of possession.

Coaching Points

  • Receiving to play forward – Body Shape (half turn), Scanning, spacial awareness
  • Positioning for kickouts – Use width, spread out
  • Positioning when out of possession – Stay compact, until ball in in keepers hands, then spread out
  • Movement to support

Warm up – Receiving on the half turn

Receiving on the Half Turn Technical Practice
Receiving on the Half Turn Technical Practice

Description: Players in groups of 6-8, split up into two even groups facing each other. To begin, simply take a touch to control and pass to opposite player then follow your pass to join the opposite group.

Work for 3 minutes to allow players to warm up. Can add in dynamic stretching by jogging around the cone to your immediate left. Progress to 1 touch when players are comfortable.


  • 1 player starts in middle, receives on half turn and passes to opposite group, always follow your pass. There should always be one player in the middle
  • 1-2 pass with end player who passes to middle player, receives on the half turn and repeats

Opposed Practice – Playing out from the back

Playing out from the back technical practice
Playing out from the back technical practice

Playing area: 35mx60m

Description: 7 (plus goalkeeper) v 4 in the main area with 2 target players. Play always starts from the goal keeper, blue’s must spread out and work on their shape for goal kicks. Blue’s aim to get the ball into one of the target players to score a point, target player then switches to the other target who plays back to goal keeper.

If red’s gain possession they must aim to score into large goal.


  • Number of passes before scoring

Link to video

Original session from

SSG – Playing out from the back

Playing out from the back Small Sided Game
Playing out from the back Small Sided Game

Playing area: 35mx60m

Description: Play now switches around and the blue team attack the large goal.

7v6 (plus goalkeeper) game in the main area in favour of the blues, play starts with the blue server (or coach depending on numbers). Blue’s must play from the server to create goal scoring opportunities.

Blue’s can play back to server to keep possession. If the red’s regain possession then they must aim to score in either of the small target goals.

Throw-ins in play, play restarts from the server.


  • Limit touches
  • Number of passes before scoring

Link to video

Original session from

Free Play – 8v8

Free Play - 8v8
Free Play – 8v8

Under 12 Passing and Attacking Session


Session to develop passing and receiving technique. We then introduce players to different 4v4 conditioned games where they have to solve different problems.

Coaching Points:

  • Short passing and receiving
  • Patience in possession
  • Penetration in attack
  • Forward runs, runs into space

Warmup – Technical (Passing) (20mins)

Passing Warm up

Description: Three variations of short passing, slowly lifting the tempo as the warm up goes on. Players should work on developing passing and receive technique, ideally working with 1 or 2 touches maximum.

SSG – Playing against a high line (20mins)

SSG - High Line

Description: This game mimics playing against a team that defends high up the pitch, the team in possession must look to beat the offside trap and either drive into the attacking third or receive a well timed pass.

Once the attacker breaks into the end zone only 1 defender can follow in to defend. As the players get used to the drill add more pressure or regress as required.


  • Add more pressure
  • Remove offside – now all attacking players must be over half way line to score. Helps to develop sense of when to move up the pitch as a unit
  • Add strikers into the end zones, they must receive the ball with their backs to goal and look to set a midfielder for a shot from distance. This can be useful when the attacker is being tightly marked


  • Play starts from Goal Keeper who must play into central zone, you can retain possession by going back to keeper unopposed
  • If ball goes out of middle zone simply kick in rather than throw, if ball goes out in either end zone it is goal keepers ball, no corners
  • If you score you keep possession but start from your keeper

Free Play (20mins)

Free Play - 8v8

Under 12 Possession Session

Attacking Principles of Football (WIMPS)Description: Basic session to introduce the Attacking Principles of Play (WIMPS).

Fun warmup developing to simple 5v2 Possession exercise before moving to a game specific directional Possession exercise.

