Principles of Defense

Principles of  Defense


There are 6 principles of defense that players must understand:

  1. Immediate chase

  2. Effective individual defense

  3. Condense and consolidate

  4. Pressure - 1st Defender (deny the ball and win if possible otherwise contain 1st attacker)

  5. Cover - 2nd Defender (support 1st defender by providing depth or double teaming)

  6. Balance - 3rd Defender (Keeping shape by viewing the field and adjusting position)


Immediate Chase:

Immediate chase occurs as soon as your team loses the ball. The best time to win the ball is immediately before the opposing player has either dribbled herself free or has time to make a pass. Many times immediate chase is supplied by forwards who come back to help their teammates.

Often, when a ball is won back via immediate chase it becomes a counterattack for your team since the opposing team is out of defensive position.


Effective Individual Defense:

This is the ability to stop a dribbler’s penetration. If an attacker is allowed to dribble past defenders without much resistance it put s the defense at a disadvantage of having less players available to defend.  Being effective as a defender requires the defender to use proper technique (stance, footwork, comfort zone) and make quick, smart decisions (contain, force to space, or tackle).


Condense & Consolidate:

This is the ability of a defense to quickly tighten up and restrict the amount of space the offense has to work with. Attacking teams try to use space to spread out the defense. Defenses must condense to force the offense to make tougher passes in more restricted space. The keys to good consolidating are:

1.      Communication

2.      Work Ethic

3.      Understanding each players defensive role



Applying pressure to an attacker cause them to hurry their pass or dribble. Pressure is always applied by the 1st Defender. Pressure usually comes in the form of containment marking by the 1st Defender on the 1st attacker (the player with the ball). Good pressure by the 1st defender will cause early or poor passes by the offense and will allow the rest of the defense to get into a strong support mode.

The simple rule is that the1st defender always puts the 1st attacker under pressure. The 1st defender changes with the location of the ball. It is always the defender closest to the player with the ball. Skills necessary to be good 1st defenders are quick, smart decisions and solid technique.



The cover player is also called the 2nd defender. This player is the backup to the 1st defender who is pressuring the ball. If the 1st defender gets beat by a dribble the cover player must be in a position to step in and pressure or even win the ball. The key to good cover is choosing the best position on the field so you can support the 1st defender but at the same time provide depth to the defense.



The primary responsibility of the 3rd defender is to provide balance to the defense. Providing balance allows a defense to keep its shape. Good shape allows a team to react quickly to changes in the point of attack (when teams switch the ball). The key to providing good balance is viewing the field well and anticipating changes by the offense.

Remember the attack want to stretch the field so the defense can’t cover all the space. A good defense squeezes the field (Condenses and consolidates) so the attack is forced to play in tight areas where it is hard to do. The 3rd defender (usually the sweeper) provides this balance.