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"Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do." ~Pele
Here are the fundamental aspects of soccer to keep in mind, both defensively and when attacking, for players of all levels. Of course, don't forget to enjoy yourself when playing, try new things on the pitch and take players on. What separates the great players from the average players is their ability to do that something extra special - beat a player and score or cross the ball with precision, for example.
However, a soccer player must learn to do all simple things pefectly before moving on to the those tricky moves. Master dribbling, shooting, passing, juggling, crossing, and the other fundamentals of soccer before trying to do those Cristiano Ronaldo type step overs. If you look at someone like Manchester United's Paul Scholes, here's a player who has exceptional control and touch on the ball. He's someone who rarely makes a bad pass or loses the ball. He plays smart and simple one and two touch soccer. He's extremely focused. His only weakness might be his tackling ability.
At the same time though, look at a player like Ronaldinho, who in his glory days at Barcelona was deadly focused but also had fun and enjoyed himself. He was always smiling and cheering his teammates on. Above all, he wants the ball and wants to make things happen on the soccer field. That's infectious and that's something you should add to your game if you don't have it already.
General Soccer Fundamentals
- Keep high concentration at all times no matter what the score.
- Stay fit - build endurance and strength.
- Be positive and play your best.
- Have realistic expectations of teammates.
- Communicate on the field (don't scream or blame each other). Give direction, 'you have time', 'man on'.
- Have the ability to combine with players through overlaps, wall passes, and take overs on the dribble.
- Show creativity and vision.
- Play the way you're facing (play simple).
- Control the ball out in front of you so you can make the next play and don't have the ball trapped under your feet.
Defensive Fundamentals of Soccer
- Be aware at all times.
- Play smart and anticipate what's going to happen.
- Always get behind the ball on defense.
- Stay on the goal side when defending.
- When challenged, make the play predictable so your teammate can anticipate the next pass or play.
- To make a player commit, take a quick step forward and quickly back off using your body to block the run. Not obstructing the player but anticipating the play.
- When faced with a two on one: buy time until help arrives (concede space a bit of space, don't dive in); take away the pass and force the ball in one direction.
- Always recover centrally (toward the penalty spot).
- Always find a free player and mark-up.
- Communicate to your teammates who you are marking.
Offensive Fundamentals of Soccer
- Keep it simple.
- Have vision of the entire field.
- Play the way you're facing.
- Play the ball back when options are limited or dangerous and switch play.
- Always look around before collecting a pass so you know what you're going to do with the ball before you get it.
- Have a first time pass in mind before collecting the ball.
- Be calm with the ball.
- Always be in position to support teammates.
- Ask for the ball.
- Give options to player with the ball (check in and check out asking for the ball).
- Keep your elbows up and use your body to protect and shield the ball.
- Take on players in offensive third of the field.
- Dribble toward the defender until he leaves his mark and then pass or beat him.
- Take shots if you're open.
Key Soccer Training Tips
- Get lots of touches on the ball.
- Small sided games help develop creativity and skill (keep the training area small so players have less time on the ball and therefore must make quick decisions since they're always under pressure).
- There is perhaps no other better practice game for any level of player than 'piggy in the middle' - it's just all about keeping the ball away from defenders.
- Don't hit dead balls unless you're practicing free kicks. (Have players pass the ball into players before they shoot or cross; this way players must control the ball and then shoot or cross, which is more game realistic).
- Set aside a time where players have the freedom to try new things and take more risks.
- Get your players to play one touch soccer for a period of time (Even if the players don't have the skill level yet, get them exposed to how hard it is and how useful it is when you can pull it off).
- The ball never gets tired and always moves faster than any player can.
- Stretch out before and after training. A light jog and some stretching prior to playing and then a cool down afterwards. Get the key muscle groups when stretching, the hamstrings, quads, calfs, and groin muscles are the most important.
- To avoid injury, it's important to use proper equipment from day one of soccer practice. Sweats, cleats, shin guards, socks, and the proper sized ball can make a huge difference in your team's success.