Tag Archives: Sprint

Functional Training of the Centre Midfielder: Change of Direction, Half-turns and Speed Dribbling

By Justin Cresser

As your players advance and begin to play at higher levels, they will need some degree of Functional or Position-specific Soccer training. For example, wingers need to be good dribblers and crossers of the ball and should therefore devote time to perfecting these skills. In a similar fashion, central defenders need to be strong in the air and proficient in 1 v 1 situations. The same is true for conditioning. Players in the various positions will have specific conditioning needs and coaches should allocate some time to developing position-specific fitness needs.

Most of the exercises we present on this website are general fitness exercises, in that; they are suitable for every player on the team, regardless of position. This week and every so often however, we will look at position-specific conditioning exercises. Today’s activity is geared towards the central midfielder, but strikers and wingers can also benefit from the drill.

Center mids are often called upon to create space between themselves and their marker, check back to receive a pass played to their feet and in one motion, turn and attack the space in front of them. This sequence of movements is frequently seen with passing midfielders that play in front of the back four, such as Real Madrid’s Xavi Alonso, and requires good agility as well as proper turning and receiving technique.
Divide your players into groups of two. For each pair, set up 3 cones 12 yards apart in a straight line. Have yours players stand at each of the end cones facing each other. One of them should have a ball at their feet (Figure 1).

When ready, the player without the ball will run to the right of the cone in the centre. When they reach midway between this cone and their Continue reading Functional Training of the Centre Midfielder: Change of Direction, Half-turns and Speed Dribbling

Developing the Ability to Shield the Ball from an Opponent while Improving Anaerobic Endurance and Repeated Sprint Ability

By Justin Cresser

I was watching the El Classico game over the weekend and it was a fantastic game. Although we most frequently talk about Barcelona’s ability to pass and move, another thing the players do so well is to protect the ball from pressuring defenders in tight spaces. In today’s exercise we will work on improving the ability to shield the ball from an opponent while developing anaerobic endurance and repeated sprint ability.

Set up a 15 yard by 15 yard playing area (it may be smaller or larger depending on numbers). With the exception of 2 to 3 players, give each individual a ball and instruct them to dribble around inside the playing area using small touches. Have the players without a ball stand on the edge of the playing area wearing a different colour bib (Figure 1). These are your pressuring defenders. You will want a ratio of approximately 1:4 defenders to dribbling players.

When ready, the coach should direct the defenders to sprint inside the playing area and try to Continue reading Developing the Ability to Shield the Ball from an Opponent while Improving Anaerobic Endurance and Repeated Sprint Ability

Integrating Ball Control with Acceleration, Agility and Repeated Sprint Ability

By Justin Cresser

During the competitive season, the main conditioning goal is maintenance of fitness levels established in the pre- and off-seasons. With technical and tactical exercises a top priority, it can sometimes be difficult to include activities for all the different fitness components.

I like to include the following (and similar) exercises in my in-season training program, as it focuses on starting speed, acceleration, agility as well as repeated sprint ability; and also incorporates ball control.

Divide your players into groups of 4 and set up the following station for each group. Place 2 small cones 2 yards apart, and have one player stand with a ball in their hands (player 1) behind a cone, and the other three players (player 2 – 4) stand behind the other cone (Figure 1).

Set up 3 larger cones (A, B & C) 7 yards behind the cone where player 1 is standing. These 3 cones should be 2 yards apart and the middle cone (B) should be offset by 2 yards. Place a 4th large cone (D) 7 to 10 yards from Cone C (Figure 1).

The sequence starts with player 1 tossing a ball to player 2, who returns it with a side-footed volley using the right leg. Player 1 tosses the ball to player 2 a second time who again returns it again with a side-footed volley, this time using the left leg. This is repeated once. (So a total of 4 passes are completed)

As soon as the 4 passes are completed, player 1 turns and runs towards cone A (Figure 3) where they cut and side shuffle right towards cone B. At cone B they cut again and side shuffle left towards cone C. As soon as they reach cone C they accelerate and sprint towards cone D (Figure 4). Once player 1 reaches cone D, they must quickly job back and join the end of the line.

As soon as player 1 runs towards cone A, player 2 takes the position of player 1 and player 3 takes the position of player 2. This cycle continues for 3 minutes. Rest for 3 minutes and then complete 3 or 4 more cycles (resting for 3 minutes after every cycle) for a total of about 20 to 25 minutes.

You should also switch the technical element after every 3-minute sequence. Consider doing i) volleys with the laces/instep; ii) control with the chest then volley; and iii) control with the thigh then volley.

Coaching Points:

  • Players should be on their toes when passing. A soft first touch or volley is essential
  • When cutting (cones A, B) they should push off forcefully with the outside leg
  • When side shuffling, the feet are not allowed to cross each other, and the players should take small quick steps
  • Players must accelerate quickly at cone C using short, explosive steps. They should also keep the centre of gravity low and lean forwards slightly

Justin Cresser – Has coached soccer at various levels both in North America and abroad (Hong Kong and Africa). His most recent position was as the Assistant Technical Director at the Soccer Club of Toronto. He has his National Diploma from the NSCAA and is also a certified strength and conditioning coach.

Integrating Sprints Into Your Training Session

Few players enjoy sprints for conditioning.  However, if you turn it into a soccer related activity you can get them to work even harder and enjoy themselves while doing so.

Start with a keeper in goal, two cones 15 yards from the midfield line, a player on the line between the cones and a player with a ball at midfield.  There are a few players ready to replace the field players.

The player with the ball starts by passing to the Continue reading Integrating Sprints Into Your Training Session