If the world has a signature sport, it’s definitely soccer. It’s an international language, crossing cultural and international borders and bringing people together over the love of the game. Millions of people of all ages worldwide enjoy the sport as spectators, and many play for enjoyment at the amateur level in youth and adult leagues through schools and community organizations.
One of the best parts about soccer is its accessibility. Most anywhere you travel, you’ll find fellow soccer fans to chat about soccer, compare stats and players, and kick a ball around.
Here we’ll discuss some ways to improve your soccer techniques and become a better player, regardless of your skill level or your aspirations. Maybe you’re getting into the sport as an adult, looking to join a league and make friends, or maybe you’re a world traveler looking to spruce up your skills for pickup games on the road. You could be a young person playing soccer to get into college has hopes and dreams of one day playing in a World Cup—regardless, these tips and tricks will help get you there.
Build Endurance off the Pitch
The first goal of any aspiring soccer player is to achieve what’s known as “match fitness.” Match fitness is good soccer lingo to know, and it means exactly what it sounds like—the player has the stamina to play an entire game, usually a full 90 minutes, without getting too tired or experiencing a drop off in playing ability.
One of the best and most obvious ways to achieve match fitness is to run—and run a lot. This begins before you even get to the soccer pitch; start with running two to three miles a few times each week and build up over time to five or six miles on each run. The goal should be not only to get your mile time as fast as possible, but to build endurance and consistency.
A good way to simulate the rate of play on a run is to practice interval training. Alternate fast-paced jogging with all-out sprinting, with each jogging session equaling twice the amount of time you spend on each sprint. This will simulate the stop and sprint pace of a soccer game and acclimate the body to using bursts of speed and strength combined with precision and accuracy.
Play the Game as Much as Possible, as Hard as Possible
As for Chris, in his first weeks at our international soccer academy in Nürnberg we saw many strong qualities in him and game composure and consistency that gave us the confidence in him to arrange the opportunity to trial with SG Quelle Fürth. He is a tall, strong, quick and team player that really enjoys the game. He is a possession player, and guarantees accurate passing. The right footer comes to Germany with USA Olympic Development Program U18 team experience and also international experience with various teams and programs in England.
It sounds obvious, but, to become a world class footballer, you need to spend a lot of time playing. While a pickup game at the park isn’t going to be as challenging and professional as league play, any amount of time you spend on the pitch is going to improve your game, as long as you play hard and give it your all.
The best athletes constantly work at improving their skills and progressing in their journey to excellence. Such players have a “first in, last out” mentality—they’re already there warming up when the rest of the team arrives, and they’re often the last one to leave practice when the day’s drills are over.
Apply this mentality to your casual play, and try to inspire those around you to do the same—not only will all your skills improve, you’ll find yourself with stiffer competition and more skillful practice mates with whom to drill and train.
Own Your Fundamentals
Everyone knows that skillful footwork is imperative to being a great soccer player, and mastery of this basic skill is important. Any list of soccer tips from pros will point out that mastering the most basic aspects of the game—dribbling, juggling, toe taps, passing—are crucial elements. What appear to non-players to be the easiest parts of the game, like running with the ball or passing it to another player close by, are actually the most difficult to perfect.
Flashy moves are all well and good, but you’ve always got to walk before you run, and soccer is no exception. Just as concert pianists spend hours repeating the simplest scales, and world-class ballet dancers begin every rehearsal with basic plies, so, too, must the aspiring soccer player become one with the fundamentals before moving on to anything more advanced.
A player armed with a solid grasp of the basics and good endurance to match will always be more dangerous on the pitch than the guy who leans on fantastic-looking ball-handling tricks and flashy tricks to get by.
Remember, it’s a Team Sport – Pass the Ball
Just like anything else involving international prestige, endorsement deals, and millions of adoring fans, we tend to think of collegiate and professional sports teams as being carried by star players—even a non-fan can rattle off the names of a few soccer greats offhand, especially in a World Cup year.
While there may be a sliver of truth to the superstar equation, sometimes, those very same star players would probably be the first to insist they wouldn’t be able to do what they do without the support of a team.
The greatest soccer players are only as good as the support system around them. To improve at soccer, you need to excel at passing the ball and not just dribbling to get in shooting position. If you can’t make fast passes with one touch and set up and hit a solid cross in two, then you need to spend time working on your passing game.
Have a friend practice crosses with you, indicating their direction so you can practice crossing to them without their having to break stride. Remember: dribbling endlessly will inevitably lead to turnovers, especially as you begin to play among more advanced footballers.
Set a Training Schedule and Stick with It
If you want to seriously improve your game, you need to make proper training a ritual. It’s not enough to simply go kick a ball around whenever you feel like it—in that way lies laziness, excuses, and mediocrity, and this method won’t ultimately improve your game much at all.
In order to get better, you need to train regularly, both individually and with others, focusing on your weaknesses and finding the right soccer drills to improve technique. Many coaches and trainers recommend that serious players spend at least thirty minutes drilling fundamental skills and technique every single day, not including endurance or strength cross training.
While working to improve physical fitness, it’s important to keep written track of your progress. Time every run you take, and take note of how many intervals you incorporate. Set goals for yourself when it comes to passing, shooting, dribbling, and all the basic skills, and keep track of your success record for every drill.
Keeping good records not only helps you find what you need to improve your game, it also helps and sustain your confidence as you begin to see gradual, steady improvements.
Set Goals and Learn from the Pros
One of the best parts about soccer is that no matter what language you speak or where you live in the world, there’s a good chance you’ve got some level of access to the game. Soccer is a uniquely accessible sport, and no matter who you are, you can gain some level of skill and mastery over it by simply engaging with others and trying your best.
If you’re serious about improving your game, don’t be afraid to dive in. Not everyone can go pro, but there’s no reason you can’t become the star of your local adult league.
Watch professional matches as often as possible and learn from the greats—not just the most popular players, but the teams around them. Watch how cohesively they work together, moving en masse like a single unit toward a unifying goal, and watch how seamlessly they employ mastery over the fundamentals and make it look easy.
The more you play, the more you’ll begin to see the work that goes into making that happen—let that inspire you in your training and, eventually, you’ll surprise yourself with what you can accomplish.
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