Great soccer is really driven by a combination of two elements – speed and technique. And while some people are naturally born talented, these two primary skills can be successfully grown through smart regular practice. Here are some tips to help improve speed and technique in young soccer players.
There are two kinds of speed: that of the mind and that of the body. Speed of the mind is all about the ability of a player to quickly understand and evaluate a situation during play and then to react promptly and appropriately. Speed of the body refers to the ability of a player to move those muscles quickly!
Speed of the mind is increased as players become more familiar with the game, and can be improved through both practise and observation. So watching matches both live and on television are great ways to hone that understanding of the game. However, practice is really the key. This can be formal during coached practice time, or out and about with other children during backyard play. Kids learn the right angles to pass from and how to run effectively as they increase the speed of their minds.
Speed of the body is improved through working out. Exercises that focus on agility and coordination are the key to improving soccer skills. Star jumps, timed obstacle exercises, quick feet drills, and exercises that increase and decrease acceleration are great for improving physical speed.
Soccer-specific skills are what build effective technique in young players. As players master technique they can begin to add speed to the mix. However, mastery of a skill is essential before speed can be increased! Players can have a lot of fun creating their own techniques in order to put their own spin on the game. Keeping practice varied keeps children interested and excited about working on their technique.
The three essential techniques for successful soccer are passing, dribbling, and juggling. Here are some ways to help hone each.
Juggling is vertical. It involves keeping the ball in the air and off the ground with the feet. Players will find that they have much more effective control of the ball when they practise this technique regularly. It’s a challenge, but a fun one, and one that looks fantastic once kids get good at it!
Dribbling is horizontal. It involves keeping control of the ball while it’s on the ground. Kids can practise this with a tennis ball around the house, turning around hard corners, and passing to family members. With this method kids can have lots of fun, learn to bounce lightly off the walls, and around obstacles!
Passing is going back and forth between two players and is an essential skill. One technique here is to mark three spots on a vertical surface and to practise kicking to each mark from 4-5 metres away. Then move back as the player gets more capable.