If soccer players want to run quickly, then they need to be producing a lot of force against the ground. There are two ways to do this; firstly, we can produce this force via our muscles when our foot is on the floor, or, secondly, we can have our foot moving at a very high speed once it hits the floor. For elite sprinters, it is, of course, a combination of the two. So, ideally, you want to have a large range of motion in which to accelerate the foot towards to ground (requiring good front side mechanics); you want to be able to accelerate the foot downwards (requiring good hip extensor strength); you want to contact the ground in the optimal position (requiring good sprint mechanics), you want to be able to absorb and reuse much of the force you apply (requiring good foot and ankle stiffness), and you want to be able to produce force quickly (requiring an optimal level of strength and power).
Team players gets a lot of acceleration, start&stop and change of direction stimuli in the team practice in general… small sided games in particular. The problem though that it develops a rather restricted movement patterns and poor sprinting mechanics. You often see 12-year-old soccer players moving better than 22-year-olds. Fore obvious reasons, I suggest some time is spent doing linear sprinting of various lengths and intensities at all ages.
A lot of the greatest soccer players are not just skillful and athletic, but they have strong minds and bodies that are resistant to fatigue, quitting, and settling for anything less than their best. They don’t just handle the pressure, the live for it. But what if we are not naturally tough, can we make ourselves tougher? Absolutely. In the last article called “Stop Being a Pussy: Real Talk On Developing Toughness” we took a deep dive into toughness, one of my favorite topics. In this article I will give you some things you can do starting TODAY to get the process going. They are not fun in the short term, but on the
Don’t mistake me with Freud or any other trained psychologist, but I think its safe to assume that people’s past experiences shape their reactions to similar experiences in the future. A simple example is a player who decides they don’t like soccer anymore because the parent or a coach was overly critical. The negative experiences create an avoidance behavior. Some of these issues can creep up again later in life when we least expect them.
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.