Shielding the ball is one of football’s most fundamental skills and one that makes an exceptional contribution to your player’s confidence.
When a young soccer player learns that they can hold onto the ball, even under intense pressure from opponents, they will ask for it more in games.
A team of players who are always asking for the ball and are comfortable in possession is a dream to coach because everything becomes easier: the more players that are offering to receive, the easier finding a pass is; the more successful passes a player completes, the more confident they become; the more confident players are, the more enthusiastic they feel about the sport!
Shielding is a particularly useful skill for strikers, who have to be able to receive a ball from midfield and hold it until supporting teammates get forward. Strong forwards can create goal-scoring chances out of the shielding position – by either rolling their defender and getting goal-side or by laying off balls to teammates as they break into the opposition penalty area.
Get in front of the defender and turn your body so you are slightly side-on to the defender. This creates a barrier between the defender and the football.
If you are right-footed try to turn so that your left-foot is closest to the defender, leaving your right free to control the ball. However, if this will mean your back is to the majority of the field (if you are near to the right-hand sideline, for example) then it is better to control with your weaker foot but be able to see the movement of teammates and opponents.
Control the ball with the outside of your foot. Use the large surface on the outside arch of your foot and cushion the ball as it impacts – transferring the energy out of the ball and into your foot.
Press your arm against the defender to create the largest possible distance between them and the ball – however be careful not to push the defender as this is a foul.
Keep your head up, surveying the field and manipulate the ball with the outside and sole of your foot, adjusting to the defender’s position so that they cannot move around one side and pick up the ball. Look for opportunities to turn the defender and get goalside of them, or to pass to an open teammate.