Coaching Soccer Transition From Offense To Defense

Below is a letter from a U8 soccer coach who asked how he could teach his players to quickly transition from soccer offense to defense. This is called "recovering" (or making "recovering runs" or "recovery runs" and the objectives are to teach your soccer Fullbacks to quickly get "goalside" of the ball, to teach your soccer Midfielders and soccer Forwards to position themselves properly to assist with defense and to win cleared balls, and to teach everyone to "shift and sag" with the ball. The challenge is to teach young soccer players to make a quick transition from offense to defense and to maintain good defensive pressure, coverage and support. Terms in quotation marks above are defined in the Soccer Dictionary.

Dear SoccerHelp,

I learned of your soccer coaching site recently, signed up for Premium service and have been adopting many of your Premium Soccer Practice Games. The kids like the games, and I've seen a definite improvement in skill levels, but we are still having problems in game situations, particularly on defence.

We play 3-on-3-plus goalie indoor soccer (mixed U8), and our players are having great difficulty grasping playing defence, i.e. one person hanging back a little when nobody has clear possession, or everyone coming back when the other team takes over possession in their end or the neutral zone. I like a lot of the practice games, but I'm trying to find some game or drill or even speech (to short-attention-span kids of course) that would help. We have a weekly practice.

Is there anything on the site you think would help, or do you have any suggestions? Maybe doing it in scrimmages with continuously stopping play to talk to players about position?


Calgary, Canada

Hi Don,

Thanks for subscribing. We are glad you are enjoying the site. Subscriptions support the continued improvement of SoccerHelp.

We recommend 6 things:

  1. MOST IMPORTANT: Play the "Small Sided Scrimmage Without A Goalie" game (see Premium Practice Games). This is a way of scrimmaging without a Goalie. It forces everyone to defend and to quickly transition and is also set up to force attackers to work the ball for close shots, rather than just taking a lot of long shots. It is a "self-teaching" game to a degree, because if Defenders don't "recover" and block shots their team will lose, and Midfielders and Forwards learn that if they turn over the ball they must quickly apply pressure and try to slow down the opponent's attack so their Defenders will have time to make "recovering runs" to get "goalside". Your idea of coaching during the scrimmage and even stopping play if necessary is good. We suggest playing this for most of your next practice, but also try "Dribble Across A Square and "2 Team Keepaway".
  2. Playing 3v3 doesn't give you enough players to have designated Fullbacks, but think about whether it would help to designate one player as a "Sweeper". Basically, just a fast player who doesn't come past the Halfway Line. After a while perhaps you won't need to do so, but for now it might be good.
  3. Your team is a little young, but try the "2 Team Keepaway" game. It is another "self-teaching" game that involves a lot of transitions and focuses on possession of the ball.
  4. Read "How To Teach Soccer Positions" on SoccerHelp Premium. It has links. Go to "Quick Team Improvement Program" No. 4 (how to teach shifting and sagging).
  5. Read "How To Teach Soccer Defense" on Premium.
  6. We highly recommend starting every practice by playing the Premium version of the "Dribble Across A Square" game. The better your player's dribbling skills, the more confident they will be with the ball. This will make a huge difference in your team's play and will be very beneficial for each player. Read "How To Teach Soccer Dribbling" on SoccerHelp Basic or Premium.

We hope this helps. Please let us know if it does and what you find most helpful about SoccerHelp. This is how we continue to improve the site.

Best wishes,


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