Basic Defensive Positioning and “The Pipeline”

Defense can be very difficult to teach younger and inexperienced players. Even college players struggle with easy defensive concepts. Use these simple tools to get your Defense finely tuned for this season!

Offense wins games, Defense wins Championships! Every coach knows that. It might not be the first thing you come to appreciate as a coach or a player. But well-executed team defense at the college or even youth level can be exciting, strategic and fun. Every player should understand basic Man-to-Man Defensive principles for both On-Ball and Off-Ball Responsibilities. Every high school and college coach wants to see that.

Off-Ball Defense is 5/6 of the Battle! We are discussing different Slide Packages with other coaches, and how to teach Defense to beginning players. Your players will spend roughly 83% of the time on Defense guarding a guy who doesn't have the ball. They need to know what to do during all that off-ball time.

Clarify your Vocabulary! While Offense can be very tactical and strategic, Defense is much more situational and philosophical. It can be hard to teach Defense by a script when every Offense does something different. Your players need to know where to go on the field, and when, depending on who they are guarding, and where the ball is. No wonder so many teams struggle with Team Defense.

Get back in "The Pipeline"! We'll illustrate this below. The"Pipeline" is where Defenders should go when they aren't guarding the Ball. They should be somewhere near it to be in position to help protect the middle of the field. It's similar to the "Hole!" that coaches have used for decades to get the Defense back quickly in transition.

Use the principles and techniques below to keep things simple, general and organized. We can't talk about Slide Packages if nobody is in position to Slide when you need to. Teach your players to apply these Off-Ball Responsibilities to any team you're up against. They won't get them all right away, and they will forget them sometimes, or get caught out of position. This is what college coaches mean when they say somebody "missed and Assignment." Keep consistently reinforcing good Off-Ball Defensive concepts in all your practice games and Drills!


basic off ball defense position pipeline practice

Figure 1.) Stopping the Ball is always Job #1! Practicing good On-Ball Defense is just as critical. Here Red 4 steps out to cover, or "Approach" Blue 4 with the ball. He should Break Down in good athletic position to play effective Body Defense. If he approaches too high or too low, or too quickly and out of control, he might get beat by Blue 4 and force the rest of the team to Slide and cover for him.

"No Top Side!" You can hear top college coaches saying this constantly. This is the first mistake most teams can fix. Red 4 absolutely cannot let Blue 4 to beat him over the top, into the middle of the field, in front of the goal. Red 4 should position himself above Blue 4 to keep the ball down the sides of the field or behind the goal. Hips and Toes to the Sideline. If hips and toes go to the Midfield Line, he probably got beat. Say it constantly. "No Top Side!"

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