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Conditioning Secrets for High School Players and Coaches

December 31, 2003 09:00 PM
Soccer players and coaches from all backgrounds, including high school, club, college, and professional, are constantly looking for the edge that will give their themselves the big win. Many people believe that practicing for hours and focusing on technical and tactical skills will insure their team of a winning season.
However, there is more to consider for successfully leading a team to victory. The following are two principles that will take your team to the next level.
Make developing athletic movement skills an integral part of your soccer training. This principle is critical to a team's success but is often overlooked during training and practice. Integrating fundamental movement skills, one of the three components of the Soccer Success Model, is neglected by players and coaches for two reasons.
First, the majority of coaches make developing technical and tactical skills their highest priority during practice. Although these skills are extremely important, playing the game as often as possible can help develop them.
But to really have that extra edge, coaches must apply the principle, created by my colleague, Vern Gambetta, of developing fundamental movement skills before sport specific skills. Teaching athletes to run, hop, skip, jump, stop, and land are fundamental skills that are just as important during a soccer match as being able to dribble or pass a soccer ball.
The second reason why many coaches neglect movement skill training during practice is the lack of education within the soccer coaching profession. Yes, coaches are required to know various conditioning and warm-up methods in order to obtain licensure.
However, there are other key components that coaches should learn about and focus on to best prepare their team athletically for the upcoming season. What about developing first step quickness, multi-dimensional strength and power, lateral speed and agility, or even balance?
Coaches and players need to further educate themselves on the components of athletic development and find practical ways to integrate them into their training sessions. If "SPEED WINS!", then shouldn't coaches spend more time training for speed both with and without the soccer ball?
Planning is Key. There are many things teams can do to avoid wasting precious training time and to make the most of each practice session. During technical training for example, while small groups of athletes are working on a specific drill, instruct the remaining athletes to work on speed. This can be as simple as having all athletes, not in direct contact with the soccer ball during a drill, sprint around the nearest cone placed 5-8 yards away.
This allows for full use of practice time and encourages the tempo of practice to directly mimic the tempo of the game. Structuring practices in such a way that tempo, flow, and rhythm are integrated throughout the session length is another way to effectively plan training time.
It does not make sense to run a series of 120's in the beginning or middle of practice and end with speed and technical work. Neither is it sensible to begin practice with a good warm-up, talk to players for the next twenty minutes, and then start training.
The checklist below is designed to help coaches develop an effective model for soccer training. To achieve success it is important to include all three-skill areas (athletic, technical, and tactical) in each training session.
What are my team's strengths and weaknesses in athletic skills, technical skills, and tactical skills?
How much time is devoted to each of these three areas?
How can I combine these skills to make more efficient use of practice time?
Is the training session in a sequential order that best meets the needs of my players?
Does the practice session have an even tempo and flow to it?
Am I making the most out of practice time? Are players standing around or constantly moving and thinking?
Jeremy Boone (email is the owner of the Carolina Athletic Development Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina and Official Content Provider for the Network. is coming Fall 2000! Providing Practical Solutions for Taking Athletes to the Next Level



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