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!