When you start a shielding drill, most players’ natural instinct is to dribble the ball away from pressure, but that’s dribbling and not shielding. We need to get players comfortable with heavy pressure from behind and holding their ground at the same time.
Activity – Cage Match
Start with 5×5 grid to accommodate 2 players per square. Put a raised disc cone in the middle of each grid and put a soccer ball on it. Starting with 1 player in each grid, their job is not let the other player knock the ball off the cone for 5 seconds (adjust time as necessary so they occasionally win). Start with both players in a corner, with the protecting player facing the ball. Allow physical tactics such as pushing and shoving, but no tripping/tackling/etc. Whichever player wins gets a point. Play this through so each player gets 10 chances in each position. You can pause every couple passes for coaching questions.
- Can the protecting player protect the ball if she isn’t seeing where the other player is?
- What two things should the protecting player always be standing between? (opponent and ball)
- Should the protecting player be standing up straight or low and bracing?
- How can the protecting player use their arms to create more space? Is this allowed? (yes!)
- What other benefit to do you have if you have your hands out touching your opponent? (you know where they’re moving)
Note: If you see any mismatches between players, you can move players around to make it more even/challenging.
Add 4 small flat disc cones around the ball making a mini 1×1 grid and remove the center cone. The protecting player can use their feet to maneuver the ball but they must keep it inside the mini grid. This is a good time to swap players around to keep it interesting.
- Do you have to touch the ball to protect it?
- What parts of the foot work well to keep it under tight control? (sole)
Remove cones to convert the 5×5 grid into 10×10 grid. Two players per square still. Player 1 has possession of the ball. Player 2 attempts to win the ball. Play continues for 30 seconds. The player with the ball at the end scores a point. If a player kicks the ball out of bounds, the other player gets a free dribble back into the grid. Run through several iterations switching starting players each time.
- Do you have to keep your back to the opponent? How else can you stand? (sideways to opponent, wide stance, leaning heavily into)
- Even with the wider space, should you be dribbling away? (no, it just backs you into a corner)
This setup will lead nicely into Receiving the Ball so you may want to combine into a single practice.