Soccer, a predominantly European sport, has gained great popularity int the U.S. over the years at all levels from youth to college. With this popularity comes a new elite level of competition. To get ahead of the competition there is plenty of training that needs to be done outside of team practices to enhance an athletes skills. Speed, strength, endurance, and ball handling skills need to be trained in an effort to compete at the highest level.
Here are a few key elements of training and conditioning:
Drills – incorporate the 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?
Interval training - sprint movements for 15 seconds with short breaks; Sometimes, to get open and to make those game winning runs, players have to go from a dead stop to a full sprint.
Plyometrics - 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.
Strength Training - 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.
Speed and Agility – beat players with the ball and to the ball; soccer is so much about quick stops and starts, do sprint work on agility ladders to boost speed, acceleration and endurance.
Stretching and 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.
Endurance and 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?