Soccer drills for defending long balls

The long ball over the top of your can be hard to defend against especially at youth soccer. No matter how hard you train, work on tactics, or formation a long ball over the top can undo your team. These soccer drills for defending long balls should help youth soccer teams be prepared when dealing with long balls over the top.

If you would like these drills as a downloadable PDF then head to the bottom of the page

For each drill, there will be instructions, coaching points, and videos on how the drill works and why it will benefit your team defending against long balls.

The purpose of these soccer drills is to give players as much repetition as possible practicing challenging for the ball in the air.

Before we get into the soccer drills for defending long balls this is what a team needs to do to successfully defend against a long ball:

  • The player making the challenge needs to call for the ball so their teammates know not to go for it too
  • 1 defender goes for the ball and the other defender covers the space behind
  • Time their challenge with the flight of the ball
  • Defenders anticipate the long ball by dropping back deeper
  • A goal keeper that is quick off their line
  • The ball does not bounce

If you want to speed up the development of your players, the best way for you to do this is to improve your knowledge as a coach. Here are some soccer coaching books I would recommend.

Soccer tennis for defending long balls

Make sure you have all the soccer coaching equipment you need for the drills before starting.


The purpose of playing soccer tennis is to help players judge the flight of the ball in relation to their will their positioning as well as get used to controlling and challenging the ball in the air.

Set up:

  • create a 5x10 yard area
  • 1 soccer ball
  • 3 players per side


Set up your area and divide it in half vertically and spilt your players into teams of 3 on either side of the area.

If you have a soccer tennis net that would be ideal however a line of cones would be able to work too.

The rules can vary depending on the skill level of the players’

rule changes such as allowing the ball to bounce once, you can change the number of touches a player can have on the ball and how many passes they can make to their teammates.

For this example I am going to allow the ball to bounce once it has been hit over, players can have 3 touches to either hit the ball back over or pass to a teammate, teams can have a maximum of 2 passes before the ball has to be hit back over.

If any of these rules a broken the team that did not break them will get a point.

Teams will also get a point if the opposing team hits the ball out of the area.

Coaching points:

  • Communicate with each other
  • Light on your feet
  • Keep your eyes on the ball

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • How can you stay organized?
  • What can you do to adjust to where the ball is going quicker?
  • What do I need to make sure I do so that I know where the ball is going and can help improve my first touch?

soccer drill for defending long throws


Defending against long balls is uses very similar skills to that of defending against long throws, this setup enables a lot of repetition in match realistic scenarios.

Set up:

  • Create a 10x15 yard area
  • 3 goals
  • 2 defenders, 2 attackers
  • 1 soccer ball


Create your area and set a goal in the middle of the 10-yard line and on the opposite 10-yard line place the 2 other goals in the corners.

2 defenders and an attacker will start in the middle of the area.

The ball will start with the attackers’ teammate by a throw-in.

As soon as the ball is thrown in it will become a 2v2

The attacking team will be trying to score in a single goal, if they manage to do this they will 2 points.

If the defending manages to successfully defend and the ball goes out of play they will 1 point.

If they manage to win the ball back and score a goal they will get 3 points.

The ball will always start with the attacker taking a throw-in.

Coaching points:

  • 1 defender marks the attacker standing behind the attacker in a side on position
  • The other defender covers the space behind
  • Put pressure on the attacker when he receives the ball

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • How should you be marking the attacker from the throw in?
  • If you are not marking the defender where should you be?
  • How can we make it difficult for the attacker receiving the ball

Soccer heading drill for long balls


This to help players get more comfortable heading the soccer ball, it will also help them react better when the soccer ball is going over their head

Set up:

  • 1 soccer ball per pair
  • 2 cones 4 yards apart


Set up the 2 cones 4 yards apart with a player on each cone.

One player will start with the soccer in their hands, the other player will run towards that player and tap the soccer ball.

The player with the ball will then throw a high looping ball in the air that is behind the player and they must track back and header the soccer ball back towards the player who starts with the ball.

Coaching points:

  • Face the direction your partner is standing in to see ball through the whole flight
  • Jockey backwards
  • Connect with the ball while jumping in the air

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • How can I see the ball through the whole flight?
  • How can I adjust my feet to move quickly?
  • What can I try to do to help me reach the ball?

Click here for more soccer heading games

Soccer drill for controlling long balls


This is to help improve players ball control and communication when defending

Set up:

  • create a 20x25 yard area
  • 1 soccer ball per 4 players.


Set up your area and divide it in half vertically.

Split your 4 players into pairs with a pair in each half.

One team will start with the ball and they will play a long ball to the other team.

The other team must communicate and decide who will win the ball, that player will then have 2 touches to control the ball and set the ball to their teammate

With one touch the teammate will play a long ball back to the other team.

Every time a team successfully does this they will get 1 point. The team with the most points will win.

Coaching points:

  • Communicate with your team mate
  • Light on your feet
  • Create an angle for your team mate who is controlling the ball.

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • What can you do to help each other out?
  • How can I adjust quickly?
  • If you are not controlling the ball where should you go to help your team mate?

conditioned soccer for defending long balls


The purpose of this drill is to make as game realistic as possible where they will be competing with opposing strikers.

Set up:

  • Set up a 25x40 yard area
  • 2 goals
  • 2 teams
  • Cones


Set up your area with 2 goals and a halfway line and divide your players into 2 teams.

place cones 5 yards either side of the halfway line

This will be a normal game of soccer however if a team is able to score a goal by a long ball over the top of the opposing defense with their defenders being in line with or in front of the cone 5 yards from the halfway line they will get 3 goals.

A long ball will be classed as a ball that is played in the air from one half of the field to the other half.

This will create a situation that puts your defense in a position where they are susceptible to a long ball.

Coaching points:

  • 1 player should challenge the ball the other should cover
  • The defensive line should be staggered
  • Defensive line needs to transition quick when the attack breaks down (stagger themselves and sit deeper to anticipate a long ball)

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • Should 2 players be going for the same ball?
  • How should the defensive line set up?
  • How show we react when an attack breaks down?

My recommended soccer coaching eBook for defending

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Comment and share these soccer drills for defending long balls

With anything, you want to get as much repetition as possible in-game realistic scenarios for players to improve, even with long balls.

A lot of the time some players can be scared of heading the ball so it is about trying to find fun heading games that you can use to help get your player more comfortable heading the soccer ball or controlling the ball from height.

If you found useful in these soccer drills for defending long balls then please comment and share using our social media buttons.

If you like the soccer drill animations check out my 2 favorite soccer coaching software to use.

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Soccer Drills for Defending Long BAlls PDF