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2 young boys play football

Tackling session: recover and stop

Mark Swales, women's national coach developer, provides a carousel session to help your players work on their 1v1 defending and challenging skills. 


To set up this carousel practice, you'll need an area just under half the size of your usual pitch. Split that into four channels (stations) and place a goal at the end of each one. Then, position cones and flat markers as shown in the graphics above. 

For this practice, we have 16 players, but you can adapt to suit your numbers. For instance, if you only have eight players, give them a longer recovery time before going again. If you have an odd number, rotate them.  

No matter your numbers, split players into pairs and ensure at least one couple starts at each station. Put a whiteboard next to each station for players to record how many times they stopped their partner from scoring.  


How to play

Each of your stations should host a different activity. This provides your team with a variety of 1v1 defending scenarios to face.  

In their pairs, players have three minutes to take turns at each station. Then, after a minute break, they move on to the next station.  

Give your players ownership over keeping score and ensure everyone has the chance to attack and defend.  

Now, here's how each station works.  


Stations one and four

The idea for these two is the same. The attacker begins with a ball and has to run through a gate before travelling towards the goal. At the same time, the defender begins on a flat marker of their choice. The further back they start, the more difficult their task is (as they have a greater distance to cover). They simply have to catch up with them, slow them down and stop them from scoring.  

There are just a couple of differences to encourage challenging from different sides. At station one, the defender starts on the right of the attacker. Both then make angled runs towards the left – where the gate is. The goal is placed in the top right of the area. At station four, the defender starts on the left of the attacker, and both make angled runs to the right. The goal in this area is placed in the top left.  


Station two  

This one is all about pressing high. Both players start back-to-back at a flat marker. The attacker has the ball and runs to the halfway line before turning and progressing to the box (which is marked out by cones). Meanwhile, the defender runs in the opposite direction, to the end of the box, before turning around and running to press the attacker. The defender needs to win the ball inside the box.


Station three  

Both players start at a cone with their back to goal. The attacker has to run forward with the ball, through a gate and then turn to head towards goal. Meanwhile, the defender has to run to a flat marker of their choice before turning and racing to challenge the attacker. Again, the further away the marker is, the more difficult the task will be.



If your players master this game – or find it too hard – try adding a progression. If you're looking for an idea, you could:  

  • provide opportunities for players to listen to the experiences of the pairs in front of them to improve their ability   

  • differentiate the pairs based on ability or success rate   

  • encourage them to increase the distances between the attackers and defenders at the start point.  

But remember, learning takes time. So don't alter your activity too quickly or too much. To help, try using the STEP framework (Youth Sports Trust, 2002). This is a great way to keep things fun, engaging and appropriate.  

If you use this session with your team, let us know how you get on by posting in the England Football Community