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Reaching Soccer Fitness
Through Work with the Ball

l (12 players)

Adapted from a session done by Dean Conway, State Coach, Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association.

Equipment: 12 balls, 16 pinnies (6 red, 6 yellow, 4 blue), 8 disc cones, two small goals or 4 additional pointy cones to build same, area 30*40

This workout can be very tiring and demand a high level of fitness. It provides everyone with a lot of touches on the ball and allows coaches to see ball handling skills (dribbling, turning, receiving, etc.), speed and acceleration, as well as tactical skills in the final two exercises. Field size can be varied depending on the number of players that you have as well as their age, skill and fitness level. This session, essentially as described, was done over a 75 minute period with 12 staff coaches of widely varying skill and fitness levels.

  1. Dribble in designated 15*15 area marked by cones. Heads up. Use all surfaces of your foot. Go at angles to each other, not in a big circle. Change speeds frequently. (Demo dribble slowly and then cut to one side while accelerating.) On command "change", stop your ball by stepping on it, find another one, and continue dribbling. Stretch for 1 min. Now box ball back and forth between feet. Knees bent, legs move more up and down like pistons as opposed to side to side. (demo here showing first stiff-leg back and forth motion, then preferred bent-knee piston-like motion). Stay in one place and box ball as quickly as you can, counting touches for 30 seconds. Stretch for 1 min. Repeat box and count, trying to beat last score. Now box ball while moving orwards and backwards around area, head up, knees bent. Stretch for 1 min.
  2. Pick up your ball, find someone you don't know and introduce yourself. You're now partners! 1 partner lays face-down on ground with ball in front of body. Other partner dribbles in area, "flicks" ball over a body on the ground, jumps over body following ball and proceeds on to find another hurdle. First player to flick and jump over 10 bodies holds ball over head, announces "done", and is declared the "winner". Switch and repeat. Emphasize dribbler's head up, control of ball, quick movements, must move to a new hurdle after each flick. Bodies on ground keep head down.
  3. Find someone else you don't know. 1 partner gets down on hands and knees making a "bridge". Other passes ball under bridge, then jumps over bridge from side and goes on to find another 1. First to pass under and hurdle 10 bodies holds ball over head, announces "done" and is declared the "winner". Switch and repeat. [For younger players, one stands holding ball with legs apart, partner passes ball through legs, follows by crawling through legs, pops up and hunts next target.] Stretch for 2 min here.
  4. 10 players with balls dribble in grid. Two players without try to get a ball from someone with one. On command "road trip", everyone sprints around a cone set 20 yds. away from edge of grid and back to grid, gets ball and begins to dribble. Last two players without a ball begin to hunt for one. Repeat several times. Interspace stretch to create 3 work--1 rest ratio.
  5. Find a new partner, each pair with a ball. Partners starts 7-9 yards apart. Player with ball dribbles towards partner, makes a "move" to get past him, continues on 5-7 yards, spins, and passes back to partner. Partner then does same. Defender is completely static. Encourage different and creative moves. [For older players, defender can apply slight pressure.]
  6. Find a new partner, each pair with a ball, standing 5-7 yards apart. Player with ball boxes ball, does a "move" (e.g. stepover fake, pulls a V, etc.) and passes to partner who does same. Encourage fast footwork, creative moves, crisp, accurate passes.
  7. Pair up in threes! Two balls per group. Players form triangle w/3-5 yards between players. "Working" player on toes and ready to go; other two with ball in hands. On start, working player receives:
    1. balls to thighs, alternating right-left-right, one-touch thigh return to server's hands
    2. balls to feet, alternate right-left-right, one touch foot return to server's hands;
    3. balls to head, alternate head back to server's hands in air (defensive head) and head back to server's feet on ground (attacking head);
    4. balls to chest, return w/1 touch foot to server's hands.

    In all cases, first working player to reach 20 "wins". Can run through all three players doing same (e.g. balls to thigh) or have player 1 do thighs, player 2 do feet, etc. Emphasize accuracy of return, and encourage servers to work in concert to keep up a continuous feed of balls.

    Updated 6 October 1998
    Overview | Principles | Resources | Guidelines | Practices | Game Day | Very Young | More Reading