Soccer Training Session for Central Defenders

Who’s the best central defender in the world right now? It might just Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk, pictured above. What types of training drills do central defenders like Van Dijk need to work on to improve their game. Much like outside backs, central defenders have to work on heading, and ball control, but the crucial thing for players in the middle to work on distribution out of the back.

Many times the tandem in the middle, whether it’s Rio and Vidic over at Manchester United or Pique and Puyol over at Barcelona, have more time on the soccer ball than some of the midfielders. They become key parts of the possession game and distributers of the ball. They need to have good vision and read the game well – their soccer IQ has to be high.

Not only are the center backs the last defenders, who have to make goal saving tackles and clears, but they have to over support to the midfielders and pick out forwards when they make diagonal runs.

Work on distributing the ball out of the back with your left foot to a forward posting up or checking back to receive the ball – roughly twenty or thirty yards away. Practicing driving the ball into the forwards feet, chest or head. Again, always hit a moving ball, so have someone pass you the ball or just kick the ball ahead to yourself before you hit the ball. Imagine you’re receiving the ball from the keeper or another defender out of the back. Send in ten balls on the ground, driven balls, and then ten in the air. If you don’t have a partner then practice this against a wall. Do this at least ten times.

Opening Up
Work on receiving the ball and opening up. The ball might be thrown out to you by the keeper or played to from another defender. Try playing the ball against a wall and then turning with the ball to face up field. Think about where you would play the ball and how you’d turn your body so the ball is on your left foot and you’re ready to make a pass or serve the ball long or into the feet of a teammate. The key is to get the ball out in front of you so you can get your head up and make the pass right away. If you take too many touches you’ll be closed down. The goal of the forward who’s pressuring you is to get your head down and make you go backwards.

Practice winning the ball in the air. On defense you want to head the ball not down, but in the air so your teammates have time to recover and read the play. You only head the ball down if you’re making a pass to a teammate. If you head the ball down you could play it right to an attacking player who could get a shot on goal. How many times have you seen a defender head the ball down and right to an attacker at the top of the box? Too many. With a partner, have them throw the ball to you in the air so you have to jump. Do this ten times.

Coerver Ball Work
It’s always good to get in some ball work, so some dribbling work, turns, cuts, moves and then some juggling. Spend some time working on your weaker foot as well. There’s nothing better than some Coerver Coaching footwork drills.

Emulate a Great Player or Center Back Tandem
What central defender do you look up to and admire? Whose style of play would you like to emulate? Spend time watching this player, it’s easy to punch their name in and see highlight clips of their play on YouTube. Center back tandems: Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United; Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique of Barcelona

Extra: For all soccer players, develop a few favored moves, shots, passes, crosses, and skills. Perfect those two or three skills. Make them yours. This could be a step over, bending the ball, a powerful shot, develop some skills that set you apart from other players, no matter what position you play.

Check out these soccer training sessions for other positions: