Physical performance is a key part of the modern game of soccer. France had blazing speed and athleticism. Russia had crazy outputs. How important are certain physical qualities for success in soccer?
KPI, or Key Performance Indicator, is defined as "a quantifiable measure used to evaluate the success of an organization, employee, athlete, etc. in meeting objectives for performance". The first time I heard the term KPI was in a talk by Olympic track coach, Dan Pfaff. While track and field is an objective sport based on distance and time, soccer is often interpreted as a more subjective game. Sure, a striker's goal count can be easily tracked, but coaches may like the way one midfielder plays more than another and it is hard to quantify which player is indeed more effective. All of this is changing, as technology advances and becomes more integrated into world and youth soccer.
Soccer performance demands and development are on the forefront of research these days and within the last year there have been some huge studies. Not every study is done perfectly, but I think when they use large enough sample sizes like they did in the cases below, there is a lot to learn and it would be dumb of me not to use this valuable information to help players and coaches. So, lets get nerdy and dive in to the science.
Being a great passer goes way beyond playing the soccer ball to the person you want. Here are some things to consider when thinking about good soccer passing
In their publication "Foundations of Sports and Exercise Psychology," Robert Weinberg and Daniel Gould explain the critical factors contributing to early withdraw from sports are a lack of enjoyment, excessive pressure and an overemphasis on winning. In fact, if you ask young soccer players for reasons why they enjoy playing soccer, “winning” isn’t even in the top 10 most common answers. As adults, we hijack their experience to satisfy our purposes.
All too frequently, games represent the “big stage” and are overhyped by parents and coaches. For instance, listen to pregame “pep-talks” and you’ll too often hear coaches saying things like: “This team is really good, you guys are going to have to bring your A-game if you want to beat them.” Or, “Remember, if we don’t play smart out there, they’re going to punish us.” Or, “If you don’t work hard, I’m going to sub you out.” Or, “Last time we played them, they beat us on a bad penalty call. We owe them this time!”
The great majority of young soccer players already want to do their best; they don’t take the field with the plan of playing poorly. The research is clear: these types of pregame talks actually inhibit young players’ performances by pushing them beyond their “sweet spot” level of arousal.
Bosch has changed the way many strength and conditioning and soccer coaches approach training, His dynamic systems approach is far superior than the usual reductionist approach. Here are my basic findings related to soccer players.
Many strength coaches in America come from powerlifting backgrounds and Olympic lifting backgrounds, so in this whole get strong to get fast movement, squats, aka the "King of all exercises", were promoted heavily. Not just squats, but DEEEEEEP squats. I began to think that anyone, anywhere, who wasn't shit staining the floor was a phony lifter and definitely not improving much of anything. That is one area where I was flat wrong. And here is a study to prove it:
I see a lot of coaches running the crap out of their players before, during, and after training. I can understand every now and then doing such grueling, NTF (not-that-fun) kind of work with older players, but what about younger players? A study on Spanish elite youth players, average aged of 13 years old, showed that small sided games are as effective as interval training for maintaining aerobic fitness in elite youth soccer players.
Johan Cruyff was a famous Dutch soccer player who also became a great coach for Barcelona. Many people credit him for coming up with the 4-3-3 and attacking style of football that Ajax and Barcelona play (and now many teams). He was extremely intelligent and was known speaking his mind and ruffling feathers. The Yogi Berra of soccer.
Having access to a wall is so important when it comes to soccer training on your own. What better way to improve something like your first touch then by getting tons and tons of reps? Here are some drills I came up with using a soccer ball and a wall:
We all saw Tim Howard destrominate at the World Cup in Brazil. Against Belgium he was a man possessed and kept the USA in the game with some breathtaking saves. He was moving like a cat. Guess what, Tim Howard follows the Paleo Diet.
Soccer in Brazil, oh how I love you. I want to start by addressing the 2014 World Cup and any left over Brazil haters. I was not a huge fan of the way the team performed, and I agree with many people that some of the player selection was confusing. However, Brazil (including the Brazilian soccer league) is already on top of it, and I am confident they will continue to produce some of the most exciting players in the World as they have been doing for years. It is no wonder people want to learn how to play like soccer like a Brasilian.
It is pretty safe to say that Dr. Jay Martin knows the game of soccer inside and out. More important than his knowledge of the game is his understanding of competitiveness, character development, and what the pillars of success are whether we are talking about sports, or life in general. He is the John Wooden of soccer. It was both an honor and privileged to access the mind of this incredible man and soccer sage.
A proper and professional training environment where players are held accountable for every action they take is crucial. However, anyone who understands success, finishing first or winning on a consistent basis, understands that you never get there simply because you have talent. I believe that what sets successful players apart is hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. The ability to concentrate consistently at a high level is an underrated quality that can make or break anyone. Making it to the highest levels in soccer takes uncompromising desire to be the best which is directly related to being able to rebound consistently from failures. You cannot be afraid to fail. Living in fear means you'll never succeed.
The Soccer Poet is none other than Dan Blank. His bio is at the bottom of this interview where you can find out more information about him. I am very confident that after you hear his insights on the game of soccer, you will definitely want more of his knowledge bombs. After reading one of his books called Rookie: Surviving Your Freshman Year Of College Soccer, I told Dan "if only I had read it before entering my college soccer career, it would have saved me so much frustration and agony". Let's dive in, not on a tackle, but into the wisdom of the Soccer Poet.
occer performance demands and development are on the forefront of research these days and within the last year there have been some huge studies. Not every study is done perfectly, but I think when they use large enough sample sizes and actual soccer athletes like they did in the cases below, there is a lot to learn and it would be dumb of me not to use this valuable information to help players and coaches. So, lets get nerdy and dive in to the science.
It took me a long time grasp that the pressure I would put on myself to succeed was causing me greater agony than being hurt and not playing at all. In other words, I was comfortable sitting on the sidelines telling myself how great I would be playing versus actually playing and not meeting my own expectations. That was a huge realization for me and it took a lot of time and self-reflection to embrace the fact that it is always better to play poorly and lay it on the line than to not play at all. This new and more courageous approach helped me nip some of what Viktor Frankl called Organ Neuroses (disorders involving physical symptoms that appear caused by a medical condition, but are in fact caused by psychological factors) in the bud, Due to my fear of failure, sometimes I would feel pain in a part of my body that had actually already healed, or I would feel pain where I had suffered no injury at all.
The ability to play the soccer ball over longer ranges is extremely important. For midfielders and defenders especially, being able to drive a soccer ball on the ground with the shoelaces adds a dangerous option to your team's attack.
In the video below, I go over more about why it is important to develop this skill, the technique, and I demonstrate a few of my own.
Scoring goals is what the game is about. Whether its being a poacher who scores ugly goals, or being a big man who gets on the end of crosses, or by creating goals with beautiful dribbling, every team needs at least one if they have any hopes of being successful in the win column.