As the biggest team sport in the world, soccer’s popularity thrives on being around other people. That goes not only for players, but fans, executives and just about everyone else involved in the game. However, it’s incredibly competitive and, as a team sport, you need to think about more than just yourself on your quest to improve and become the best player you can be.
If you already play at a high level, we have to admit that there’s little to teach you here. You enjoy enough regular training sessions each week to stay at the top of your game, and there’s no real need to add to that by training alone. However, if you play at an amateur level, are a young player or you’re determined to become better than you are today, we’ve pulled together 10 great tips that will enable you to make the most of your talents, without the need for a full-size pitch, goals and teammates.
1. Decide on Your Preferred Position
You probably already play in a team environment and part of that may be playing where you’re told to. However, it might not be where you see yourself and the best way to prove to your coach that you should get the pick of the positions is to excel in one of them. Before you do anything else, you should decide where you want to play as it will dictate where you should focus.
While we’re potentially oversimplifying, if you want to play in defence, you should focus on strength, sprint speed and aerial prowess. In midfield, you should spend your training alone time working on stamina if you’re already competent with your feet. Finally, if you want to go up front, as so many players do, you need enough strength and speed to combat the defenders that also work on this area, while also perfecting the skills you need to get the ball from the field into the goal.
2. Kicking Balls Against a Wall Isn’t Just for Kids
No matter how far your soccer career has taken you, then chances are you’ve had a kickabout with a brick wall at one time or another. However, if you feel like you’ve grown out of it but plan to train alone, it might be time to rethink your approach. A wall can be a great way to get the ball back without too much effort, but also provides insight into how your power and technique affect the flight and direction of the ball.
3. Focus on Interval Training
Even if your soccer knowledge and experience are limited, you’ll know that playing football involves more sprints than long-distance runs. While there’s always room for anyone that can maintain a high speed for a long time, if you work on just one area, make it your sprint abilities. You’ll find something that works for you over time, but to start off, consider mixing fast sprints of just 30 seconds with slightly longer jogs, while always focusing on being as quick as possible off the mark.
4. Train in Changing Direction
Speed is excellent, but it’s useless if you face the wrong way. You need to react to the ball and other players on the pitch, so it’s always a good idea to do what you can to boost your directional skills. Cones, hurdles and ladder drills can all contribute to getting your skills to where you’d like them to be.
5. Work on Upper-Body Strength
As noted already, defenders and attackers, in particular, should focus on upper body strength, but there are benefits all over the pitch. If you’re not particularly fleet-footed, one of the best ways to protect the ball is to get between it and your opponent. You need to be strong because everyone else is, so if you don’t mind training with weights, you should do so on your arms, chest, back and core.
Ball skills matter. In this day and age, even top goalkeepers could conceivably play outfield. Juggling the ball can feel impossible if you’ve never done it before but, when it all comes down to it, it just involves getting your feet in the right place as quickly as possible and kicking through with the correct amount of force. Keep at it, and it won’t take long at all to notice improvements in your footwork on the pitch.
7. Invest in Some Specialist Equipment
If you’re serious about training and somewhat limited in team opportunities, you could upgrade from the good old brick wall to something more specialised. At the most basic level, you could go for cones and a small goal to work on your direction and precision respectively. If you’re after a more substantial upgrade, you can get inverted trampolines and just about anything else you can think of to up your game.
8. Kick the Ball a Lot
You can be the strongest and fastest player on the pitch, but if you struggle to use your feet to get the ball to where it needs to be, you’re no use to anyone. Use a goal, make a fake one with your jacket or paint points on a wall. Once you can get the ball to where it needs to be reliably, you’re an asset to any team.
9. Take Advantage of Being Alone
When you practice soccer alone, you can try anything you like. If it all goes wrong, there’s nobody around to see you fail! If you feel tricks and flicks could up your game, test them out and work on them with the benefit of privacy, all the while dreaming of the reaction of your teammates when it comes off in a game.
10. Remember Nutrition and Hydration
To perform at your best while training, it’s always a good idea to get yourself in game-ready condition beforehand. Take on some carbs and plenty of water so that you’ll be at the same level as in a game to give you a realistic overview of where you’re at and where you could stand to improve.