A Conditioning Alternative
Let's face it, soccer players don't jog an entire soccer game. They have short bursts of sprinting speed followed by recovery running or walking. We should try and condition them for how they are going to play as well as increase their ball handing and general soccer skills.
One of the best ways to do this at any level, even the collegiate level, is the use of small side game drills or wave drills. Here is an example:
- Set up two small goals with cones, four feet wide, or Pugg goals about 30-40 yards apart.
- Have the players run 1 v. 1 or 2 v. 2 wave attacks.
- As soon as the ball goes in the net or crosses the end line, the next wave begins.
- You can also make players touch the goal after shooting and then have a race back to the other end.
- Keep the numbers few. This makes sure players only have a short recovery time in between attacks. If you have a lot of players set up several fields.
This wave format game is absolutely exhausting, teaches fast attack, 1 v. 1 skills, and teaches players to recover quickly after a play is finished.
Lessons for Life
If you are a youth soccer coach I want you to remember this golden rule.
When you train young soccer players you are trying to teach them things that will stay with them for a lifetime. Dribbling, receiving, shooting, passing, heading, trapping and moves are all skills that once learned and mastered, will stay with their mind and body forever. Conditioning leaves them once it stops.
Skills that are learned are long term, endurance is short-lived. Speed, endurance and strength are attributes we want to develop in mature competitive players, not a 10-year old that wants to have fun and learn the game.
Coach V is the founder and developer of the Blast The Ball soccer training system and the SoccerU training series. He currently works with all levels of players including youth, collegiate and professionals.