How to shield the ball better in soccer

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In soccer, when you finally get the ball you have to know how to keep it! A passing game is great but at times your team will need you to keep possession.

You may be cornered by two opposing players or blocked off by a keen defending player. Passing options looking sparse, you need to buy some time. Thats where shielding comes in. 

You aim is to put yourself between the defender and the ball, using any weight or leverage you can to hold them off. You can use any part of your body for this including your arms, shoulders, back, legs, lower body and even shins. If they come into contact with any part of you without getting the ball cleanly, then it is deemed a foul in your favour.

Being first

A key element here is time, as you will want to be proactive and put yourself between the ball and your opponent. Preferably back facing or side on. Being able to dribble with both feet here are a big bonus as you can switch to facing either side on both sides of the pitch. Be confident and make a statement. You will also need to brace yourself for impact if they attempt to break through your shield. You can achieve this by tensing arms or shoulders and adjusting your breathing. Sometimes having extra air in your lungs can help toughen your upper body. 

Using your eyes and hands

Once an opposing player tries to knock you off balance, or tries to go around your shield, you will need to adjust your positions so they are unable to break through. A lot of the time, the player may be out of your line of vision. You will need to use your arms as detectors, and try to figure out their next move from their movements.

Getting stronger

Being able to make a good shield is one thing, but being able to keep it against players who have a size or strength advantage is another. You will need to maximise your chances by keeping strong and fit in the gym or at home. Here’s some handy exercises to help you fend players off.

Side shoulder raise – with small weight – This exercise simulates the fending motion seen in a jostle in soccer

Squats – Will improve leg, hip and core strength, needed for a firm foundation when holding players off.

Video of players using their skills to shield and keep the ball.


2 People or more – The obvious drill to do with a partner would be to travel or stop with the ball and practice getting it from each other.

1 person – If it is just you, then you can try dribbling around cones set in a line or a square. In this scenario you want to pretend you have an opponent pressuring you, and try to retain good control of the ball. Keep your arms in the slightly awkward position that you would have to use when under pressure.

Staying disciplined

There is a big grey area between a quick jostle and an all out arm swinging fest, and it will be up to the referee to interpret it also. Barging, harrying, and aggressive shielding are seen by a referee’s on subjective view of what the game should be. An English saturday league referee may allow more of an edge to a game then, let’s say a Spanish league referee. Two places where the philosophy of soccer are different. Try to read the scenario and test the waters to see what type of game style is allowed.


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