PRESSURE – Apply, Deny, Defy by Mike Freitag, CSA Director of Coaching
In the game of soccer, players and their teams deal with pressure on both sides of the ball. Three rhyming words come to mind when I think of pressure - Apply, Deny, and Defy.
Apply: (def.) to employ diligently, or with close attention.
Coaches spend hours at practice teaching their team how to make things difficult for their opponents by speaking in terms of high pressure or low pressure defending, but never no pressure. Team shape and individual roles are discussed. Teams must be organized, and also must know how to defend as a unit against their opponents.
Individuals must learn to become good defenders in all positions and to be able to apply pressure as the first defender – the player who addresses the player with the ball. They also must cover as the second defender and keep things balanced in the role of a third defender. Pressure on the ball, correct cover, and good balance will make it difficult for the opponent on the ball. All three of these principles applied effectively at the same time, is the type of pressure that will bring about good results.
Deny: (def.) to refuse to admit or acknowledge
This definition addresses that individuals and teams must find ways to eliminate pressure before it occurs. Teams must make the field “big” offensively thus making it difficult for the opponent to apply pressure. Remember: “big” space is the friend of the offense and “small” space is the friend of the defense. Teams need to make the field big, so that opponents can’t apply pressure. Proper spacing when in possession will make it difficult for your opponent.
Individually, players must unmark themselves with their positioning and movement. Correct decisions in these two areas will make it easier for the passer and the receiver of the ball. The passer will have more options and the receiver will have more time and space.
Defy: (def.) to confront with assured power of resistance.
Players can’t always escape pressure, but when they are confronted, they need the skills and mindset to deal with it. Players must possess the ability to get out of pressure with the dribble, or passing ability. They need to be able to protect the ball (shielding it from opponents). Perhaps most important, is staying composed and having the vision to escape pressure situations. Pressure is what you make it. Practicing under pressure will prepare players for real game situations.
Any team or individual player looks good when there is little or no pressure. It is the special teams and players who are able to not only handle pressure, but also apply pressure when needed. Barcelona is a prime example of a team that understands the importance of pressure. This team deals with pressure when in possession of the ball, and applies it effectively while on defense. I hope these three rhyming words help you address pressure with your team.