By Justin Cresser Author of Total Soccer Conditioning: A Ball Orientated Approach
Today’s activity is one that I routinely use as a warm-up routine and to keep my players technically sharp. However, I recently modified the format of the exercise to focus on anaerobic endurance and agility. The great thing about this exercise is that you can vary the technical element in several ways to touch on a variety of skills. Another benefit is that it involves all players at the same time.
Set-up and Directions:
Divide your players into groups of two. Each pair will need a ball. For each group; have the player with the ball stand on edge of the 18 yard box with the ball in their hands. The partner of this player should stand at a small cone placed 10 yards away. Both players should in a straight line facing each other (Figure 1). Ensure each group is separated by about 3 to 4 yards.
Play begins with the players standing by the cones sprinting towards their partner on the edge of the 18 yard box (Figure 2).
As they approach, the player with the ball will toss it towards the oncoming player who should return the ball using a side-footed volley. The toss should be made so that sprinting player makes contact with the ball when they are approximately 2 yards away from their partner (Figure 3).
As soon as the player volleys the ball, they should immediately backpedal until they reach the cone where they started (Figure 4), touch the cone, and then sprint forwards again. As before, their partner will toss a ball to them that they must return one time using a side-footed volley.
Have the players continue this sequence until they have completed 8 or 10 sprints in a row (1 set) and then change roles with their partners. Ensure that the players switch the foot they pass with after each repetition.
Have the players perform a total of 3 to 4 sets, but you should change the technical element after each set. Consider doing headers; volleys using the laces; receive with the chest then volley; and receive with the thigh then volley.
- Because this exercise is meant to be a high-intensity activity, ensure the players are sprinting when going forwards and rapidly backpedaling after making the volley.
- The transition when changing direction (after making the pass and when touching the cone) should be rapid but smooth. They should focus on not slowing too much as they change from going forwards to backwards and vice versa.
- Encourage proper (passing/receiving/heading) technique! The exercise emphasizes both conditioning and technique, and they should be concentrating on both.
If you choose to use this as a warm-up routine, then the space between the cones can be shortened to 7 yards and you should gradually have the players work their way up from a jog to a sprint. In addition, ensure you include dynamic stretches in between each set or after all sets are completed.
You can progress this exercise by adding an element of agility to it. For each group, place two small cones between the starting cone and the edge of the 18 yard box so that the first cone is 2 yards to the left and 2 yards up, and the second cone is 2 yards to the right but 4 yards up.
The player now sprints to the first cone and performs a cut; sprints to the second cone and performs another cut; and then finally sprints towards their partner where they will receive a toss that they must return with a side-footed volley as before (Figures 5 and 6).
Best of Luck,
Justin Cresser has coached soccer at various levels both in North America and abroad (Hong Kong and Africa). He is currently the Assistant Technical Director at the Soccer Club of Toronto. He has his Advanced National Diploma from the NSCAA and is also a certified strength and conditioning coach. You can check out Justin's best-selling books here.