Session Coaching Points:

  • Introducing Attacking Principles of Play (WIMPS)
  • Develop Passing and Receiving Technique
  • Good communication with team mates

Agility Warm up

Time: 8-10mins

Passing Agility Warm-up

Description: Players in two equal lines facing each other with one ball. First player passes to opposite player before performing a ladder exercise and joining the opposite group. Repeat Circuit for 2-3mins depending on number of players then progress.


  • Single Feet
  • Two Feet
  • Side to Side
  • In-out-in-out
  • Dribble to opposite group then go back through ladder


Setup: 10x10m area (Use 2 areas depending on player numbers)
Time: 20mins

Rondo 5v2

Description: 5v2 possession exercise where players can move throughout the 10×10 grid, focus on introducing “WIMPS” and basic tactical. Can the players use Width? Support? Mobility? Also focus on passing and receiving Technique.

Award players 1 point for every 10 consecutive passes and change the defenders. If this is too much lower to the ability of the players.

Change defenders regularly or have two teams of 5 and have 3 substitute defenders. Attacking team can have 5mins to practice then change roles.


  • Limit to 2 touches
  • Play “penetrating pass” through two defenders to score 3 points
  • Limit to 1 touch


Setup: 30x15m area (Two areas if player numbers allow)
Time: 20mins

Directional Possession 3v3+2

Description: 3v3 inside a rectangle area, with a target man on either end. Teams must play the ball from one side of the grid to the other to score a point. They can go back to the end player they received from to retain possession but will not score a point.

Change end players and middle payers regularly.

Focus on, 2 players going wide for the server, third attacker makes plenty of movement.


  • Limit to 3 touch
  • Must make 3 passes before going into end man
  • Limit to 2 touch

Free Play

Time: 10mins

Free play - 6v6

Under 6 Dribbling Session

Session Focus: FUNdamental session focus on developing ABCs and introducing dribbling.

Warmup – ABCs (10mins)

U6 Agility Circuit

Description: Players split up into two teams, one team starts at the agility ladder and the other at the shuttle cones.

Ladder: Players take turns to go through agility ladder, begin with one foot in each square. Progress to two feet, bunny hop and side to side.

Shuttle Cones: Focus on knees bent and pushing off the outside foot. Can also progress to running backwards depending on the group.

“Cross the river” Dribbling Game (10-15mins)

Cross the River

Description: Players in two teams, each player has a ball. Play begins with the whole team in their end zone with their foot on top of the ball. When the coach shouts “GO” players must dribble/walk across “the sea” to the other side. If the player can get to the other side without losing control on their ball, and put their foot on top and shout their name they get 1pt.


  1. Speed – When players are comfortable, give the first player who gets across and has their foot on the ball 1pt.
  2. Change of direction – Add in a few dome cones so players now have to move side to side and avoid hitting the cone

Coaching Points:

  • Small touches when dribbling
  • Keep ball close to feet
  • Start slow, speed up when comfortable
  • Scanning, head up

1v1 Dribbling (10-15mins)

U6 1v1 Dribbling

Description: Both teams stand in a line beside the coach with one ball per team. When the coach shouts go the players must dribble their ball down the end line, in through their end zone and attempt to dribble and score in the opposite goal. Whichever team scores first gets a point. Players must then lift the ball and give it to their next team mate.


  1. 1 Ball, now the players run round the cone and the coach serves in the ball, players must then win a 1v1 to score.
  2. End Zone – Players must be inside the end zone to score.

Free Play (10-15mins)

4v4 Small Sided Game

Description: Finish with free play, 3v3 / 4v4 max. Can use goalkeepers depending on the group. Allow players to kick the ball in from the sideline and a free pass for goal kick.

Ideally have two games of 3v3 and swap teams half way through.

Short passing and possession

Session Focus: Short passing and receiving

Develop short passing and receiving technique.

Warmup – Diamond Passing

Diamond Passing drill

Play starts with one player on each of the orange cones, all other players line up on blue cone.

First player must play anti-clockwise to the player on the next cone and follow his pass. This is repeated until the final cone where this player will dribble to the back of the line.

To progress, go clockwise and work on receiving and passing with the opposite foot.

