I use the following exercises to work unit defending with my team. The exercises have a cognitive element to them, as players are forced to focus for the duration of the exercise, without any lapses in concentration, in order to be successful. Building attention and focus in players is extremely important. It only takes is one or two lapses of concentration in a 90 minute game to be potentially lose the game.
Cognitive Defensive Training I
Players:4-8 Defenders, 1 Keeper
Grid:1/2 of Field
Instructions: This is a functional cognitive training drill that combines cueing and gridding, which can be used with the back four or midfield unit. Each location is color-coded, numbered or labeled L (left) and R (right). The coach will shout out the location, as the defending unit will have to take the correct shape while moving together as one coordinated group. Example: Coach yells “Red R” – the right back would pressure the Red “R” dot and the rest of the line would slide into support positions. The red dot locations are the only locations the unit would keep a straight line, because this is such a deep defensive location. All the other locations will have the pressure, cover and balance using various lines of depth. There are many variations that can be added to the exercise as well. Example: Coach plays ball to a location on the ground, the pressuring defender must pass the ball back to the coach 1-touch, as the entire defensive unit adjusts, as the coach plays the ball to another location, and the unit would adjust quickly again. This type of exercise can be used as part of a training or as a warm-up exercise that requires cognitive processing. Examples of directions the coach can call are Purple “R”, Yellow “1”, Blue “3”, Red “L”, Orange “L” and many others.
Cognitive Defensive Training II
Grid:1/2 of Field
Instructions:This cognitive defensive exercise can be used as a warm-up or a build-up for a defensive session. The coach will call out a color and number. The unit of four will quickly take up the correct positioning in relation to the location called. In this example the players are set-up for location Red1. Players must be focused and alert in order to process the locations being called. Examples of locations to call: 1 Blue, 1 Purple, 2 Purple, 3 Blue, 3 Red etc. The unit will take positions with pressure, cover and balance, except for the 3 Blue & 3 Purple locations.