If an athlete is hurt, they cannot play in front of college coaches and will never get seen. If an athlete is wasting their time with the wrong training methods, when they do get their chance they will not perform to their potential or above it. There are many resources out there on soccer training of various kinds. Books and DVD’s galore on soccer skills and tactics training and more than a handful about athleticism for the beautiful game. While there are certainly some good resources out there on the skills and tactics side of things, I cannot say I am very impressed with what is out there for the athletic development side and believe me, I have seen a lot of it! In fact the best athleticism for soccer product I have ever seen was the old Ajax (most popular soccer club in Holland) Speed Training Tape Series. They did a tremendous job differentiating between the different types of speed related to soccer. The footage of former superstars like Patrick Kluivert, Dennis Berkamp, Edgar Davids, Marc Overmars, Nwanko Kanu, and Clarence Seedorf was incredible to watch. The physical speed, technical sharpness, and motivation in each exercise they displayed was incredible. Compared to today’s standards their strength training methods are outdated as they used a lot of isolation and machine training but nonetheless, it was a great video.
Old School Ajax, One of the most athletic teams ever
If you are a soccer player, coach, or trainer looking to improve your individual or team’s performance, you are in the right place. The following are 5 of the most common mistakes I see in a soccer player’s preparation.
1. Soccer players don’t play enough small sided
I know we’ve all heard about how the South Americans play street soccer and there is something to be learned there. When I was 15 I started playing pickup soccer and small sided (1 on 1 included) as much as I could and within no time my performance shot up. Its simple- as your skills continue to improve from so much time on the ball in game situations and you become used to being in certain “soccer dynamics” (shielding the ball, finding a free player under pressure, etc), those improvements will transfer over to games and magically you are all of a sudden a better soccer player.
2. Soccer players don’t work on their specific skills enough
Shooting, passing, dribbling, and individual defense all require time spent perfecting them. Europeans spend hours on passing with the right weight, at the correct angle, and to the correct foot. The outside players spend hours perfecting their serve of the ball into the box. Strikers finish and defenders work on getting their long balls to resemble a lazer beam. On tv in the English Premier League they make it look easy because they put in the time when the cameras are off. Sorry but twice a week at club practice aint gonna cut it. You need reps.
3. Soccer players are weak
There are definitely some soccer players out there who are strong, (usually they are the fastest on the pitch), but for the most part, soccer players are far too weak. How does strength help? Well, strength is the foundation on which all other athletic attributes are built on. Strength is highly related to power since the stronger you are the faster you can move a significant load such as your body.
From famous sports scientist and Powerlifting champion Dr. Fred Hatfield:
Elite athletes develop the ability to generate maximum tension in less than three quarters of a second, perhaps even in as little as a half a second. That’s one of the factors that make them so great. They’re able to reduce the amount of time it takes to generate maximum tension.”
Hopefully you realize the importance of getting strong so that you can generate a lot of force. Then it is a matter of getting good at developing that force in a short amount of time specific to the movements of your sport. But if you never have the strength or force to begin with, you will be pissing in the wind!
Another benefit of strength training is that you will also be improving your body’s resistance to injury and its ability to recover.
4. Messed up ankles, knees and hips
Too many players rely on ankle taping. Unless you are just coming back from an ankle injury, it might be a good idea to toss the ankle brace or tape. Your ankle is designed to be mobile and if you take it away by restricting it there, you will have to compensate by finding mobility at the knee. Last time I checked, your knee is designed to hinge, so not a good thing when you increase the chances of your knee twisting and bending other ways.
Lift weights and get your glutes and hamstrings strong (hip thrusts, glute ham curls, good morning and RDL variations, back extensions done properly, etc.) Do some barefoot work or get the vibram five fingers. Finally, do some dynamic movements to improve on your foot stability, balance, proprioception and quickness simultaneously. Low grade plyos work great where you are hopping around on one leg different directions.
5. No Recovery Work
I am always amazed at how many soccer players don’t know that the positive things that go along with training hard occur when you’re not training. You basically damage your body while training, then rest in order to come back better. Rest is when your body repairs the damage and in an attempt to better handle the stress it knows is coming in the near future, it super compensates.
Foam roll your quads, calfs, groin and adductors, tensor fascia latae, and ITBand. Do mobility exercises before each training session and stretch after training to reduce recovery time and restore tissue length.
Sleeping enough in the right environment, eating well, static or dynamic stretching, icing, foam rolling, massaging, napping and contrast therapy if you have the pain tolerance are all great tools. Don’t pass them off!..they are integral to your complete development!