How to Run the Offsides Trap

A successful offsides trap - (Photo:

The offsides trap is one of the best tactics to use in defense when it is organized and runs smoothly.  Opposing teams’ rhythms can be totally disrupted, but if any part of the defense makes a mistake, the offsides trap can also leave a team vulnerable to a simple goal.  Here are some tips for how to best implement the offsides trap for your team and for how to keep it effective.

Two critical components of the offsides trap are concentration and communication.  The defensive back line must be concentrated at all times because if your line pushes up and any player fails to do so, offsides will not be called and your team may suffer by giving up a goal.  Your defenders will need to work as a single unit, so they will also have to communicate very effectively with each other too.

Therefore, you need to promote your players to talk with each other and make snap judgments on pushing up the line or not.  Also, you need your players need to be able to read the situations for when the offsides trap will be effective.  Obviously this play works when the opponent makes a vertical pass up the field from quite a distance.  Defenders need to pay attention to the opposing midfielders and be well tuned in reading when the pass is going to come based on body language, and when the strikers look to make a run.

What this leads to is the importance of practice.  Create drills to help your defense prepare for game situations where they will instill the offsides trap.  Also, have your players practice live situations where they actually won’t play the trap.  These quick decisions need to be well coordinated and planned out before hand so that your players react in the same way and no glaring mistakes occur.

One warning about the offsides trap is that it is very difficult to perfect.  Obviously the benefits can be massive so it is worthwhile, but you should reserve this practice to older players, usually only beginning at the high school age.  Also, instill the defensive structure early in the season, preferably over summer practices before the season even begins.  A well-working offsides trap is something that takes time to perfect, and you will not be able to just start it up on any given week.

Also, be weary about the referees in your league.  Referees misjudge offsides calls in every league of the game, including professional leagues like the English Premier League and during major international matches.  Therefore, in many youth soccer leagues, the referees can make mistakes when you orchestrate the offsides trap.  Be careful and make sure your team does everything right to prevent close calls going against you and the like.  Also, remember that the offsides trap needs to be practiced countless times so your players are comfortable in making the necessary decisions to win the game.

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Nicholas Spiller

Nicholas Spiller resides in LA where he dreams of musical super-stardom on his bass guitar. He also writes for and is an avid Arsenal fan!

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