Being nifty on the soccer ball means nothing unless you can match it with the physical capabilities to stay strong throughout the game. Soccer coaches should put their players through their paces working on drills to increase endurance, improve reaction speed and boost athleticism.
This Nike Soccer video on stamina talks about buliding an aerobic base in pre-season as it's crucial for the challenges that lie ahead in a long soccer season. Here's how to do it.
Here are a few key elements of soccer conditioning and what your players should strive for:
Drills – incorporate the soccer ball into conditioning drills to improve agility and make the drills more game like. Rather than jog around the park for a warm up, why not jog with the ball? When one team in a small side game is sitting out, have them juggle the ball in groups of two.
Interval training - sprint movements for 15 seconds with short breaks; Sometimes, to get open and to make those game winning runs, soccer players have to go from a dead stop to a full sprint.
Random movements - increase heart rate and cardiovascular fitness; add in some plyometic work to your conditioning drills, whether it's jumping over the ball from side to side or jumping up for headers; have players start on the ground and get up off the ground to head the ball.
Physical strength - to hold players off who are trying to win the ball; add in some push ups and sit ups to the end of each training session; shielding the soccer ball is one skill that doesn't get enough attention by many soccer coaches; shielding requires strength and desire to keep the ball no matter what.
Acceleration – beat players with the ball and to the ball; soccer is so much about quick stops and starts, do sprint work like ladders to boost speed, acceleration and endurance. If you want to beat a defender on the dribble, it requires change of pace - slow at first then a burst of speed.
Flexibility – reduced injuries and to make plays and avoid pressure; can your players reach for and control that long passes that seems like it's destined to go out of bounds? Make stretching a part of every practice at the beginning and the end.
Sharpness - comes with daily work; try to play in as many games as possible, whether that's small side games or indoor soccer; keep your sharpness over the off season by playing in games and working on your weaknesses.
Stamina – strive for the highest level of fitness so players can express themselves on the field; who is going to win the ball at the end of the game? Who will make that long run down the sidelines with five minutes to go?
Once your soccer fitness and conditioning levels are high, don't forget to master the soccer ball and challenge yourself. Watch this amazing video of Iniesta, Xavi and Busquets juggle the soccer ball with both feet. If you can do this as with a few teammates then you're well on your way to becoming a great soccer player.
How long will they be able to keep jugging the ball in the air? And what about you and your soccer friends? Let's see how many times you and your teammates can juggle the soccer ball with both feet! Challenge yourself and your teammates to see how far apart you can get and still keep the ball in the air.