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Part VIII: Getting Match Fit

The question for most players is, “Are you match fit?” Meaning, are you in shape enough to play at a high pace for a full match. The problem is not that coaches and players do not try to get soccer fit; it’s that the approach is a bit haphazard and inconsistent.

One of the parts of soccer that you personally control is your own physical fitness. This is something you can improve on your own time as well as when you are at training with your team.

Physical Fitness Components

As a soccer player wanting to improve your game, you should work to improve upon these components:


In your training sessions, work on rhythm exercises and the proper running motion. You should also learn how to land correctly when jumping, as this will reduce the likelihood of knee injuries.

If the coach and players put sufficient demands into a training session much can be accomplished. Then, both fitness and technique, and possibly tactics too, can be trained. The problem is that most players train in second or third gear and the coach allows them to get away with it. Come match time, and they must play in fourth gear, and occasionally in overdrive, and they are not up to it. The lack of fitness is even more noticeable in extreme weather conditions, especially high heat and humidity.

So, the key is when the training session has reached match situations, the players must push themselves, and be pushed by the coach, to perform at match speed. This one factor alone is missing in most training sessions. With it the competitiveness, speed of thinking (tactical decision-making), technical speed and fitness improve. Players have a responsibility here to push themselves. Don’t wait for the coach to have to yell at you to play at game pace. You get out of training what you put into it. Train in second gear and you’ll play in second gear, even if you try to play faster you’ll fail. Players need to push themselves first and foremost. Only then do they have a right to expect that their teammates should do the same. Your coach is there to push you along when you need the help, and has the responsibility to relay these expectations to the players and set the tone during training sessions.

By training at match pace often during a season, the team will be prepared for the specific demands during an actual match. Match pace training brings out the best in everyone. If the team trains this way then the need for calisthenics and running laps is eliminated. In general, the fitter you are the longer you can have a positive impact on the game. Just by giving your all at each training session your fitness will improve.

Finally, while training at match speed is indeed physically demanding, it’s much more enjoyable because the ball is involved and you are actually playing the game. That’s always more fun than wind sprints.

The key is to enjoy the game!

pdficon small Player's_Guide_2011.pdf

Part IX: On Your Own

Earlier we mentioned that there’s a difference between a practice and a training session.

Training is something you do with your team and coach and practice you do on your own or with one or two friends. If you want to become really good at soccer then you need to practice. Training with your team, even a few times a week, may not be enough. So practice at home or in your neighborhood with other kids, or maybe even at school if you get the opportunity.

What you can do on your own are things you practice. That could be juggling, playing the ball against a wall (someplace without windows), dribbling (make your own slalom course) and maybe work on some physical fitness too.

Wall Ball

Knocking the ball against a wall gives you the chance to practice several skills.

  • Put an X on the wall and try to hit it with your pass. Vary your distance from the Passingwall and your angle to the X.
  • As the ball comes off the wall, control it with different parts of your body: inside Receivingof the foot, thigh, top of the foot and so on.
  • See how many times you can head the ball against the wall without it touching Headingthe ground. How about trying the same things as you did in passing, but now with headers.
  • Hit the X. Try some shots off the ground and some when the ball is in the air. Shooting
  • Hit the X. Throw-in
  • Try different types of throws and hit the X. Also try out different catches as Goalkeepingthe ball rebounds from the wall. Vary the height of the ball.
Tips on Passing
  • Point the toes of the foot you are standing on towards your target
  • Keep the knees of both legs slightly bent
  • Keep the ankle of your kicking leg locked so that your kicking foot is steady
  • Lean slightly forward to keep the path of the ball level
  • Keep your eyes on the ball
Tips on Receiving
  • Get your body in line with the path of the ball
  • Keep the knees of both legs slightly bent
  • Relax the area of the body receiving the ball upon contact with the ball
  • Exhale
  • Keep your eyes on the ball
Tips on Heading
  • Get yourself in line with the flight of the ball
  • Keep the knees of both legs slightly bent
  • Strike the ball with the forehead at the hairline
  • Keep your mouth shut with your tongue and checks out from between your teeth
  • Keep your eyes on the ball
Tips on Shooting

Approach the ball at a slight diagonal angle
Point the toes of the foot you are standing on towards your target
Lean over the ball
Point the toes of your kicking foot down and curl them back inside of your shoe to make a firmer striking surface of your foot (like making a fist)
Keep your eyes on the ball

Tips on the Throw-in

Stand with your hips facing where you want the ball to go
Firm grip on the ball with the tips of your thumbs just touching behind the ball
Hold the ball with your fingertips
Follow through on your throw for improved accuracy and distance

Tips on Keeper Throws

  • Hold the ball comfortably in your hand and release it off the fingertips
  • Stand with your hips facing where you want the ball to go
  • Keep knees of both legs slightly bent
  • Keep your head steady and facing your target
  • Follow through on your throw for improved accuracy and distance
Tips on Keeper Catches
  • Get your body in line with the path of the ball
  • Watch the ball all the way to your hands
  • Keep your knees and elbows slightly bent
  • Spread your fingers as wide as you can as you catch the ball for a safer grip
  • Relax and exhale as you catch the ball and absorb it

pdficon small Player's_Guide_2011.pdf

Part X: Fair Play

Without an opponent you do not have a match. The other team is crucial to having the chance to see how well you play and how you can improve. The opposing team is not the enemy. They are players like you who love the game. Show respect for your fellow players before, during and after the match; when the match is over shake hands in a sincere way. These gesture shows class on your part and your respect for the game. Don’t hesitate to shake hands with the opposing coaches and the game officials too. They all give to the game just like you. Remember you are setting the right example for the fans too.

Tips on How to Set a Good Example:
  • Strive to maintain integrity within soccer.
  • Know and follow the Laws of the Game.
  • Play and practice in the spirit of cooperation with opponents, officials, administrators, coaches and spectators.
  • Be a positive role model to younger players.
  • Say no to drugs and alcohol.
  • Beat opponents by skill and not by unfair methods.
  • Keep your composure at all times and do not retaliate; this is a key component to becoming a top-level player.
  • Do not overact when your team scores a goal.
  • Learn to win and lose graciously.

Be sure to check out the FIFA Fair Play Code at:


pdficon small Player's_Guide_2011.pdf





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