The two most important goals of a soccer training program are improving performance, and protecting players against injury. A good soccer training routine will develop individual and team techniques and tactics, beginning with the basics of soccer. The player should learn how to kick, pass, shoot and control the ball, while developing speed, agility, strength and overall fitness.
Three important aspects to soccer training are technical skills, fitness, and mental preparation. These are said to be the pillars of good soccer training, and should serve to guide coaches in their training goals.
Being able to control the ball with the feet and body requires technical soccer training and repetition of specific soccer training drills designed specifically for that.
Fitness is the ability of the individual athlete and the team to perform rigorous tactics and technical skills through the duration of the game. Bear in mind, when developing a soccer fitness training program it should be appropriate for the age or level of the player, be aimed at the appropriate competitions, and have specific performance goals. This means having the right type of equipment.
Any good trainer will tell you that perhaps the best tool for winning at anything is to simply say, "I will". That is the objective of mental preparation. As in many things, soccer requires a great deal of concentration and mental conditioning. Mental focus on positive results leads to positive outcomes, so it's important that soccer training aimed at success include mental preparation.
Youth Training vs. Professional
Training should be age-appropriate. Each age group has specific soccer training needs. Training youth soccer groups involves progressing players from one set of skills to another. For best results, youth training should be kept fun, fair, and should ensure that all players have equal time on the ball. Training for four to five year-olds can help develop eye, foot, and hand co-ordination using a variety of objects including balloons, foam, and rubber balls, as the actual soccer ball may lead to injury, even up to the age of ten. For the more serious athlete, some weight trainers recommend the use of plyometrics, a training system designed to produce fast and powerful movements through rapid muscular contraction and weight training exercises.
Soccer Training Equipment
The importance of soccer training equipment to the success of a serious soccer team cannot be understated. Effective training equipment is designed to improve speed and agility. Soccer training aids include a soccer ball machine, balls, cones, corner flags, hurdles, and nets.
Corner flags come in a variety of styles and choices and include stakes, spring loaded bases, hollow plastic bases, and a weighted base for artificial playing fields. It's important to know your team's need, but they all have one thing in common, which is that their height is 5 feet 60 inches, or 1.42 meters. Make sure that corner flags are well-maintained, and it's best to find a style that will meet all weather and field conditions.
Drills to Improve Skills
Soccer drills improve and reinforce overall performance. There are several categories to focus on, depending on what skill the trainer deems necessary to reinforce. Balance and coordination, speed, agility, weight training, and goalkeeper, are but a few.
Balance and Coordination
Balance training isn't just for kids. It's vital that the young and professional alike have excellent balance to prevent injury, and improve overall performance. These balance drills are safe and easy, and appropriate for any level player.
One drill designed to improve balance and coordination is what is commonly called "slapping the hands", in which a pair of players stand on one leg, alternately, and with palms touching each other, and players take turns slapping the tops of the other players' hands.
Another one is "pushing the hands" where players face each other, and with two hands in front at chest level they push their hands forward in an attempt to force the other to lose balance and take a step. Variations on this can be done, but the goal is to improve reflex and balance.
"Standing balance progression" is done by standing on one leg and balancing, beginning with 30 second stands. Another way to improve balance is players close their eyes and stand on one leg for 30 second intervals.
"Standing reaches" can be done using small cones or soccer balls, and placing the cones out in front of a player. The object being that the player while standing on one foot has to reach out and touch each one. Do this on both legs for three sets each.
Many skills combine to create an effective soccer speed training program. Speed training, in tandem with ball-handling and footwork, is a combination mental and physical fitness that are refined through real game situations, and simulating challenging situations during soccer training practices. Combining ball-handling and acceleration skills is the key.
Agility, with respect to playing soccer, means the ability to start and stop quickly. Players often have to change direction very quickly, and this requires quick reflexes. Agility is developed through effective soccer strength training. Such training includes eccentric strength (lengthening muscle fibers by slowing releasing weight), concentric strength (contracting muscle fibers when lifting weight), core, balance, and power, in addition to drills that improve reaction time.
The goal of a good soccer weight training program is to increase strength, not build muscle mass. The program should specifically target the muscles that support the joints. A good coach or trainer will concentrate on mobility, flexibility, and maneuverability to increase speed and power.
When it comes to soccer training the goalkeeper stands alone. It is unique in that it is the only position that allows the player to contact the ball with the arms and hands, giving the keeper an advantage over other players. Goalkeepers put themselves on the line to block shots with their bodies in the last line of defense against the opposition. Therefore training goalkeepers is a very physically demanding step-by-step process that should effectively build and reinforce mental concentration and physical strength. The goalkeeper will have specific drills designed to prepare them for practice and game.