How to Teach Aggressiveness in Soccer

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Aggressiveness in soccer is a quality that is not often talked about or given much attention. However, it is a quality that can make the difference between winning and losing a game.

Aggressiveness in soccer can be defined as the willingness to take risks and challenge opponents for possession of the ball. Soccer players who are aggressive will try to win back possession of the ball from their opponents by making tackles, standing in front of them to block passes, and challenging for headers.

Why Do You Need to Teach Aggression Techniques?

Since the main goal in soccer is to get the ball in the back of the opponent’s goal without conceding one yourself, aggression should be geared towards that goal, as well.

Getting to the ball first, tackling the ball away from another player, and shielding the ball from the other team are all ways to instill aggression.

Two soccer players bumping into each other midair

Players will use aggression and physical maneuvers to put themselves between the opponent and the ball. They’ll need to be physical to stay on their feet while still keeping an opponent away from the ball. They’ll need to learn how to use their arms and body to shield the ball and win the ball in the air.

Pros and Cons of Being Aggressive in Soccer

Improves competitivenessIt can lead to yellow cards
Improves defenseIt can lead to red cards
Improves team’s mentalityIt could lead to injuries
Improves team’s intensity and passionIt can lead to conflicts

Aggression Challenges for Younger Players

For younger players, learning how to properly use aggression is a challenge. Usually, the youth will go one of two ways regarding aggression. They can either be extremely timid about physical contact or can go all out.

Normally, a lack of physical contact in a kids’ game is from the lack of idea of HOW to make contact. These young players need to be taught the game’s rules and how to play the game effectively. Being physical and making contact with another player is allowed—they just have to know how to do it effectively.

As for a coach, there are a few ways to instill aggression into your young players. The key here is to ensure that your players know how to be aggressive in a controlled environment. There’s nothing wrong with a player getting “stuck in”—in fact, it should be encouraged.

A player can gain an edge through healthy aggression by:

  • physically dominating another
  • encouraging crowd enthusiasm
  • creating anxiety in the minds of the opposite team players

By contrast, unhealthy aggression results in:

  • penalties
  • suspensions
  • unnecessary injuries
  • possible legal ramifications
Soccer player resting his hands on his knees

How to Teach Aggressiveness in Soccer

Now that you know why it’s important to instill aggression in your players, you might want to learn how. Here are a few ways you can teach aggression during your practices:

1. Prioritize Fun and Aggression

Don’t have one drill that focuses on goofing off and having fun and then another promoting aggression. Try and find soccer drills that can help develop both aspects together. If possible, have your players practice with a good soccer rebounder. This will ensure the ball bounces back to them when played.

Once you make an aggressive drill fun, the kids will definitely make the connection between the two and won’t take it personally. Hopefully, this will also disappear the belief that aggressiveness has to be mean-spirited.

Having fun drills also helps soccer remain enjoyable and helps increase interest in the game. It sounds strange, yet it’s possible to do drills that promote aggressiveness while also helping other soccer skills at the same time.

Make sure to teach the kids drills they can practice on their own. If kids are shy, they might be nervous to show aggression in front of their teammates at first and would benefit from practicing on their own with a family member or friends.

Two men playing soccer

2. Talk About It

Instead of just thinking that a child will be able to pick up exactly what you’re trying to teach, talk to them about it. Even if you have to talk to each player individually, it’s important that they know what is and what is not allowed when it comes to aggression on the field.

As always, make sure to prioritize fair play and respect for the opponent. Teach them how to play positively and safely. This is called “Appropriate Aggression”. It rejects the idea that a player has to injure their opponent, be mean or disrespectful towards them.

The key here is to find the balance between aggression and still being respectful. Ensure to review the complete set of soccer rules, including the section that specifically applies to fouls and misconduct.

3. Watch Professional Soccer

Although you might not have much control over what your kids watch on television at home, encourage them to watch professional matches. You can even make it your soccer “homework” for them to go home and watch a game or two.

Talk with parents about them watching more games at home if the players have a real interest in soccer. Not only is this a good idea for the kids to watch how professionals play, it is also important to normalize aggression as they watch how professional players behave on the field and how they can be aggressive without crossing the line, in most cases.

Even holding a film session with your team can help you point out situations where players should be more aggressive. That way, they can visually see when it’s appropriate and necessary.

4. Guide Them During Play

No one likes a coach who talks too much. Of course, it’s your job to give positive feedback or constructive criticism. However, you should try to do it during the game.

During a game, players have they’ve gone through fresh in their minds (and their bodies). Commenting on it directly after it happens is a great way to promote aggression.

Some words you can say to them after a good 50-50 challenge would be to encourage that sort of tackle. If you see a player is trying for it and loses anyway, you can still reward them for getting in there and being aggressive for the ball.

Woman in pink jersey kicking a soccer ball

You control and prioritize what your team learns or works on in practice. Creating a strong emphasis on aggressiveness—regardless of the drill—is a useful tactic to help you influence your players.

Related Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about aggressiveness in soccer.

Is It Good to Be Overly Aggressive in Soccer?

Being aggressive in soccer is essential for defense and ball possession. However, being overly aggressive can lead to yellow cards, or worse, a red card, which could really hurt your team.

Is It Okay to Tackle Aggressively in Soccer?

Yes. it’s okay to tackle aggressively in soccer, as long as you touch the ball and never endanger your opponent. If you make an action that could hurt your rival’s body, the referee will give you a yellow or red card.

Therefore, no matter how aggressive your tackle is, you must always keep in mind the safety of your opponent.

How Do I Overcome My Fear of Contact?

Beginners are sometimes afraid to be aggressive, tackle, and come into contact with other players. To eliminate this fear, the best advice is to practice constantly.

With the help of a good coach and a soft surface, you should practice the different ways to make contact with your opponent. This will help you to do it safely.


Teaching appropriate aggression in soccer is extremely important—especially for young players. Knowing how and when to be aggressive during the game can help them improve as players and avoid getting yellow or red-carded in the future.

Channeling over-aggressive players is also a part of teaching aggression. Not only do you have to encourage the timid players to be more physical, you also have to show over-aggressive players how to use their physical playing style to their advantage—and stay within the rules.

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.