Strong legs. Fast reflexes. Pure speed. Soccer players boast some serious athletic attributes. Here’s how to get them.
Forgetting for a moment the sheer distance covered in a match (about seven miles), what might be most impressive about soccer players are their razor-sharp moves. A pass fake to thread between defenders, stealing the ball from an opponent dribbling down the field, pulling a 180 to scissor-kick the ball mid-air—all require fast feet and reflexes. Also known as agility. So what is it, exactly? The basis of agility is acceleration. The ability to speed up, decelerate, change direction, reaccelerate.
Much of our training at U14 builds in agility to our drills and scrimmages. But agility is different from endurance. Agility workouts require training at 95 to 100 percent of max effort, meaning you’re getting up to an all-out sprint during every run. To ensure that intensity, sessions have short active periods and long rests. Coaches also often build in sport-specific skills like swerves, cuts, and drop-steps, to mimic on-field action. Agility has obvious benefits on the pitch and doing agility work at a high intensity may have brain benefits, too. A University of Copenhagen study suggests that working at 90 percent of your max can improve motor memory consolidation—the brain’s ability to retain new motor skills.
Due to our lack of time in training, players MUST maintain their physical fitness independently. Here are some exercises players can, and should do, in order to build and maintain speed, agility, strength and endurance: