Clearing the Ball with Purpose: How to Relieve Pressure Effectively as a Defender

At young ages, defenders are often taught that clearing the ball means either knocking it safely out of bounds or booting it as far upfield as possible. Though this can be effective for youth soccer players in America, it is a habit that must be broken for growing defenders who wish to play at higher levels.

In this post, we’ll discuss what clearing the ball should look like in various scenarios. We’ll explain what defenders should do in high, medium, and low-pressure situations to clear the ball effectively, so youth soccer players can begin to grow this facet of their game and become more valuable assets for their teams.

Clearing Under Pressure

There are a few different techniques for clearing the ball out of the defensive end to stop the opponent’s attack. From the first days of pee-wee soccer, we teach our little ones that getting the ball out of their half—whether that means kicking it blindly upfield or far out of bounds—is all that matters.

Unsurprisingly, this technique becomes much less effective as teams get older and more skilled. That is why it’s critical to teach young defenders how to clear the ball with purpose as early as possible, so they can begin to defend smarter and give the attackers on their team more chances to score.

To teach players how to clear the ball effectively as they get older, it begins with recognizing high, medium, and low-pressure situations and playing appropriately.

Low or No Pressure

When there is no pressure (or little pressure) on the defense, there is no need to kick the ball out of bounds or boot it upfield. All that does is turn the ball back over to the other team, so they can attack again.

Instead, defenders should become comfortable on the ball and confident enough to make a pass to a teammate in a good position to attack. For youth coaches looking to begin teaching defenders to clear with a purpose, the outside midfielders can check to the ball as a safe outlet to begin the attack. Center mids can also provide support, as can the other defenders and the goalkeeper in low or no pressure situations.

Medium Pressure

Medium pressure is anytime one or more opposing players pressure the ball and try to create a turnover. Unlike high-pressure situations, the defenders have enough time to make a decision with the ball. Rather than panicking and clearing it wildly, young players should begin to look for teammates to help retain possession.

Medium-pressure situations like these happen frequently in youth soccer. The teams that can effectively keep possession in these scenarios will likely see more quality attacking chances. Finding supporting players on the wings, feeding the ball to a target man up top, or launching a counter-attack through the midfield are great ways to turn a defensive stop into an attacking opportunity.

Be cautious when beginning to work on clearing the ball under slight pressure like this. Youth players can get caught up trying to find an outlet that they can lose sight of the big picture. If a medium-pressure situation quickly turns into a high-pressure situation, defenders should know that clearing the ball upfield or out of bounds is still better than turning it over.

High Pressure

Under high pressure, defenders can still clear the ball upfield or out of bounds. When players get to higher levels, they can begin finding creative ways to relieve pressure with skill and counter-attacking passes. However, as they transition into more intelligent and skilled soccer players, they should know that old-fashioned clearance kicks are still better than nothing.

Practice Next-Level Defending

At Total Soccer, we teach youth soccer players how to be effective at higher levels of competition. Whether that means preparing high school players for the college game or local youth players for regional travel and select teams, our personal soccer trainers near Montgomery County can help players throughout the Philadelphia region grow their games.

Sign up for one of our group classes today or try a private soccer lesson at one of our locations near Montgomery County and see how Total Soccer can help you reach new heights in your game!