The enemy: Tired legs and burning lungs
By Greg Bach
The average Major League Soccer player runs more than six miles during a game, so it’s not unusual for youngsters to put a mile or two on their spiked feet during a Saturday morning match.
And the more advanced and competitive the games become as youngsters progress in the sport, the more conditioning plays a factor in your practice planning – and your players’ game day execution.
SK Live checked in with Wade Barrett, an assistant coach with the Houston Dynamo of the MLS, to get his take on the best ways to condition young players so that they are able to perform as effectively in the final minutes of action as they are at the start of the game.
During his playing days Barrett captained the Dynamo to two straight league championships, so he knows as well as anyone the importance of conditioning and how tired legs and burning lungs can sabotage performance.
“Like it or not, proper conditioning is a crucial aspect of the game and something that great players and teams embrace,” Barrett says. “But this fitness work does not have to stand alone at the beginning or end of each practice.”
Here are Barrett’s tips for conditioning soccer players throughout your practices:
SET THE FIELD UP FOR THE ENTIRE PRACTICE IN ADVANCE
“Put cones down for passing or possession grids in different areas of the field so you can move fluidly to the next segment of training,” he says. “Many practices have ‘dead’ time between exercises and players spend too much time standing idle. Keep your practices moving quickly and efficiently.”
BUILD FITNESS INTO YOUR PASSING OR FINISHING EXERCISES
“Requiring players to move after a pass makes the exercise less static and instills good fitness and habits,” Barrett explains. “Having players make a hard sprint before a shot or moving for a series of shots pushes fitness levels while working on another specific skill.”
MAKE FITNESS SOCCER SPECIFIC
“Laps around the field seem boring for a reason – they are boring!” Barrett says. “Make drills short and sharp and keep the energy level high. Kids love competition. Relays are a great way to compete and do fitness work.”
During these unprecedented times coaches still play an all-important role in their young athletes’ lives. Use these tips from well-known psychologist Dr. Peter Scales to stay connected, involved and help players be ready once seasons resume.
University of Iowa women’s volleyball coach Vicki Brown shares how she used visualization during her days as a youth coach to prepare teens for productive practicing
Volunteer youth coach of several sports on recognizing each young athlete's learning style and treating everyone with that all-important respect
Grant Parr, a leading mental sports performance coach and author of The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown, on embracing roles, visualizing success, and more