Being positive and enthusiastic might sound like a very basic starting point, but when you are in the Foundation Phase, children bring this with them whenever they play, so you can capitalise and build on this.
Whilst defending may not be a high priority for your youngest players, you can still serve this important part of the game up in such a way that they retain their enthusiasm and desire to want to get the ball.Young players will want the ball, so for the ‘in possession’ part of their development you give them their own ball, whilst for the ‘out of possession’ aspect you invite them to get one rather than have it given to them. A benefit of using this, is that by practising one element, you’re also being introduced to another, even though it may not be the main focus of the session.
- someone who never goes forward and stays in their own half even though all the action is at the other end of the pitch
- someone who avoids taking risks, meaning they put the ball out of play or boot it up the field
- someone who can never start or join in with an attack
- someone who can’t really play and is instructed to give the ball to someone who can.
Whilst there are plenty of really good examples out there, it’s likely that you will all have seen or heard each one of these things in relation to young players and defending.
In the Foundation Phase wants the focus to be on taking the ball off the opponent rather than kicking the ball out, as this should be the last resort.
- Emphasise taking the ball off the opponent rather than kicking it out.
- Provide lots of opportunities to refine the use of the body when defending – this is particularly important for the older players as they’ll be more aware of their physical capability.
- Prioritise physical literacy that involves stopping, starting and changing direction.
- Send out a simple message that defending is what you do whilst you’re getting ready to attack.
- Change the perceptions of what a defender is - the modern day wing-back is an integral attacking – as well as defensive – component of the team.
- Work with the player’s natural enthusiasm and motivation to get the ball – this will be combined with more focus, bravery and determination as your players get older.
It’s important to understand that development and learning isn’t a linear process and there will be many ups and downs in both learning and performance. This is absolutely normal. In fact, if it looks too perfect and there are no mistakes being made, it might not be challenging enough.