Focus on good passing technique with push pass, movement to receive, receiving on the back foot to play forward and communication.


Diamond Passing Progression

Quick passing combinations – Server plays a 1-2 with next player then plays a long pass to the opposite player who plays a short pass to the final player. Final player dribbles back to start.

Short, quick passes then a long pass. How can this be related to a game? Quick combinations to play out from the back.

Rondos – 3v1


Add four large cones around the diamond from previous activity and lift diamond cones.

Start with 3 players in the square with other players on blue cone, first player runs in and acts as defender. Coach calls switch every 30-40 seconds to change the defender while the three players try to keep possession.

SSG – Creating space

Creating Space SSG


Players split into two teams with one goal keeper and a neutral overload player.

To begin play 3v3 with rest of players outside the grid waiting to be substituted in or have two activities going.

Ball is played out by goalkeeper to his team who must score in one of the target goals. If the defending team win the ball they can score in main goal.

Encourage starting team to keep possession using extra player and goal keeper.

Substitute players every 2/3 times and swap roles after 8-10mins.

Coaching points:
– Passing technique
– Movement to create space for goal keeper
– Communication
– Quick combinations

Free play – 7v7

Short and long passing session

  • Session Topic: This session focuses on short and long passing technique. The session will also cover receiving technique, possession and using width in attack.
  • Age: Under 10 – Under 12

Warm-up (8mins)

To begin the session have players passing in pairs, moving around a set playing area (Size dependent on numbers). Begin with 2 yard pass and ask players to increase distance as they get more comfortable. Progress by asking players to move around the area passing with other partners.

Conclude by players getting into groups of four on the final whistle.

Technique (10mins)

Long passing football warmup
Players work in groups of four, two from each group will start in opposite end zones 10-20 yards apart. With one ball between each four players will work on various long passing techniques.

Play starts with one players passing into the opposite end zone, the player who receives will play a pass to his partner who sets him up for a long pass back. He will then become the receiving player the next passing.

Begin with a driven instep pass and progress:

  • Chipped pass
  • Curled pass – Inside and outside of foot
  • Driven pass with laces
  • Floated pass

5v2 Possession (15mins)

Players split into three equal teams, two teams take up the opposite end zones with the other teams starting as defenders in the middle small square.

When the coach plays the ball into one end zone team they must attempt to keep possession for 3/5 passes before playing a long pass into the opposite end zone. Two defenders from middle square will attempt to win the ball back. If they intercept the ball then the phase of play has finished and the coach plays a new ball into the opposite group.

Remember: When the short pass target is complete the team in possession must still make a successful long pass. It could be curled around the side, driven or floated over the top. If the center square players intercept that is a point!

Once the defenders intercept 5 balls they will swap out with one of the end zone teams.


  • Increase numbers of passes required
  • Max number of touches

SSG – Three Goals (12mins)

Two teams play on a 35-30 (approx) pitch with large goals, goal keepers and two small target goals per team. Behind each target goal must be a target player.

Team can score normally into large goal and receive 1 goal, if they can score into a target goal on the wing they will receive 2 goals or if they can switch the play and score in the opposite target goal they receive 5 goals.

Focus of activity is for players for spread out, make good quick short passes and look to switch the play if there is space.

Free play (remaining time)

Finishing Session – Volleys

Session Focus: This session focuses on Passing, Receiving and Finishing Technique using Volleys.

Age group: U11


  • Players: 5-10 (Work with two groups if more)
  • Equipment: Balls and Cones
  • Duration: 15-20mins


Passing Square Warmup Drill

Play starts with player on the ball dribbling clockwise to the next cone and passing to the next player who repeats. Play for 2-3 minutes to allow players to adequately warm up. Focus on technique and understanding the activity before asking players to increase tempo.


  • Go anti-clockwise
  • Add stepover/skill whilst dribbling
  • Passing instead of dribbling
  • Passing Anti-clockwise
  • Pass, 1/2

Technique Part 1 – Volleys (Accuracy)

Youth Soccer Volley Technique Drill

Time: 10mins

Players split into two teams, each team has three balls set on top of cones 5 yards away with one player from each team behind the balls acting as a server.

