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How to Shield a Soccer Ball

Shielding is used commonly in soccer, and is a vital skill to possess.  Shielding is basically using your body (legally) to prevent a defender from taking the ball.  It may seem one-dimensional, but shielding can be used in many ways.  It is a skill every players should master.

Every player will probably use shielding in a match, and if a player doesn’t he should.  Shielding, like dribbling allows a single player to keep possession of the ball, a very important part of soccer.

How to Shield

When players start out with shielding, they usually put there back to there defender, put there elbows out, and triumphantly say “Shielding is easy.”  Shielding is pretty easy in some ways, but not that easy.

It doesn’t work because defenders can easily get to the ball.  Defenders can poke at it through the player’s legs, poke at it from the side, or push the player off of the ball.  It may be “okay” sometimes if the player moves his body to block the player, but it is not as efficient as it could be.

The proper technique is as follows:

1.  Get in an athletic position

Bend you knees, lower your butt, and stand firmly.  The key to shielding is good balance, which a good stance helps with greatly.

2.  Stand Sideways.

The only time you will turn your back to a defender is if you are performing a quick drop (backwards) pass.  Otherwise, stand sideways.

3.  Arms out for balance.

As long as you are not pushing the defender, you can put your arm on him for balance.  Keep your opposite arm out for balance.

4.  Body against body

When shielding, don’t wait for your opponent to push into you, thus making you lose balance.  Stand firm and push back against him aggressively.  A good upper body helps with this which you can achieve with proper soccer fitness.

If you feel like you are losing the balance, or the defender is overpowering you, dribble away, or in desperate situations take a dive.

5.  Look to pass, dribble, or shoot.

Most of the time you will pass from a shielding position, but there are times when you can break free of your man by pushing him off balance or performing soccer moves and dribble or shoot.

When to Shield

Shield whenever it feels necessary.  Players usually don’t have to think about shielding; it just comes naturally when playing.

Common instances of shielding are:

You can’t get past a player 

For instance, say that you just cut to the outside of a defender.  The defender gets beat enough that he doesn’t steal or kick away the ball, but he stays with you.  You will naturally see that you can do nothing in this situation and pull the ball back.

Once you pull the ball back, you will start shielding the ball.  You may pass the ball off or do some stop-and-go moves that could allow you to beat that player from your sideway position. 

You have nowhere to go 

There are times when dribbling is pointless, and you have no passing options.  At this point you will naturally shield the ball while you look for any option.

In a tight spot

When you are in a small area such as the area around the corner flag, you can’t do much more than shield.  When shielding in these situations, players usually try to either kick the ball between the defender’s legs (nutmeg), kick it off of a defender, or force the defender to kick the ball out.

In the defending third

Losing the ball in a the defensive side of the field can be devastating, so defenders often shield the ball to safely keep possession of it.

Defenders will then either kick it out or pass the ball.

The ball is going out 

When the ball is rolling at a decent pace, players often shield it so that the ball rolls out of play.  It is important that the shielder does not touch the ball because that defeats the whole purpose — to regain possession of the ball.

To perform a play 

For instance, when performing an overlap the player who holds the ball should shield it.

These are just some of the many situations in which shielding is used.  I recommend watching the pros and looking at when the shield to learn about more situations where shielding occurs.

Shielding Tips

Defenders don’t just stay still and take shielding.  In fact, defenders tend to get annoyed when players shield the ball and try harder than ever to take the ball.

The key to shielding efficiently is to know which way the defender marking you is going (which you can accomplish by touching them with your body and arm).

If they move left, move the ball to the right and push hard against them.  If they go to between your legs, move the ball away roll the ball away.

When shielding always move.

This will make it very hard for your opponent to steal the ball.  I recommend rolling the ball, because you have more precise control over where you move the ball.

Make space for yourself.

When you get enough space turn and cut immediately.  Facing your opponent will give you allow you to attack rather than keep the ball.


Efficiently using shielding will greatly improve your game.  You will find that you will keep the ball more often; therefore, increasing your teams possession.  Shielding is an important aspect of all positions, so practice it often.

You may want to look at SoccerU, an in-depth DVD set that covers shielding and many other aspects of soccer.

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