Well, the last thing you want to be doing while receiving a ball with a defender breathing down your back is to be analyzing what surface area of your cleat you're going to trap the ball with. That is paralysis by analysis at it's finest. Checking your shoulder, and thinking ahead about how to exploit space on the field with a first touch or an early pass is where we want our focus. We don't want our minds worrying about the intricate technicalities of the game or counting statistics like how many times we have turned the ball over versus kept possession.
At the time, I knew little about any movies or literature on soccer. I was giddy, and asked my Dad if we could rent them and stick them in the good ol' VCR. "Sure", he said. My Dad was always extremely generous, especially when it came to sports. Plus, we were at the library, so it was FREE.
It was that same day I popped the first tape in and stood there flabbergasted, inspired, curious, and in shock... the normal feelings one gets when they see Maradona highlights for the first time. There was plenty of Cruyff, and Beckenbaur, and Pele. But I could't get over the Maradona highlights. He would just glide past player after player. And he was small, like me. But what power.
I first discovered Yael Averbuch on Youtube when I was watching different skills training videos. I then linked over to her blog and what really caught my attention were her posts about individual training, mental toughness, and dealing with adversity. She must know something about preparation and mental toughness; at the best college soccer program in the country she set the school record starting 105 consecutive matches at the University of North Carolina.
Make no mistake, in the video below I exhibit poor examples of the exercises. I am TIGHT! My adductors and hamstrings are not terrible, but my hip flexor/quad/knees are stiff, my big toes are rigid, my spine is the equivalent of a steel rod, and my ankles seem to be glued in place.
I am motivated to keep working on these and as I move through them I can really feel my body opening up. I have had 3 minor knee surgeries (lateral meniscectomies) and several other injuries here and there from playing soccer, kickboxing, and being a general idiot.
During the Holocaust, half of my Dad's side of the family escaped from Germany to Shanghai, China, where they lived for 8 years before emigrating to Pittsburgh. The other half of my Dad's family fled from Germany to Bolivia, and eventually to Sao Paulo, Brazil where they live to this day.
I was only 12 years old when my Brazilian uncles and cousins came to America and I received my first Corinthians and Brazilian national team jerseys. Enchanting stories of Pele, the King of Football, and other stars like Socrates, Zico, and Jairzinho piqued my interest in the land of Brazil and the way they approached their futebol.
At the University of North Carolina, perhaps the best college soccer program of everness, the coaches track everything a player does in training using a points system. It makes everything matter, and when you train with that level of intensity and focus good habits form.
Noah Delgado, Jeremy Proud, and Kupono Low were the best players I played with in college. They were also BY FAR, the most competitive about everything from 1v1 games, to fitness tests, to goals scored or allowed in a shooting exercise.
In this post, I will discuss my disdain for what I call "the baller's swag". I see it so much these days, even in little kids. I think a little swag or confident body language helps with peak performance, but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the laziness or "too cool to work hard" swag.
Any soccer coach looks forward to games, but they know the real work takes place in training. Piecing together the perfect soccer practice where players are focused, learning, and challenged is probably more of an art than a science. However, a great training session will include certain elements that without them, the training session falls short of amazing.
Soccer players hit their quads pretty hard during the run of play with all of the stop and go's and change of directions. Especially midfielders. Going into the weight room and doing squats and lunges where the knee goes through a lot of flexion and extension is not always necessary, let alone helpful.
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:
1. Weight of the pass
Playing a lay-off for someone to shoot or pass one time should have a lighter touch to it. Playing a longer pass, especially one that needs to split two opposing players should have some nice zing to it. However, we still want our teammate to have the easiest time with the pass we give. Easiest time? That means, we as the passer need to consider what that next player will likely aim to achieve. Are they in the position to score and if so, what is the defensive shape around them? Usually if they have their back to goal and they are using their body well, we can take some weight off of the pass and make it easier for them to keep the ball under control. Another aspect is playing a ball in behind the defense for our teammate to run onto. Generally those are hit hard enough not to get cut out, but not too hard otherwise a smart and athletic goalkeeper will come off his line and snatch that sucker up.
Soccer is a fast paced game where players only have so much time to make good decisions around the goal. Flying changes have been many of my coaches' go-to drill to get our team playing fast, competing in practice, and getting a lot of scoring opportunities under pressure.
Conor Mcgregor is taking the world by storm. Arnold Schwarzenegger says Conor Mcgregor is one of the greatest athletes of all time. He is bold, brash, and so far he is backing it all up. He is an Irish mixed martial artist with a record of 18-2-0 and he is undefeated in the UFC. Check out some of his highlights below for a little context and (at minute 3:15 you can see he has his own background in soccer) and then lets examine what we can learn from this man.
With the internet taking over the world, there are so many Online Soccer Academies, soccer training products, and soccer websites (such as this one). Youtube is chalk full of soccer highlight videos, clips of professional clubs doing drills and "Rhondos", and players and coaches who want to give back and get paid in return, by providing the world what worked and didn't work for them.
If a soccer player, coach, or fan was to type into a computer the ideal physical characteristics of a top footballer, I bet most people would choose similar attributes; 5'9 or taller, low body fat percentage, durable bone structure, muscular and explosive legs, and an efficient set of heart and lungs.
Interestingly, as much as this website preaches the importance of achieving a leaner and stronger physique and more athleticism, the nature of soccer is such that with a certain skill set, attitude, and intelligence (or vision for the game), there is no denying that certain players have found great success despite their limitations. One needs not look far to see that some of the best the game has ever seen have come in all different shapes, sizes, and with various physical strengths and weaknesses.
Below you will see yours truly running a fly 30m which means I built up speed and then hit a fly zone of 30m as fast as I can. Being a midfielder all these years, I do not have a profile of a sprinter (though with strength training ive gotten much faster). By profile I mean, my fiber type expression has shifted to more of an endurance profile. Studies have shown that midfielders cover more ground in an aerobic fashion during a soccer match than forwards and defenders. Science also says that as one improves or trains endurance, it is more difficult to achieve speed and power.
As beautiful of a game soccer is, it comes with bumps, bruises, losses, bad performances, plateaus, etc. It is not a matter of if, it is when. Players need to be prepared for these set backs and to develop autonomy in their mental toughness. The players who go on to do great things are not the ones who need to ask everyone and their mother how they played. The great ones learn to water the flowers of their own self belief.
"Stress is a killer" is something I am hearing more and more lately. It is a pretty convincing argument to get you to focus on your breath more or maybe when your friend is trying to convince you to join them at yoga class. The book Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers discusses how human beings these days face chronic stress (causing ulcers and other health issues) versus our ancestors who lived a more primal lifestyle. "Primal" meaning they had more fight or flight moments like being attacked by a wild animal or hunting down prey, but less minor nagging stressors like social pressure, exams, SAT tests, sitting in traffic, or worrying about playing well in a big game.
I've been learning about acute stress, the fight or flight response, and performing under pressure. Today I am going to address every day stress - the kind that can destroy your health and negatively effect your soccer performance causing you to hate not only soccer, but life in general. Take a deep breath, Im exaggerating a tad. Did I just stress you out? Lets undo that, shall we?
To really succeed in soccer, perhaps it takes losing one's mind. In other words: madness. Looking back at my own growth as a soccer player, I was definitely preoccupied at all times with getting better and it definitely became an obsession. In fact, it wasn't until I became a little crazy that I actually started to kick some ass. I will discuss this more in another post.