Defensive Stance



In soccer, after getting goal side, the placement of the feet, or “stance” on the part of a defender must be properly established in relationship to an opponent with the ball.  When defending against an opponent in possession of the ball, a proper 1 v. 1 stance is critical.  In general, the stance is usually just a comfortable position, far enough away from the attacker and balanced so that, when the opponent moves in any given direction, the defender can easily stay with them.  Specifically, the stance has many components, each necessary for proper defense.

The stance of a defender, one-on-one with an opposing ball carrier, starts with one foot forward and one foot back.  The forward foot is often called the “lead foot” or the “front foot.”  The back foot is often called the “trail foot.”  The stance usually has the dominant leg behind, as the trail foot, and the non-dominant leg forward as the lead foot.  Often this is a matter of comfort for the individual defender.  For an adult, the two feet are usually separated by about 18-inches, on approximately a 30-degree angle, approximately 12-inches apart in width, with the toes pointed slightly outward.

The defender is to have their body equally balanced and be on the balls of both feet, with their knees slightly bent.  The arms should be somewhat out to the sides with the elbows bent.  All of this is to: 1.) be able to react quickly in any given direction; 2.) respond to movement in minimal time; 3.) try to slow up the opponent or force the opponent in a direction they don’t want to go; 4.) keep from being beaten; and, 5.) prepare for a tackle.

Soccer General Defensive Stance

Soccer General Defensive Stance

The general stance is usually modified based on the location of the defender on the field.  To the right side of the midline, it is accepted practice to have the left foot as the lead foot.

General Defensive Stance - Right Side

General Defensive Stance – Right Side

To the left side of the midline of the field, it is accepted practice to have the right foot be the lead foot.

General Soccer Defensive Stance - Left Side

General Soccer Defensive Stance – Left Side

In both cases, this positions the torso of the body in a way that is intended to block the ball carrier from moving toward the inside of the field and effectively try to force them toward the sideline.  For a defender in the middle of the field, which foot is the lead foot is optional, depending on the circumstances of play.

Instruction and Practice

  1. Each defender must be shown the proper stance for at least three basic locations, the right, the center, and the left.
  2. Each defender must be shown how their location must change with the movement of the opponent.
  3. Without ball, have forwards move ahead, back, or sideways, at half-speed or less, to help defenders understand the movements that they must perform.
  4. Add a ball to the movements by forwards, again at half-speed or less.
  5. Increase the speed of movement on the part of the ball carriers.
  6. Demonstrate the need for defenders to “sneak peeks” or to use the field markings as guides, in order to understand their relative position to the goal and to maintain a proper “goal side” location.

Soccer Coaching Tips:

– Next see, “Soccer Individual Defending” in this series.

– Significant one-on-one time with beginning youth is recommended to teach the concepts of moving and then establishing or re-establishing a proper stance.

– Analogies in American sports to maintaining a proper stance against an opponent include guards in basketball and cornerbacks covering wide receivers in football.  Defenders must be instructed, however, that they may not block the opponent or put their arms out to try to impede their progress.  Youth, in particular those who have been exposed to basketball, may try to guard opponents in a hands-out-wide position.

© Copyright, John C. Harves