With the World Cup approaching, there’s a lot of discussions in the media on how the different teams are preparing for the tournament. And when it comes to improving soccer fitness, and especially soccer conditioning, there are some different schools of thought.
On one side you have those who say that in order to improve your soccer fitness and soccer conditioning, you need to play the game of soccer, not just run for the sake of running.
On the other side, you have those who believe in running everywhere from 300 meter to 3 km, primarily without the ball.
I tend to be on both sides of this discussion, and let me explain what I mean by that.
Play Soccer to Get Fit
According to several studies, the most covered distance on a soccer field is 10-30 meters before a player have to change direction or change a type of movement. So that means that every 4-5 seconds a player changes a type of movement (from sprinting to walking, jumping, back pedaling, etc).
So what happens when you only perform linear runs without a ball (200 meter +), and then get out on the soccer field and perform let’s say a change of direction at least every 5-10 seconds?
A whole other type of fatigue occurs. Try to run 200 meter straight, and then perform a 200 meter shuttle (which involves change of direction) to see what I mean. Running with change of direction throughout the course of the run is way more difficult then just running straight ahead.
This is one of the reasons I believe in “playing to get fit”, since that prepares the players for the actual game with all of its different movements.
But probably the biggest reason I believe in this method of training is because what happens to the players at the end of a game, when they are getting tired both physically and mentally.
A lot of us can keep pushing ourselves when running suicides or 200 meter shuttles, but what happens at the end of the game, when you have the soccer ball at your feet?
Not only do you have to have the strength and power to make a decent play, you also have to “be fresh” in your head, and your concentration needs to be high. And what happens when you get tired?
It’s more difficult to make good decisions.
That’s why you see (in general), more passes and shots being missed at the end of a game. It’s easy to be on the side and complain when a player misses “a simple” pass at the end of the game. But if you play yourself, you know why this occurs, and it is because of the fact that your head is not in the game, your mental status and concentration is decreasing, and it’s getting more and more difficult to make good decisions.
This is where “playing soccer to get fit” really beats the other side of thought if you ask me. If you condition your players in different types of soccer games, they’ll then learn to keep the quality high even during the last period of a game, and they learn to handle that fatigue.
So why would you ever want to train the players soccer The MSN fitness or soccer conditioning without the ball?
Primarily because not all players at all levels can keep a high enough pace in order to work on their conditioning with the ball. The reason for that is because not all players possess the technique required for certain drills.
An example of that is technique and dribbling drills/tracks, where they have to dribble through and around different obstacles. If your technique is “average”, then your speed with the ball won’t be high enough for you to improve your soccer fitness.