Teaching 1 v 1 Defending in the Bullpit

The following drills comes from Jeff's book, “Drills and Exercises to Develop the Elite American Soccer Player©.”

This book focuses on sessions and exercises which address the issues specific to American players. It is a book for coaches at every level but, especially, coaches of players aged U9 to U14. This is a vitally important age when players are, without even knowing it, making decisions on which sport they will choose to play. Preview


I like the Bullpit setup when working on individual and small group defending with a smaller squad of players. To do it with a whole team would mean too much standing around so there should not be more than 2-4 players at every goal.

It is an effective teaching environment because the coach can see all of the players and they can see what and why you are correcting an aspect of defending.

The defender always begins with the ball and passes the ball to the attacker and then comes out to defend. If the defender wins the ball then the game carries on and they may score. Do not stop the game because the attacker has lost the ball. In the 1 v 1 version allow about 10 – 15 seconds for each play to conclude and then blow the whistle. Once the ball has been passed east to west the next sequence goes from north to south. All the same principles apply as in Exercise 1 except now the opponent is live and the defender will need to make constant adjustments to speed and angles of approach. A key factor is when a defender pressures an attacker and turns the attacker around so the attacking player is facing their own goal it is critical that the attacker is not allowed to turn. Goals are, about 3.5 yards wide and the waiting players are ball providers, not goalkeepers. Variations of The 1v1 Bullpit would be 2v1, 2v2, 1 v 2 and 2v2 emphasis on defending. Also coaches can play 1v1 and 2 v 2 with the defenders behind the attackers to begin with – in other words the attacking player receives the ball with his/her back to the goal and defender behind them. Again the coach can focus on the attacking or the defending.

The bullpit.jpg