What Is Shielding in Soccer?

This move is especially handy when you’re tight on space


| 1 min watch

The last thing you want when your team has control of the ball is for someone to take it away — that’s where shielding comes in handy. 

What is shielding?

When an opponent is applying pressure, a player can use their whole body to protect the ball and maintain possession, not unlike using an actual shield — or in this case, an arm — to keep an opponent at bay while putting as much distance between them and the ball as possible. When the player in possession of the ball is shielding effectively, their opponent cannot win the ball, even with an expert poke tackle

How to shield

Player learning to shield a soccer ball
After a player receives the ball, they should move the ball to the foot farthest from the defender.

Player learning how to shield a soccer ball

A player then puts their body between the ball and the defender, taking a sideways stance to add even more distance.

Player learning to shield a soccer ball

A player can lean into their opponent, with their arm up, as if holding an actual shield. Just be sure that players do not push or swing their arms!

Player learning how to shield a soccer ball
A player shielding the ball may need to use the sole of the foot to protect the ball, pivoting to maintain control as the defender pursues it.

How to practice shielding

Soccer drills like Shield-Steal and 2 vs 2 vs 2 Keep-Away give players plenty of opportunities to hold the ball and practice their shielding skills while an opponent attempts to steal it. And player favorites like Knockout and Capture the Balls involve the whole team, with some players trying to kick the ball away while others try to maintain possession by shielding. 

Any activity that involves players dribbling in tight spaces will encourage repetition and allow a coach to stop and restart play to give instruction on effective shielding techniques. Coaches should watch out for players  accidentally swinging their arm to push away a defender. This will result in a foul and loss of possession.

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