The server throws to the person top of the que who must try to volley the ball and knock a ball of the cone. The server is responsible for retrieving the ball and only one ball per team.

Technique Part 2 – Volleys (Power)

Youth Soccer Volley Team Game

Time: 10mins

One team stands at right hand side of a large goal with no goalkeeper and the other team on the left side. First player form each team stands in front of the goals. Next player in line serves and striker must score with a volley and it has to hit the back of the net to count.

Side of foot or laces? Good technique, eyes on ball, knee over ball and strike through.


  • Headers to score – Focus on attacking the ball, don’t be scared of it. How does this apply to defensive header on a Saturday especially from set pieces?

SSG – Wide areas with header/volley bonus

Youth Soccer Small Sided Game - Passing, Possession and Finishing

Each team has two small goals to score in, players must attempt to switch play quickly to the opposite wing to exploit space.

No goalkeepers but players can score in the large nets with a volley or header to score. Scoring as follows:

  • Score in small goals = 1 goal
  • Score in large goals with header or volleys = 3 goals
  • Switch the player and score in opposite small goal within 10 seconds = 5 goals

Attacking / Defending

1. Warmup – Technical Circuit

Technical Warmup

Video: Facebook link

2a. Basics of Defending 1v1

Defending 1v1

Description: 1 ball per pair, each player takes it in turn to drive towards the passive defender opposite and reach the other line. once they are there drill repeats with now other player becoming the passive defender. defender will become active can they now get past the defender to the end line. defender needs to think about body shape/angle/distance away from attacker. can we force them to an area? weaker foot?

Coaching Points: (Technical) Defender needs to think about body shape/angle/distance away from attacker. can we force them to an area? weaker foot?

Progression: Full Pressure 1v1

1v1 Full Pressure

Description: Add a small end zone containing a mini goal. Defender plays the ball into the attacker who must try to score in the mini goal. If defender wins the ball he scores by stopping the ball on the opposite end line.

Think about body shape, closing defender down quickly, dictate where the defender can go.

2b. Finishing (Whole/Part/Whole)

Description: Two teams start in their own halves, can have a goal keeper or first man back. If it is too hard to score remove goal keepers and players can only stop with a block or header.

WHOLE: Play starts with one team who tries to score from their own half, if the ball goes out or they score the other team starts play and repeats. Good supply of balls for both teams, no throw-ins or corners. Restart with new ball from the teams own half.

Shooting Game Whole

PART: Each team has two groups, one on each of corners. All players have a ball each and take turns to serve to the coach who lays off for a shot.

Important to work on finishing techniques, driven shot, chip shot, placed shot and cured shot.

Progress to use goalkeepers to increase difficulty, coach alternates team he servers too.


Finishing Part

Progress back to WHOLE.

3. 8v8 Game

Free play - 6v6

Full 9v9 pitch size, roll out rule with proper formation. Encourage good technique from topics earlier in the session.

Defensive and Attacking Headers

Fun session to develop basic knowledge of Defensive and Attacking headers.


Defensive and Attacking Headers

Description: Players work in groups of three in a 6x6yd square with one ball. Start with the player in the middle who serves to an outside player, this player heads the ball over the servers head to the other player. Repeat for 30-40secs and change server.


1. (B) Attacking Header – Now, head the ball through the legs of the server to work on attacking headers.

Coaching Points:

  • When to use each type of header
  • Body shape for stability. Arm position, knees flexed.
  • Eyes open

Headers Game

Headers Tournament

Description: Teams play 2v2 and start in any square, to begin one player serves the ball to their teammate who tries to score by heading the ball past an opposing player. The other team either catches the ball or lifts it and serves to their teammate.

Play 2-3min games and switch grids, winners move up (or stay at top) and losers move down. Flip a coin/extra time to determine winners of drawn games.

Winning team is the team who win final game in Premiership.