Principles of defending in football.

A principle is a known way of behavior.

It should be DELIBERATELY taught so that an individual knows and understands what, when, where, why and how to behave.

Defending in football is best understood and efficient when player(s) as an individual or group understand how to apply the principles of defending.

These are; Immediate chase, delay, control, depth, compactness then control and restraint.

Immediate chase: the moment a team loses possession, the nearest player to the ball in the defending team has to apply pressure on the player with the ball.

Applying pressure on the ball denies the attacker space and time, forces the attacker into mistakes and prevents the attacker from looking up to make a good decision.

The player can also make a recovery run to get behind the ball (between the ball and defending goal).

Delay: the pressuring defender forces the attacking team to slow down in order to allow the defending team to re-organize one of the skills required to perform good delaying is jockeying, poking the ball, and peddling backward.

Depth (cover): This’ the immediate organization of the defending players behind the ball (between the ball and goal they are defending) and the pressuring defender.

The defenders offering cover should be positioned within an appropriate distance from the pressing defender to enable them to react fastest in case the pressuring defender is beaten by the attacker.

The covering defender should be able to communicate verbally and issue instructions to the pressuring defender.

Compactness: as defending players recover towards their goal, they have to concentrate in the area where the ball is to limit the opponent’s ability to directly attack the goal.

Recovery runs should be as central to the defending goal as possible.

Compactness is meant to deny attackers penetration and to force them to take the longest route towards goal.

Control and restraint: defending players have to be in control of their actions to avoid easily being beaten.

While challenging for the ball, they should use controlled aggression as poorly timed tackles make it easy for attackers.

Defenders should stay on their feet unless if they are very sure that they can win the ball.

“It’s very important that all players are taught and can apply the principles of defense in the right way because at some point in football all players will be required to defend.”

Players that have been taught and understand the principles of defending will find it easy to learn the roles of defending in football.

Principles of defending are a necessary basic if players are to play at a very high level.

Players should be taught defensive football skills like tackling, peddling backward, jockeying, blocking, intercepting, defensive heading and poking the ball before they can be taught principles of defending because the principles cant be effectively applied without quality execution of defending skills.

The four moments of football.

Football has four moments that keep occurring throughout a match.

These are; In possession, losing possession, out of possession and gaining possession.

These moments are separate and can only happen one at a time for a given team.

The best players that make it to the top level, know and understand how to behave in all these four moments.

In possession is attacking, out of possession is defending while gaining possession and losing possession are known as transitioning.

In possession: The team in possession of the ball is the attacking team. Players in the attacking team are expected to behave by applying the principles of attack and roles in attack.

The efficiency of an attack is determined by how well individual players in a team are comfortable at executing attacking football skills.

Out of possession: The team out of possession is the defending team. Successfully defending an attack in football requires individuals in the team applying the principles of defending and the roles of defending.

This requires the individuals being able to execute all football defending skills comfortably.

Transitioning: Losing or gaining possession happens at the same time.

As one team gains possession, the other team is losing possession.

The faster the transition, the better the outcome.

If a team gaining possession transitions faster than the team losing possession, then attacking will have the desired effect.

If a team losing possession transitions faster than the attacking team, then defending will have the desired effect.

Players with excellent football speed transition better.

The higher the level of football, the higher the demand to have better football speed to perform with quality during transitions.

Top teams in modern football are capable of transitioning under five seconds if the ball is won or lost at the halfway line.

It’s important for football coaches to ensure that players are taught how to comfortably execute all football skills irrespective of playing position because modern football dictates that every player gets involved in all the moments of football.

Football: Roles in defense.

When a team is not in possession of the ball, it’s the defending team.

All players in the defending team should be able to help out with defensive duties.

The roles in defense are; pressuring defender (first defender), covering defender (second defender) and the balancing defender (third defender).

Its important that football players are taught the roles of defending after understanding principles of defending.

Pressuring defender (first defender); this’ the player closest to the ball, the role of the first defender is to apply pressure on the ball.

Pressing the ball helps to delay the attackers by denying penetration, forces them into mistakes and if possible then wins the ball to regain possession.

The pressuring defender’s other roles include selecting the proper angle and speed of challenging for the ball.

Covering defender (second defender); this’ the player closest to the pressuring defender.

The second defender’s role is to offer cover to the pressuring defender.

The covering defender should always be positioned between the pressuring defender and the goal they are defending.

The distance has to be appropriate enough to enable the covering defender to react fastest to the ball in case the pressuring defender is beaten.

The covering defender should be able to communicate verbally with the pressing defender.

“A good defender is verbally loud.”

Balancing defender (third defender); The role of the third defender is to balance the defense by maintaining compactness or tracking attackers running off the ball.

The balancing defender should be able to maintain sight of the ball, have a clear vision of the whole pitch and to communicate verbally with the covering defender.

The roles performed by defending players are within the principles of defending. The pressuring defender performs immediate chase or delays the attacker. The covering defender offers depth while the balancing defender creates compactness.

It’s very important for all players to be capable of executing football defensive skills because at one point they will find themselves defending as a first, second or third defender.

Winning or development?

As an U-17 football coach at Maroons FC, do I look to winning or development?

Do I look to both winning and development or its about success from development.

According to the English dictionary, winning is coming first in a contest, In football its self explanatory, it’s being a champion and collecting a trophy from a tournament in which you have participated in.

