Football is full of interesting moves and maneuvers that have even more interesting names assigned to them. Things like a Cruyff Turn, Elastico, Croqueta, Rabona, and Trivela spring to mind on this topic, just to name a few. Yet besides these intriguing names for various skills, there are others related to positions, tactics, and plays. This brings me to the topic for today – what does jockey mean in football?
You may have heard the term ‘jockey’ used before in football, or perhaps you haven’t. Either way, the information supplied here is designed to give you a full and conclusive answer to this question. So without further ado, let me dive into the finer details of what a jockey means in football.
What exactly does jockey mean in football?
Let me get straight to the direct answer to this question before moving on to the other elements. Essentially, if you hear the term ‘jockey’ in football, this word describes the act of a player getting between the opponent and the intended target. Because of this, jockeying is a term typically used to describe the actions of a defender, as people often use the term when talking about the ‘intended target’ as the goal. However, you could hear the term jockeying with respect to other players and/or areas on the pitch too.
Adding to that, jockeying isn’t purely the act of blocking the attacking player and the intended target. It requires that the defender keeps close to the attacking opponent, often needing a change in pace to keep the intended target blocked. Of course, this is the general overview of what it means to jockey in football, and like many other maneuvers, its purpose is to make things difficult for the opponents.
But this doesn’t detail all you need to know about jockeying in football – there’s more!
The elements of ‘jockeying’ in football
At this point, you should have a basic understanding of what it means to jockey in football, at least in terms of the action anyway. Yet as you may have picked up on, successful ‘jockeying’ requires some effective actions on the part of the defender. So let me now explain the specifics of these actions with respect to jockeying.
Blocking the intended target
In the most general sense, jockeying is done to prevent an opponent from sending the ball toward the intended target, as referenced above. For example, when a striker is approaching the box, and the defender is moving backward with them, the defender can jockey to stop the striker from getting the shot off. In this example, the defender can prevent a shot on goal, which eliminates the possibility of conceding.
Yet jockeying may also be done to stop a possible pass too. Once again, this usually relates to defenders preventing attackers from finding space and managing to strike the ball towards the goal.
Positioning in relation to the opponent
Although there are technical elements concerning jockeying, as detailed in the next section, the position of the defender vs the attacker is of critical importance. Ideally, the defender needs to remain close to the opponent as this greatly reduces the space that they have to work with. And by reducing space, the defender can close off all possible avenues for a pass or a shot. This is why the defender will also try to match the pace of the attacker to maintain a constant distance – typically done by slowing down to create an obstacle in front of the opponent.
Effective physical position
Successful jockeying requires some very specific technical points too, as many things do in football. So, in order for the defender to maintain a tight distance between themselves and the attacker, what exactly do they need to do? Well, it requires a low center of gravity for starters, as this is the best position possible to be as agile as they can be. To achieve this, the defender needs to have their knees bent, they must be on their toes, and their body should be somewhat side-on to the attacker.
This way, if the attacker accelerates rapidly in either direction, the defender is able to respond and keep the jockey going.
Options when jockeying in football
Ultimately, the entire objective of jockeying in football is to make things uncomfortable for the attacker and prevent the next phase of play. Whether that’s a pass or a shot on goal – this fundamental objective remains consistent. However, there are a couple of options on the table that a player can use when jockeying. Firstly, they can aim to make a tackle and win the ball back, which also relates closely to their position compared with the attacker.
Secondly, they can slow down the play to allow a teammate to join the action, which creates a 2-on-1 scenario and boosts the chances of winning back the ball. Finally, the defender can implement different moves to force the attacker into a position that they won’t want to be in. This can be forcing a right-footed attacker onto their left foot, as a common example.
Of course, other options exist, yet these are the three you will commonly see!