A few years ago I coached a kid who might have been the best defender I’ve ever had on a team. He was a gifted athlete and played well on offense as well, but he had a natural instinct for the defensive side.
The old cliche about having “a nose for the ball” fit him perfectly. His natural speed took him quickly to a ballcarrier, and he was an excellent tackler. Not a lot of runners escaped him once he got a hand on them.
The ideal defender possesses a mix of speed and tackling ability. They react and move quickly and know how to bring down their man. Some of that skill is innate, but some of it can be taught too. As I’ve said before, I’ll take a fast defender who can make a tackle over a bigger slower kid every time. If you share this preference, check out these drills from livestrong.com.
The article offers three good drills: the shuttle, chute training, sprint and tackle. Each one focuses on developing effective defenders. They’re all fun for the kids to do, are easy to teach, and require only basic equipment, while offering a context through which you can explain the techniques of good defense.
Yes, they all can be somewhat challenging. Though they might not end being the kids’ first choice at practice, they’ll be glad they did them when they shut down an opponent’s offense.