December 31, 2003 09:00 PM
The ability to change direction is critical in soccer. Consequently, in your physical training, be careful not to do only straight-ahead conditioning.
As a collegiate coach, I would always know who had done enough playing and soccer-specific training over the summer. The players that had done enough pure "running" as a primary means of preparing for pre-season were very sore because they hadn't used the muscles needed to play soccer.
They hadn't trained the ability to change direction, to accelerate and decelerate. Ideally, playing in competitive games has to be a consistent part of your preparation. Otherwise, you must perform the sport-specific movements to train the muscles required to play soccer.
"I feel my strengths are my acceleration and changing directions," says Mia Hamm. "A lot of the Coerver moves combine both of those things--high-speed change of direction and quick acceleration after one or two touches."
When changing directions, you need to be able to have your body in a position to either control the ball or receive the ball to burst past an opponent.
"When you change directions quickly, it's important to be in control of your body, and that's something I've recently learned," says Michelle Akers. "I've learned that I'm a flailer. I flail everywhere.
"When I stop, I'm off-balance and my arms are flying all over the place. I should be together, staying compact in one unit. That way, I can effectively go in another direction and move efficiently."
"Being a flailer has probably been why I got injured so much," adds Michelle. "When you are off-balance and in contact with another player, bad things are going to happen. So I'm learning not to flail.
"If you watch Kristine Lilly, she's not a flailer. She is always in balance and ready to move. She's never flailing around. Joy (Fawcett) is the same way."