Passive defending is when a defender applies little or no pressure on an attacking player. Using this defensive posture in practice is a great way for players to work on fakes and feints with an actual player in front of them. However, passive defending may also be a good strategy to employ in a game as well.
I typically see passive defending used in 1v1 and 2v1 drills. The defender is there to take up space and force the player with the ball to make a move around him/her. Passive defending is great when the focus of the drill is on the offense. Going against an actual player is certainly more realistic than beating a cone.
At a recent camp where I was an instructor, I employed this tactic in the World Cup tournament, small-sided games. Every opportunity I had (I was playing in the games), I would challenge the player with the ball by running at him/her and assumed a passive defensive posture. Once in position, I commanded the attacker to, “Make a move” while reminding him/her that I was only there to apply pressure and had no intention of taking the ball away. Then they did.
With players it will be more challenging to get them to practice passive defending, especially during small-sided games. The trick is to make sure that each player is given a chance to go up against a passive defender whether the player with the ball is an attacker, midfielder, or defender. To help the passive defender, call out “Passive” when you want this tactic employed. The player nearest the ball will know what to do.
One of the benefits of passive defending is that it will give the player who is asked to defend in this manner an opportunity to rest. On a warm afternoon after an hour-and-a-half of practice, you will have players calling out “passive” themselves.
So how can passive defending be a good strategy during a game? How many players do you see or have on your team who blindly go after a ball that is in possession of an attacking player only to have him/her baited into stabbing at the ball? Attacking players love these types of defenders. Change this defender’s behavior by having him/her stop in front of the attacking player and become a passive defender. Once this has been accomplished and the defender is tired of the attacking player still getting around him/her, have this player start back pedaling as the attacking player approaches. In one game you will have broken the player of this bad habit.
Go ahead; implement passive defending in your next practice or even in the next game.