By Justin Cresser
I was watching the El Classico game over the weekend and it was a fantastic game. Although we most frequently talk about Barcelona’s ability to pass and move, another thing the players do so well is to protect the ball from pressuring defenders in tight spaces. In today’s exercise we will work on improving the ability to shield the ball from an opponent while developing anaerobic endurance and repeated sprint ability.
Set up a 15 yard by 15 yard playing area (it may be smaller or larger depending on numbers). With the exception of 2 to 3 players, give each individual a ball and instruct them to dribble around inside the playing area using small touches. Have the players without a ball stand on the edge of the playing area wearing a different colour bib (Figure 1). These are your pressuring defenders. You will want a ratio of approximately 1:4 defenders to dribbling players.
If a dribbling player has their ball tackled from them, or if they are forced outside of the square, they must leave and perform a sprint at full speed around the entire playing area before being allowed to come back in (Figure 3).
As soon as the defenders win a ball from a player they must immediately try to win a ball from another dribbling player. Have the players work for 90 seconds and then rest for 90 seconds. Switch defenders after each round and perform a total of about 5 to 6 rounds. For much younger players, instead of having them perform a sprint, you can have them perform 10 toe-taps or step-overs before re-entering the playing square.
This exercise works on both anaerobic endurance and repeated sprint ability. You must inspire your defenders to work as hard as possible for the 90-second period. You can also ask them to keep track of how many balls they win to encourage competition and a high work rate.
- Players must be aware of where the defenders are at all times and must therefore keep their heads up while dribbling
- Players should avoid standing still and should thus keep the ball moving at all times. You should also encourage them to use both feet and different surfaces of the feet to dribble the ball
- When shielding, they must create the most amount of space between the ball and the defender by maintaining a side-one stance and using the foot furthest away from the defender to dribble the ball. They should also maintain a low centre of gravity by bending the knees
Best of Luck,
Justin Cresser – Has coached soccer at various levels both in North America and abroad (Hong Kong and Africa). His most recent position was as the Assistant Technical Director at the Soccer Club of Toronto. He has his National Diploma from the NSCAA and is also a certified strength and conditioning coach.