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.
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 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.
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.