A view on soccer training

S Ekendra Singh
Many parents send their children to play football, they want their kids to become star-players in the beautiful game of football. Even the old and those who are not able to play the game get the taste of game with the help of print and electronic media. Parents always wish their children to become popular in the society, so they encourage their kids to the grass playfield to play football. Here, I would like to highlight on some important aspects on how to specialize in skills, from what tender and young age kids should start playing or how to deal with football, and how they can, or rather should, get the right training at the right time.
In football, there are two levels of learning. They are (1) grass-root level; and (2) youth level. The grass-root level may be divided into two phases namely, (i) The Fun phase which normally starts from U-6 to around U-10, and (ii) The foundation phase which is to be implemented from U-11 to around U-13 age group. Similarly, the youth level can be divided into two phases, (i) The Formative Phase, from U14 to U-16 and (ii) The Final phase starting from U-17 to U-20. In this column, I would like to explain more about the Grass-root level only, i.e., the Fun phase and the Formative phase. Being a coach, it is very important to handle or to teach football in these two phases, to organize and to plan the training programs. While preparing the methodology of training in the grass-root level, coach should consider the age, ability, appearance and communication of the players. He should also chalk out the topic or objectives of the training sessions. In the Fun phase, the physical movement of the kids is slow and steadily increases as they grow stronger in the height and weight. This is the phase in which basic motor skills are developed at different stages with the introduction of the drills such as technique, co-ordination, communication and balance. Playersare allowed to have maximum touch on the ball during fun-oriented small-sided games (SSG) with simple rules. To make learning fun in this phase, there should not be too many hard rules and restrictions. Physical conditioning training may also be skipped as in this phase; players should get development before obtaining results.
In the Foundation phase, the training methods change as per the physical growth of the players both in height and weight. Motor skills start developing and are ready for more complex tasks. Training should be based on the development 2vs2, and so on. More game rules are introduced to the children in this phase during the fun oriented small-sided games (SSG). Players get acquainted to know and understand the rules of the game such as throw-in (Foul throw), the off-side rules, and most importantly Fair Play. Coaches should get started with low intensity physical and by avoiding lengthy talks which cause loss of interest in the practical game. In these two phases, (Fun phase and Foundation phase) the role of a qualified coach is highly required to give the players the right perception at “the moment of truth” with the ball and to teach to give “the element of surprise” to the opponent. Here, right execution of technique may be followed by the right tactics by giving precise demonstration to the learning buds. Coaches should try their best to understand and encourage the kids with as few punishments as possible. Care should be taken not to over-coach or over load players since this could cause undesirable stress and fatigue. Knowledge and skill are best parted with the kids in these two learning phases of the Grass-root level. Performance should be expected as per the day’s theme.
The next is the methodology of training, teaching and its concepts. Training contains all measures to build, improve and stabilize the performance potential from an individual to a team on the whole. It may be marked as complex process that involves all requirements which act as a preparation for the game and how to achieve a set target. In such an instance, the game becomes the teacher. The planning should be periodical, i.e. game and exercise from easy to difficult. New tasks must be challenging as and when players are willing and ready as progress is measured on the basis of mastering such task or challenges. Repetition is a must while advancing too fast and/or too easy leads to lack of quality and/or incorrect execution and eventually insecurity and frustration. By analyzing the players through the trial and error-method, we (coaches) are able to rectify the weakness of an individual or a team before a competition. Coaches can be accommodated the Speed, Agility and Quickness (SAQ) training to maintain permanent positive changes in the performance of an individual or a team. The modern game of soccer calls for an explosive pace along with accuracy and the ability to change direction of the ball is very important. SAQ training sessions implemented within a soccer program over a period of time can hence have a major impact. While speed, agility and quickness may appear to be quite similar, they are in fact very different in terms of how these skills are developed and integrated in the SAQ training sessions.
SPEED is an important part of a players’ game. It is the ability to cover the pitch efficiently and economically to open up or increase stride length and frequency. Speed is the maximum velocity a player can achieve and maintain which may be measured by the amount of time taken to cover a particular distance. Human being can only maintain their velocity for a maximum speed and that requires a great deal of focus and concentration on the correct mechanics of running, stride length and frequency, the leg circle and his height or position. In the game of football, Speed can be classified into two, running fast with the ball and running fast without ball in different direction to cover for an activity or a “move”.
AGILITY in football is the ability to change direction of play without the loss of balance, strength and control. It may be termed as the association between an individual’s timing, rhythm and movement. Agility training programs the body’s memory of muscular movement patterns to control minute shifts in ankle, knee, hip, back, shoulder and neck joints for optimum body alignment, and also helps prevent injuries. The organization of Agility training and its variations (balance, strength, and control) depend on the age, ability and attitude of an individual.
QUICKNESS is one of the most important qualities to be maintained by a football player. When a player accelerates, a great deal of force has to be granted and transferred through the foot to the ground. A football game consists of many explosive moves-maybe predicted or unpredicted in nature, and/or even those initiated from a static position. With the Stretch Shortening Cycles (SSC) process, which is an eccentric-concentric phenomenon, the muscles are trained to actually lengthen and shorten instantaneously in an elastic manner.
 All the individuals on the pitch expect the ball anytime. When one player is with ball, the others should make themselves available to receive the ball by moving into open space or by creating space for themselves to help the player with the ball to initiate an effective pass. Given the situation or position of the ball, the opponent, and/or the space, the players either effecting or receiving a pass, should move accordingly. Likewise, a quick vertical jump or dive with a good timing at the time of heading the b As such, to get these quick or explosive moves right, coaches should have well-planned Quickness training sessions to benefit players, both in attacking and defensive position. Quickness training begins with innervations, i.e., repeating the same explosive movement over a short period of time such as the fast feet and line drill. The quick repetitive motions take the body through gears moving it in a co-ordinate manner to develop speed. Integrating quickness training through the year by using fast feet and reaction drill will result in increased explosive rates in the muscles of an athlete. The goal is to ensure that players “explode” over a short distance of around 5-6 meters with controlled acceleration. This movement should be incorporated with timing, speed, and smoothness just like a gearchange in manual transmission vehicles. To conclude, I would like to point out, in this column, that I did not mention anything about warm-up before an activity and cool-down after an activity as this is a common observable fact to all who are accompanying players and to those who are involved in football.
Reference: FIFA Bulletin, AFC Instructor Manual and SAQ Soccer by Alan Pearson,
Published by A&C Block London.
About the author:
AFC Instructor
Head, Youth Development
NRL Football Academy