As I explained in my previous article entitled “player development“, football development is an improvement in the QUALITY of a players’ skills.

Success is obtaining what you set to achieve or what you aim at.

In Uganda like any other country in the world we are obsessed with winning, who isn’t?

The problem though is that we take winning to a different level, we want to win at the earliest stage possible.

We have unnecessary competition and we do everything possible to create short cuts for winning which all back fires at the most important stage and we lose miserably, create panic situations then we become serial losers.

When a child starts going to school, we hold their hands and make them cross the road.

This keeps on happening everyday, every time so the kids get used to crossing while looking up, down and some even run, we never take the time to teach them how to understand and learn the art of crossing the road so that at one point in life they can be able to do it independently.

It’s not that we don’t want to teach them but we think it’s faster if we help them cross the road all the time.

As time passes you find many cases of grown up people who dread crossing roads or cases of kids who get knocked down when parents send them to the shops.

The same thing happens the exact way in Ugandan football, when we get to under age football we prefer to win at all costs by using over age players in football development tournaments.

Matches are most times won at all costs sacrificing the football development of individuals.

“A win is a win they say”, problem is that during that time, we don’t take the effort to teach these footballers how to learn and develop the basics required to play football at the highest level.

We get tournaments in which there’s absolutely nothing to lose, then we play them like our lives depend on it!

We sometimes win but don’t learn, the same mentality is used in training sessions and friendly games.

We (coaches) never give young footballers the chance to learn and develop as footballers and human beings.

As you sit in the house and wait for the kid you sent out to the shops, you don’t even have the presence of mind to think that you never taught the kid how to cross a road, you never tested them, you never gave them a chance to learn and develop the ability to safely cross the road.

We send teams into qualification and don’t think back that we have never taught footballers how to pass and keep possession, how to cross the ball in the right areas, how to utilize set pieces but we expect a win, we expect qualification.

What have we done differently at Maroons FC U-17?

We believe that winning at all costs is not the priority.

We also believe that we can win AFTER development and we have success stories to attest to that.

We have set up a football syllabus for our U-17 football team.

They learn and develop at each and every topic that we teach, our success comes from them learning and being able to perform the topic we have covered and when they execute it during a match in a pressure environment then it’s success for us.

We are doing this because we believe that Federation of Uganda Football Association (FUFA) has set up the right platform for teaching, testing and developing our U-17 football team.

We are using the FUFA Juniors’ League to develop our young footballers so that when they grow up, we shall be able to “send them to the shops/schools because they will have attained the confidence to do so by themselves”.

They will WIN because of the effort we used to DEVELOP them and hopefully, our SUCCESS as Maroons Football Club will continue to grow to greater heights.

Time will tell.

Football Player Development in Uganda

Player development is the improvement in the quality of football skills.

It’s supposed to be done between the ages of 6 years through to 16 years.

In Uganda we have very few cases of fully developed complete footballers because we make the mistake of separating football/sports from life.

For someone to become a doctor in Uganda, you study nursery for 3 years where you are taught how to speak, read and write.

In primary school, you are introduced to various subjects and this takes 7 years. Secondary education lasts 6 years split into 4 years of some details then 2 high level years of specific scientific subjects.

At university, you study 5 years of medicine then graduate to become a doctor.

The whole education process takes a total of 21 years!

Compare that to football and you will find that we don’t have the nursery, primary, secondary and university version in football but we want to make it and become professional footballers.

Why then do we give football less attention?

It is because we don’t believe that the process of developing a footballer is as demanding as that of a doctor and other professions.

Next case, when a child is born they go through a process of learning how to sit, crawl, walk, cross the road et cetera until they become independent enough to be able to do most of these things on their own.

The process takes time, mistakes will happen during this process and it’s generally expected by any parent as part of a child’s growth but when it comes to football, we don’t want accord it the same credence we give to other professions.

Professional players in Uganda who didn’t get the same 21 years of study the child who graduated to become a doctor was subjected to are not permitted to make mistakes at any level which is unrealistic.

Footballers who play at the highest levels of the game still have to be remote controlled on how to play during a match.

Decisions are made for them through coaching instructions because their coaches don’t trust them to be able to execute the” basics” of the game.

This is because the players didn’t go through the proper learning curve in football that is equivalent to sitting, crawling, walking, writing, reading and crossing the road.

Thanks to the Federation of Uganda Football Association (FUFA) for setting up an U-17 league this year.

They at FUFA have taken the first step in addressing player development and while it will be a long road to walk before change can be seen, it’s undoubtedly the right move.

We at Maroons Football Club decided to groom and develop our Under 17 players in the same manner a mother grooms a child.

The policy is strict as no player above 17 years is permitted to play for the under 17 team.

When they turn 18 years of age, we transition them to the reserve team or loan them to other teams in lower divisions in order to further their development until they are “good enough” to play for the first team.

In essence, we don’t separate football from life. The two are looked at as one.

Players are allowed the freedom to express themselves, learn through making mistakes in training and on the pitch and most importantly encourage them the autonomy to make decisions during matches.

We, the coaches at Maroons FC work tirelessly to ensure that players mature in all four aspects of football; tactically, technically, psychologically and player conditioning.

With these 4 aspects, we believe we can nourish and develop complete professional footballers.